New Delhi, Dec 7 (UNI) Terming its rural employment guarantee scheme as 'revolutionary and historic', the Government today said it would consider increasing assured employment to rural families from 100 to 300 days a year to eradicate poverty in a substantial manner and meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), 2015.
Replying to the debate on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the scheme had been an unqualified success, which was evident from the fact that the UPA government had extended it from the initial 200 districts to cover all the districts of the country.
''We will consider increasing the assured employment to rural families from 100 days a year to 200 days once the scheme is fully implemented in the country,'' the Minister said.
A health insurance for the rural poor was also under the consideration of the Government, he informed the House.
Dr Singh said the NREGA, which had been praised by the UN, had greatly succeeded in checking distress migration from rural to urban areas, creating permanent assets and generating employment opportunities in villages.
''It is a strong and effective step for eradicating poverty and would go a long way in positioning India as a developed country by 2020,'' he asserted.
The minister also trashed the charges of misuse and diversion of funds under the scheme, saying the Government had put in place effective monitoring mechanisms in the states and at district levels for its effective implementation.
He said in view of the Prime Minister's directive, 30 independent studies on the implementation of the scheme were made, and these included the IIM, Bangalore, the G B Pant Institute and Centre of Budget and Government, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
''Most of these reports have commended the scheme for checking distress migration, ensuring high involvement of women and forcing state governments to periodically revise minimum wages,'' he said.
Dr Singh said he had also asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to give reports on the scheme's implementation in each and every district.
''There are some shortcomings, which have to be removed, but the allegations of misuse and diversion of funds are baseless,'' he argued.
The Minister pointed out that the scheme, in particular, had succeeded in providing micro irrigation facilities, land development and rural connectivity through roads.
The poor sections of the people, especially SCs and STs, had immensely benefited from the Government's flagship scheme, which had also played an important role in empowerment of women, he said.
In this connection, he said banks would have to play an important role. ''I have urged Finance Minister P Chidambaram to allow opening of more banks in rural areas, which is a must in combating rural poverty.'' The Minister said the scheme was implemented in 130 districts in the second phase, which had now been extended to cover all the districts.
Listing the tangible benefits of the scheme, he said 2.10 crore people were provided employment during 2006-07. A total of 90 crore employment days were provided to the poor families in 200 districts.
''The scheme is progressing satisfactorily and is poised to become a landmark in the country's fight against gigantic poverty,'' he said.