New Delhi: The rural jobs guarantee programme is not drawing labour away from agriculture, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, refuting charges that the government’s flagship welfare scheme is leading to a shortage of farm hands during the spring harvest season.
The decrease in agricultural labour force as a share of economic activity is a trend that precedes the employment scheme, Ramesh said in the 30 January letter, written in response to concerns raised by farm minister Sharad Pawar and finance minister P. Chidambaram.
“Increase in farm mechanisation, (and) employment in secondary and tertiary sectors may be some of the reasons causing this decrease,” Ramesh said, using data from the National Sample Survey Organisation to bolster his argument.
The jobs guarantee programme, which assures 100 days of work in a year to all poor households in villages, has been in force since February 2006.
Since the scheme’s inception, the number of days people sought work under it averaged 54 days, Ramesh said. “This is indicative of a critical yet small and supplementary nature of this employment,” he said. “It is hardly likely that such a small proportion of days... would be substituting agriculture employment for the entire year.”