Budget Brass Tacks 5: Rustic Reforms

Budget Brass Tacks 5: Rustic Reforms

New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil has already announced the expansion of the government’s rural infrastructure project Bharat Nirman, launched in 2005 for a four-year period. Its six components include irrigation, drinking water, electrification, roads, housing and rural telephony.

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The government has also emphasized housing for the rural poor and the National Food Security Act, which guarantees access to sufficient food for all, particularly vulnerable sections of society.

There has also been better monitoring of these programmes by the prime minister’s office. Some of these programmes may create an impetus through higher allocation of funds in the coming budget.

Though the UPA has focused on rural development initiatives, it hasn’t done well with rural roads, electrification, drinking water and irrigation. It only met about 60% of its targets for providing drinking water and just about one-third of its targets for rural roads and electrification.

Despite this, she says there have been some success stories. For example, 60 million rural homes have been built and the rural telephony project is now nearly complete. Another success for the UPA has been in the farm loan waivers, which have benefited nearly 36 million farmers in the country.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or NREGS, which provides 100 days guaranteed wage employment for all employment seekers over 18 years, has benefited nearly 40 million households.

However, state governments haven’t kept up and there is little coordination between them and the center. Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRI’s haven’t seen much success either.