Today I chaired a meeting of the State Employment Guarantee Council under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), Rural Development Department (RDD) at Samman Bhawan. I was joined by the official and non-official members including Hon’ble Minister, RDD (Vice Chairperson) Shri Sonam Lama, Chief Secretary, Development Commissioner, ACS Finance, Secretary Forest and Environment, Secretary Horticulture, Secretary Social Justice, and Welfare Department, Secretary Food Security and Agriculture, Economic Advisor to the Government, Shri C.L. Denzongpa, Shri B.B.Rai (expert in Social Audit), Shri Sonam Bhutia(expert in water conservation), Zilla Adhayshyas, Shri Tenzing Dorjee Gyaltsen Bhutia (representative of ST), Shri Upen Shilal (representatives of SC), Shri Purna Kumar Subba(representatives of OBC), Secretary RDD (Convener), heads of line departments and officials.
During the meeting, the Principal Secretary RDD gave a presentation briefly outlining the scheme and the way forward. He presented proposals regarding the increase in the unskilled wage rate, expanding the scheme in convergence with the forest department, horticulture and animal husbandry department, etc., the appointment of Ombudsman, state quality level monitor, the appointment of more women mates, increasing technical manpower, etc. All the proposals were deliberated upon and the members put forth their suggestions to enable the people to reap the benefits.
In my address, I stated that many people have gained employment through this scheme even during the lockdown phase where certain works were carried out strictly following the COVID-19 protocols. This scheme has had a huge impact in the livelihood of the people in the rural area and we need to look to implement it in a broader spectrum. The departments should adopt sustainable approaches enabling us to carry out the work and also protect our environment and surrounding.
I advised the concerned department to keep a record of the data to avoid duplicity or misuse of this scheme. The possibility of increasing the wage rate should be explored, nodal officers in the rank of Joint Secretary and above to be appointed in each department to ensure proper co-ordination of those schemes in convergence, the constitution of a state-level committee for better coordination and monitoring, the appointment of Ombudsman at the district level, etc. We need to implement projects which are suitable and feasible for a particular area and everyone should be result-oriented for which teamwork and coordination with the various Line Departments is essential since many works are implemented through convergence. The concerned department should get the discussed proposals approved by the Government at the earliest.
The ADC (Development) was directed to identify barren lands and ensure that they are utilized for various economical purposes. I asked the departments to focus on rainwater harvesting and expand convergence with other departments. SEGC(MGNREGA) meeting will be held regularly every year and would like the concerned departments to submit a yearly report so we can keep track of the developments and progress of the work.
I expressed my gratitude to everyone present and urged them to work at close quarters as it is our responsibility to work towards the development of Sikkim and its people.