New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) The government will add 4.14 lakh hectares to the cultivable area by bringing it under irrigation within one year, union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said on Tuesday.
“We would be including 4.14 lakh hectares of land under cultivation where irrigation facilities would be made available through integrated water shed management. This will help in raising the productivity and income of the farmers,” Birender Singh told IANS.
“If we continue at the pace we are working, the farmers income can be doubled,” he said.
Presenting the budget for 2016-17 on Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said farmers’ income would be doubled in the next five years — a target that former prime minister Manmohan Singh termed an “impossible idea”.
Birender Singh said food security for everyone and raising farmers’ income would be among the biggest achievements of the government, and added that the finance minister allocated more funds to his ministry than he had expected.
He also responded to reports that say construction of latrines in rural areas has slowed down.
“We have constructed 64 percent more toilets, annually, for rural households than our predecessors,” the minister claimed.
He said a BPL (below poverty line) household was receiving Rs.12,000 to construct a toilet under his ministry’s schemes.
“But there are people who are not below the poverty line, but still do not have toilets at their home. We have appealed to the companies and the NGOs to help fund toilets to make our villages free from open defection,” Birender Singh said.
He said the government is also facilitating the availability of funds to the families who don’t fall under the targeted categories.
The rural development minister claimed a clear lead over the previous government in construction of rural roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (Prime Minister Rural Road Mission).
“We are making 100 kilometers a day of rural roads for the last two years. The previous regime was making it at a speed of 67 kilometers a day. We gave speedy clearances and used every available paisa with honesty,” he said.
Birender Singh said his government is giving impetus to rural employment, quite contrary to the popular perception being sought to be created by the opposition and the media.
“In 2015-16, our budget was Rs.36,967 crore. We have so far spent Rs.37,485 crore. It is the highest ever annual expenditure by any government in nine years. We are spending more than the allocated amount and the overdrawn funds get cleared in the subsequent year,” the minister said.
“Earlier only 27 percent of payments were made on time. We have taken it up to 45 percent. We are ensuring that money gets directly transferred to the account of workers. So this is a lot of improvement, he said, responding to queries about reported delays in payments to workers under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
(Vinayak Dutt can be contacted at email@example.com)