Jaitley announces slew of measures for rural development

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Unveiling the union budget for 2016-17 on Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a string of measures for the development of rural areas.

“A sum of Rs.2.87 lakh crore will be given as grant in aid to Gram Panchayats and municipalities as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. This is a quantum jump of 228 percent compared to the previous five-year period,” Jaitley said.

He observed that the funds he has allocated will translate to an average assistance of over Rs.80 lakh per Gram Panchayat and over Rs.21 crore per urban local body.

“There is an urgent need to focus on areas of drought and rural distress. Every block in these distress areas will be taken up as an intensive block under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission,” the finance minister said.

“As many as 300 rurban clusters will be developed under the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission launched by the honourable prime minister recently. These clusters will incubate growth centres in rural areas by providing infrastructure amenities and market access for the farmers,” he said.

He added that Cluster Facilitation Teams will be set up under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to ensure water conservation and natural resource management.

Jaitley has allocated Rs.38,500 crore for MGNREGS in this fiscal.

“The government is committed to achieve 100 percent village electrification by May 1, 2018,” Jaitley said, allocating Rs.8,500 crore towards rural electrification. Overall, Rs.87,765 crore was allocated for rural development as a whole.

“Priority allocation from centrally sponsored schemes will be made to reward villages that have become free from open defecation,” he added.

“We now plan to launch a new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India to cover around six crore additional households within the next three years,” he said, asserting on the need to spread digital literacy in rural India.

“The National Land Record Modernisation Programme has been revamped under the Digital India Initiative and will be implemented as a central sector scheme with effect from April 1, 2016,” Jaitley said.

He announced a new scheme, Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan with initial allocation of Rs.655 crore.

“We have decided to embark upon on a massive mission to provide liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connection in the name of women members of poor households. I have set aside a sum of Rs.2,000 crore in this year’s Budget to meet the initial cost of providing these LPG connections,” he said.

Jaitley said the government had targeted agriculture credit of Rs.8.5 lakh crore in the fiscal 2015-16, which was being enhanced to Rs.9 lakh crore in the next fiscal.

He also said that Rs.19,000 crore will be allocated for rural roads development programme.

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