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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rural areas to benefit from budget initiatives

Job guarantee, groundwater recharge schemes

130 more districts all over the country to be brought under rural employment guarantee scheme

Groundwater scheme envisages 100% subsidy to small, marginal farmers for sinking wells

CHENNAI: Rural Tamil Nadu will benefit from two major Union budget initiatives in the areas of rural employment guarantee and groundwater recharge schemes.
Under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, 130 more districts all over the country will be added. At present, the scheme is in operation in 200 districts, of which six are in Tamil Nadu.

A few months ago, the State-level Council for the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme recommended that 10 more districts in Tamil Nadu be brought under the ambit of the scheme.
Subsequently, the State Government forwarded the suggestion to the Centre. In January, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi wrote to the Centre to apply the scheme to all districts of the State.
According to a senior government official, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Ramanthapuram, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar and Vellore are among the districts recommended. As these districts are economically backward and dry regions, the State Government hopes the Centre would agree to its suggestion. As for the remaining 13 districts, the district administrations have been asked to submit proposals. The groundwater recharge scheme, as spelt out in the budget, focusses on seven States having most of the "overexploited or critical blocks."
The scheme envisages 100 per cent subsidy to small and marginal farmers for sinking wells and 50 per cent subsidy to other farmers.

In Tamil Nadu, 175 out of a total of 385 blocks come under the two categories of blocks. According to a Central Groundwater Board (CGWB)'s survey in 2004, 143 blocks are overexploited and 32 critical.
(According to CGWB, "overexploitation" refers to more than 100 per cent extraction, showing long-term decline in the groundwater table in pre or post-monsoon or both. The "critical" category pertains to 90-100 per cent extraction, showing long-term decline either in pre or post-monsoon. Blocks with 70-90 per cent extraction with the decline in both pre and post-monsoon also come under this category.)

6 districts to be covered Under the proposed scheme, Villupuram, Salem, Namakkal, Dindigul, Theni and Tuticorin are likely to be covered, as they account for the bulk of the overexploited and the critical blocks, says a senior CGWB official. A project, estimated to cost Rs. 2.2 crore, is being implemented in the Gangavalli block in Salem district, where a host of measures is being carried out to improve the groundwater table.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the nodal agency for the new scheme, has been providing assistance for artificial recharge and water conservation schemes

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