Oct 20, 2016

Railways proposes Construction Work under Rural Jobs Scheme

The Centre has allocated Rs.38,500 Crore for National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in this year’s budget.

Indian Railways has proposed to undertake construction work in its projects under the government’s flagship rural jobs programme, potentially bringing in thousands of crores of rupees to the cash-strapped national transporter.
The rural development ministry is yet to take a call on convergence with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), officials said.

“We are studying the proposal. We will take it up in a few places initially to understand what the challenges are,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified. The works proposed by the railways under the scheme include building of small stretches of roads and plantations alongside rail tracks.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act recognizes 153 types of works that can be taken up under the scheme. The railways will have to maintain the muster roll and ensure electronic fund management system for wage payments once its proposal is accepted.

“The work under MGNREGS cannot be contractor driven…the implementation agency for railways such as the forest department will have to ensure that all rules of the Act are followed,” the official said.

Over the past one year the scheme has focused on drought-proofing activities such as construction of wells and farm ponds. This is likely to continue next year as well, the official said. Nearly half of the work done under the scheme has to be done through gram panchayats while the rest can be taken up by other project implementation agencies within the purview of the Act.

The government allocated Rs 38,500 crore for National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in this year’s budget and thereafter gave an additional fund of Rs 5,000 crore in the supplementary budget. The rural development ministry is expecting a release of further Rs 10,000 crore for the scheme in the second supplementary budget.

The ministry has already utilised more than 80 per cent of the funds. It has asked states that received less than 75 per cent of average rainfall during the monsoon this year to factor in the deficit while preparing the labour budget for 2017-18. Besides water conservation activities, the scheme is focusing on creating durable assets such as rural roads. A technical committee set up by the ministry has come up with standard specifications for roads built under the scheme.
High Power Committee fixes duty hours for Railway staff

A high power committee of the Railways tasked with review of duty hours of operational staff has prescribed a maximum of 125 hours per fortnight, unless warranted by unforeseen circumstances.

Regulation of working hours of the running staff in the Railways, particularly of loco drivers, has been an issue of concern as the organisation faces perpetual shortage of staff. More vital is the fact that the welfare of drivers is linked to safety issues.

An October 13 note by the Railway Board to all General Managers said that notwithstanding the upper limit in severe operational exigencies like earthquakes floods and equipment failure the Controller would suitably advise the staff on working beyond the limits set.