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NGOs should help people in Maoist-affected areas: Jairam Ramesh

Elizabeth Roche

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday urged non-government organizations (NGOs) to provide skill-development training and employment-generation support to districts affected by leftwing extremism that had now expanded its grip on the country from 82 to 88 districts.

Ramesh was speaking at an event that saw his ministry sign a pact with a non-profit group to extend training and employment generation support in states such as Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand - some of the worst affected states by Maoist extremism. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described leftwing extremism as the most important internal security challenge for the country.

“These four states cover 60 (out of 88 Maoist-affected districts)” in the country, Ramesh told reporters ahead of the ministry signing the pact with Pradan (Professional Assistance for Development Action). This follows the cabinet in May approving changes to the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), a welfare programme to reduce poverty, to ensure effective implementation.

As per the terms of the pact, Pradan will be an NRLM support organization, which recognises the organization as a body that is capable of providing skill-development training. In the initial phase, two projects will be taken up by the support organization. In the first programme, 18,000 families will be helped through production and marketing of tasar silk in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal in the coming three years with a budget of Rs.50 crore.

The second project also aims to benefit 18,000 families through sustainable agriculture, particularly those families headed by women. The programme, to be implemented with a budget of Rs.20 crore, aims to increase the income of the women by 15-20% by cutting down on harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Ramesh said that NRLM would be extended to cover sanitation, health and nutrition and provide livelihood opportunities to ensure the elimination of manual scavenging.

Source: NGOs should help people in Maoist-affected areas: Jairam Ramesh