The confluence of the Indian Railways and MGNERGS has resulted in better and effective utilization of resources. It marked a worthy example of ‘more governance and less government’ as it brought forward how a policy was initially formulated by the top management, implemented at the site and then evolved after feedback from the workers. Also, it elaborates on monitoring systems which have been developed to ensure better transparency and accountability, writes Pratham Agrawal, IRSE, Divisional Engineer, Solapur Division, Central Railway.
The convergence of Indian Railways and MGNERS, mentioned here, is in regard with the Ongole Sub-division (ADEN/OGL) which falls under the Vijayawada Division of Indian Railways. The modalities of this scheme have been under works between the Railway Board and Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development for the past five years that is from 2013 to 2018.
South Central Railway pioneered the implementation of this concept in the year 2018 with Ongole Sub-division spearheading it. Through the persistent efforts of the then Assistant Divisional Engineer, Ongole, a new policy was formulated on November 24, 2018, identifying nine types of works which could be undertaken in the Railway jurisdiction. These include:
- Desilting of waterways of bridges/RUBs/Pipe culverts/Box culverts
- Strengthening/widening of Railways embankment
- Trench cutting along Railway boundary
- Desilting of Open Wells
- Recharge structures to functioning bore wells/dried up borewells
- Block plantation
- Village parks in Railway colonies
- Linear Plantation
- Connecting roads to level crossings
At present, the first five works on the list are under progress. In total, 964 works have found sanction with a cost of Rs 47.89 crore as of today. And, 170 works worth Rs 2.50 crore are under progress. Moreover, 84 works worth Rs 1.68 crore have been completed.
A complete list of all the sanctioned, ongoing and completed projects under the convergence scheme can be monitored through a centralized dashboard on the official website of NREGA Andhra Pradesh. It is pertinent to note that the monitoring system under MGNREGS is online and open for all which enhances the transparency of the scheme.
The potential of this scheme is tremendous with of sanctions worth Rs 600 crore awaited in this financial year itself. All the works listed above are majorly maintenance-based and once offloaded, the freed-up funds of railways can be diverted towards capital asset creation.
Further, the plantation drives and other works listed above are pursued by the state government in a better manner than railways as it is their core activity. The above-stated policy guidelines are pursued with all seriousness. In consultation with the state and forest department, plant species have been chosen which after maturity can be cut and can fetch railways non-fare revenue. To that effect, the local pulp and paper industry has been roped in for the same and signing of an MOU between local industries and zonal railway is underway.
Similarly, the work of trench cutting along the railway boundary will help in mitigating cattle run over cases. The trench will also serve as rainwater harvesting pits. Adjacent to the railway boundary, farm fields are there and the farmers have expressed happiness over the same. Due to such synergistic working, an atmosphere of trust has evolved and this has resulted in the process of closure of seven level crossings with zero spending which in typical circumstances would have resulted in expenses of Rs 30 crore.
Assistant Divisional Engineer, Ongole had also managed to secure investment for some of the construction projects partly via MGNREGS funds and partly via centrally sponsored schemes like the construction of Cement Concrete Approach Road to Singarayakonda station which was undertaken with labour cost being financed under MGNREGS and material cost being financed under Rurban (a centrally sponsored scheme). Similarly, the construction of public toilet and approach road street lighting was also undertaken in two stations falling within the Solapur division.
The applications of this scheme are tremendous and only the tip of the iceberg could be touched upon in the initial stages of convergence. Railways is the 24th department to secure convergence. The previous year’s budget under MGNREGS for the state of Andhra Pradesh stood close to Rs 10,000 crore. The vision is to secure a lion’s share of this funding for railways and to realize this vision, remarkable initiatives have been undertaken to strengthen worksite facilities including:
- Public toilets have been provided at all the 38 Level Crossing Gates and nine stations in Ongole Sub-division.
- Drinking water facility has been provided at all Level Crossing Gates and the stations in Ongole Sub-division.
- Moreover, first aid safety kit boxes along with ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) have also been provided at all Level Crossing Gates and the stations in Ongole Sub-division.
The magnitude of this exercise could be appreciated from the fact that the facilities like toilet, drinking water, etc. were available initially as one in every 10 kilometres which was brought down to one in every 1.5 kilometres. This translates to greater accessibility to such basic amenities. The district administration along with all the workers has tremendously appreciated this work and a healthy environment has been generated resulting in improved quality and pace of execution of works in Ongole Sub-division.