Odisha youths want revamped MGNREGS to recover from COVID19 impacts


Bhubaneswar,: Given the economic challenges posed by the COVID 19 pandemic, youth in Odisha voted for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) as one of the best ways to help local youths economically while reviving water bodies, agriculture and forests in the state. This was revealed in a rapid telephonic survey by the #Youth4Water campaign in which 1,000 young people participated. . “We reached out to a large number of youth from across the state through the campaign to find out their opinion on both economic and ecological revival. About 70 percent of them thought MGNREGS has the potential to help the villagers in many ways,” said Ajit Kumar Panda, one of the leaders of the campaign. About 65 percent of the youths contacted were boys, and rest girls, he added.

This campaign is being facilitated by Water Initiatives, Patang and other partner organisations such as Gram Swaraj, Young India and Social Awareness Institution (SAI) in cooperation with UNICEF, Odisha. About one thousand youths from colleges in five districts are now actively involved in this campaign. The #Youth4Water campaign intends to reach out to each youth of Odisha by 2025 with messages of water and river conservation; sanitation; hygiene and climate change awareness, pointed out Bhumisuta Sahu of Patang. This survey was done as part of the World Environment Day (WED) 2020 preparations of the campaign. The global theme of the WED this year is ‘Time for Nature’.

“Experts around the world, including the UN agencies, are urging governments to look for economic revival packages that are in harmony with nature conservation. We are pushing for “Recover Better with Nature” and want the youths to be part of all these actions in Odisha, said Monika Nielsen, Chief, Field Office, UNICEF, Odisha.

“It was important for us to capture the views of young people in Odisha and encourage them to play a role in the economic and ecological revival in the state. We hope that MGNREGS can be leveraged to not only provide an economic opportunity but also become a game changer for ecological restoration,” added Shipra Saxena WASH Specialist, UNICEF, Odisha.

The MGNREGS already has a big focus on creating water bodies. However, the youths wanted that there should be more emphasis on both individual and community water infrastructure including irrigation structures under the scheme. Providing nursery raising training to youths and helping them raise nurseries of local and indigenous species, assisting them with plantation of such species and create local forests in an ecologically sustainable manner, developing horticulture gardens and helping the youths in promoting local food processing units, etc. were some of the key suggestions from the youths. “They have also asked for enhancing the number of work days and wage so that the villagers won’t have to migrate out. Some youths have also suggested that the migrant workers from Odisha, who have just returned from other states, should be supported with better opportunities here. Their skills should be tapped to enhance local services and environmental conservation efforts,” said Subodh Kumar Pradhan, a student volunteer of the campaign.

“These are nice suggestions. Through these and many such activities, the youths can take part in sustainable development efforts of the government in a planned manner,” opined Bhumisuta. “Youths can take a leading role in rebuilding the village economies as well as conserving local natural resources. Their opinions should be counted in planning such revival actions,” she said further.

Panda further pointed out that suggestions gathered during the perception survey have today been discussed in a webinar organised on occasion of the World Environment Day, and will be soon sent to the Chief Minister of Odisha urging his support and consideration.