Why NREGA funds can’t be utilized for Snow Clearance ?

The winter has already set in.  For the last few days we have seen rainfall in Srinagar and surrounding districts. In the upper reaches , there has been snowfall as well. In the coming weeks and months we expect a good amount of snowfall.  Is our administration ready to face the challenges on account of snow clearance from roads? Last year authorities were not able to clear snow from roads within a minimum possible time. The reason was , huge snowfall in Kashmir and lack of snow clearance vehicles and machinery with Government agencies . Has the Govt  learnt from the mistakes of the past ?

Authorities are always seen pressing into service the  JCBs or Tractors instead of snow-clearing machines. The reason is simple  as there aren’t enough of the latter to serve all the villages. In Budgam district for instance there are only 12 snow-clearing machines. They have clear snow from hundreds of kilometres of roads. In Baramulla or any other district the situation is the same. Due to the shortage of snow-machines, there is delay in clearing the roads amid snowfall and when there is 3 to 4 feet snowfall , the situation becomes more challenging. There is a lone executive engineer who looks after one single mechanical division. He is responsible for undertaking snow clearance work in three districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal.


JCB’s damage road surface

In January this year when a JCB was sent to clear snow in Repora village in Chadoora, the local villagers intervened and sent it back. The locals preferred to clear the snow with spades instead as the JCB damaged the road surface which had been blacktopped last summer. Last summer, crores of rupees were spent on repairing, relaying and constructing retaining walls on the nine kilometres stretch from Bonyar village in Budgam District to Goggee Pathri road via Kutabl. It was blacktopped for the first time and the villagers living in the area rejoiced, but their elation was short-lived. After just five months the road came undone as heavy JCBs rolled in to clear the snow and in the process gouged out the surface of the bitumen road.  Same complaints poured in from  Kupwara, Bandipora Ganderbal and other districts as well.

While the mechanical engineering department takes up snow clearance works on the major roads of the district, the Roads and Buildings Department  (R&B) hires contractors who use JCB’s or agricultural tractors for snow clearance. They are in charge of clearing village roads and link roads that they have constructed. In addition, the roads constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna are taken care of by contractors for five years. This is called the Defect Liability Period and slow clearance work is also to be undertaken by them. Contractors use JCBs to clear the snow and, sometimes, the mechanical engineering department also pitches in on the more important roads of the district.

NREGA & snow clearance

I am unable to why couldn’t the authorities use the MGNREGA funds for snow clearance work? Many of the people in the remote parts of J&K have been demanding this. I have myself been doing advocacy around this issue for the last many years and in fact I have written about the issue as well. Some years back the then Rural Development Minister JK Govt Abdul Haq Khan met with Union Minister Rural Development and apprised him about this issue, but no follow up was made by the department later on. Last year when NREGA & snow clearance was a point of discussion on social media , Wajahat Habibullah a retired IAS officer and former chief information commissioner who has served as Secretary Panchayati Raj Govt of India , supported my claim that Govt of India must amend NREGA rules to allow snow clearance work under MG-NREGA.

Other aspect

Most of the work covered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) often comes to a halt in hilly states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand during the winter. This leaves most rural labourers unemployed for several months.

Keeping this in mind, the district administration of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh some years back suggested to the state government that the task of clearing snow should be included under NREGA. The Department of Rural Development, Government of Himachal Pradesh accepted this suggestion since road construction and clearing of debris can be categorised as essential activities, and can, therefore, be undertaken under the scheme.

The district administration of Kinnaur  employed local villagers to clear snow from narrow roads in far off villages across the district. The payment to these villagers falls under NREGA.

On the other hand, in Jammu and Kashmir, we witness much heavier snowfall than Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand. Still, we don’t have a single snow clearance activity sanctioned under NREGA. As of now, in Kashmir, clearance of snow happens using JCBs and bulldozers—which are meant for soil excavation. They often damage the roads as well.

The Rural Development Department J&K claims that clearing snow from lanes, roads, and public spaces cannot come under NREGA as it does not lead to creation of physical assets. Though Kinnaur has set a precedent and made the case for snow clearance to be included in NREGA works, the Jammu and Kashmir government is yet to forward a formal proposal to the Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Govt of India  for this.

Timely snow clearance across all the villages especially remotely located places in higher reaches is not possible unless the Government does not involve the Department of Rural Development who can dovetail NREGA funds available with them. This will serve three purposes

  1. a)Snow clearance can be undertaken at an appropriate time in remote / hilly areas of J&K
    b) The activity will generate livelihood for rural youth especially at a time when these youth have no work during winter months.
    c) Blacktopped roads won’t be damaged by bulldozers and JCB’s

Waste Management & NREGA

Under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin NREGA funds can be utilized for Solid and Liquid Waste Management by dovetailing the both. If this convergence is possible why cannot authorities utilize NREGA funds for snow clearance? During execution of Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) in rural areas not much of the physical assets are created except when the implementing agency constructs waste processing sheds etc, but construction of these sheds is only one of the activities under SLWM. Activities like segregation of biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste, cleaning water-bodies , springs and village streams or Information Education and Communication (IEC) work hardly involve any physical asset creation ? For all these works NREGA  funds are allowed to be used by Govt of India under SBM Gramin guidelines. When it comes to snow clearance officials say funds cannot be utilized for this. I believe the J & K Government has not been able to give proper explanation or presentation to the Union Rural Development Ministry in this regard and that is why the case is still in limbo.



If the Government of Himachal Pradesh can allow snow clearance work in Kinnaur district , why can’t this be done in J&K or Ladakh? Isn’t timely snow clearance an asset ? Isn’t creating livelihoods in harsh winter months an asset ? It is presumed that there would be bungling and corruption if the snow clearance is undertaken under NREGA .The corruption and bungling is not only the prerogative of NREGA. Mechanical Engineering Department and PWD (R&B) officials also prepare fake bills soon after undertaking snow clearance work. I appeal to Lt Governor  Manoj Sinha , Principal Secretary Rural Development Department Bipul Pathak to take up this issue with the Govt of India soon.





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Raja Muzaffar Bhat

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