MGNREGA in troubled waters?

Irregular payments, discrimination and lack of basic facilities plague the implementation of the rural scheme.

Prudhvi Vegesna

Thiruvallur: Non-compliance with the rules and regulations disrupts the functioning of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in different taluks of the district.

R.Amulu, a 27-year-old Irula tribal woman of Vembedu village in Thiruvallur taluk said, “Payments are not regular and I did not receive payment for 2 months. I went to the bank located in Thiruvallur, which was around 20 km away, and bank officials asked me not to come as Panchayat officials would come and collect my money.”

Operational guidelines of MGNREGA (2013) say, “Special strategies with appropriate programme flexibility should be adopted by the State governments to reach the benefits of MGNREGS to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) like Irulas.” However, the Tamil Nadu government has not put any special strategy for PVTGs as Irulas were not given regular employment and payment.

An analysis of the attendance register at the MGNREGS work site in Vembedu shows that out of 108 persons employed on January 5, 64 people belong to General Category, 30 people belong to Scheduled Castes and only 14 people belong to Scheduled Tribes indicating discrimination in the allotment of works.

Census 2011 data for Meyyur Panchayat, under which Vembedu falls, shows that out of total population of 2,357, SCs constitute 1,446 or 61.34 % of the population but the work allotment under MGNREGS is not proportionate to their population.

MGNREGA also mandates work site facilities such as crèche, drinking water, and shade. However, at Vembedu none of these facilities were present and Irula women had to leave their children in an open place near the work site.

The statutory minimum wage fixed by the Tamil Nadu government under MGNREGA is Rs 203. However, MGNREGS workers in the district were getting wages in the range of only Rs 100-130.

S.Kaveri, a 48-year-old Irula woman from Kulathumedu in Ponneri taluk said, “I got only Rs 130 for each day’s work and I did not receive payment for over a month.”

MGNREGS aims at improving the livelihood and security of the people. It guarantees 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to any adult member of a rural household, who is willing to do unskilled manual work. However, in most places, people are deprived of their right to 100 days of employment in a financial year guaranteed under the Act.

Krishnaveni Ramaswamy, a 60-year-old woman of Bhimavaram village in Kottaiyur panchayat of Thiruvallur taluk said “We do not receive 100 days of employment every year. In 2016, I received only around 80 days of employment.”

The Act also mandates the payment of unemployment allowance if the work has not been allocated within 15 days after applying for it. However, none of the MGNREGS workers had received unemployment allowance.



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