Terming the performance of the district in implementing schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act abysmal, activists have alleged that households from socially deprived sections of society such as Adivasis and Dalits have hardly benefited from the scheme.
As of September only eight job card-holding households in the district managed to get their full annual quota of 100 days’ employment. The remaining 43,666 households, which were issued job cards, remained either underemployed or unemployed.
However, what NREGA activists such as Sheena Shetty and Krishna Moolya from the Jana Shikshana Trust find distressing is that households from socially deprived sections have hardly benefited from the scheme.
Government statistics reveal that of the 43,674 job card holding households only 8.6 per cent or 3,770 households belong to the Scheduled Castes. Even fewer households (6.4 per cent) issued job cards are from the Scheduled Tribes.
As was the case in most other districts of the State, said Ms. Shetty, persons belonging to the Scheduled Tribes were often worse off than those belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
“Of all the tribes in the district, the poorest of the poor belong to the Koraga tribe. Unfortunately, their presence in the NREGA beneficiaries’ club is negligible,” said Mr. Moolya. Mundappa, a Belthangady-based Koraga leader told The Hindu that fewer than 25 of the 881 Koraga living families in the district’s rural areas had received job cards, but only one received any work.
He said that only the family of 60-year-old Haniyaru, a Koraga woman from the Kalmanje village of Belthangady taluk, received any work under the programme. “She is the only Koraga beneficiary in the entire district… It is shocking,” said Ms. Shetty.
Arguably, one of the more far-reaching works taken up through schemes under the NREGA is land development. Using this provision, a farmer can be paid wages for working on her/his own land. Chief executive officer of the Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat P. Shivashankar said, “The government also provides funds for seeds, fertilizer, construction of open wells and other development works on the farm under the NREGA.”
Unfortunately for the Koraga community, few in the district own any arable land. Mr. Shivashankar said, “Fewer than 100 of the 800 plus Koraga families in the district own land. Projects to distribute land among them have been pending for several years,” he said.
“The district administration has identified 74 acres of government land for distribution among the Koragas. Hopefully, the distribution of this lands will coincide with our thrust towards including the Koragas in the NREGA,” he added.
He said that an operation to include the Koraga people under the NREGA will be launched on October 2 to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti. “We have a list of all the Koraga households in the district. We will approach each household individually and encourage them to apply for job cards,” he said.
They would also be encouraged to develop their land, which, according to Mr. Moolya, lies fallow. “They do not have the resources or the knowledge required for agriculture,” he said.
Mr. Shivashankar said that the NREGA would be clubbed with other programmes for the uplift of the Koraga people. “There are several options under the Cluster-level Tribal Welfare Schemes. We will also integrate other programmes into the NREGA such as the National Horticultural Mission for the benefit of the Koragas,” he said.