Even though it is hard, a handful of women at Munnur village find work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGREGA) more satisfying than rolling beedis.
Many women in Munnur roll beedis for livelihood. A wage of Rs. 125 a day for 100 days of guaranteed work under MGREGA is more than what they get for rolling beedis – Rs. 90 for 1,000 beedis a day, a target which many cannot meet.
“We sit for long hours rolling beedis. Despite the hard work here, we don't inhale beedi dust,” Kamalakshi, a Dalit woman, said on Thursday.
She and 12 other women are part of a “katcha” road project. Nearly, 200 families will be benefited when the road is completed.
Sharada Poojary (60), who gave up rolling beedis years ago, works at an MGREGA site. She said as prices of essential commodities had gone up, work was essential for her. She is one of the several women, who said that they had completed 100 days of work last year.
Munnur gram panchayat member Shashikala Raghav said that MGREGA work helped women to interact with one another and they learnt many new things. “Otherwise, we sit alone at home rolling beedis. When we completed 100 days of work, we are felicitated,” she said. Even Meenakshi (60) participated in the running race and other games held as part of the felicitation function on Thursday.
Though there are several advantages, the delay in payment of wages under MGREGA is a major cause for concern. “We work here all day leaving no time to roll beedis at home. So, we can't even fall back on the income from beedis,” said Gayathri. She said though they had worked for 22 days, panchayat officials stated that they could not give wages until the work was completed. Under the Act, wages should be paid within 15 days.
Women working on storm water drains at Santhoshnagar too complained of the hardship they faced owing to the delay in payment of wages. “The price of milk has gone up by Rs. 2. We have to struggle even for a cup of tea,” said Maria D'Souza.
Panchayat Development Officer Pushpa Salian said that she had spoken to the official concerned and steps would be taken to pay their wages at the earliest.
As many as 268 families living in Munnur gram panchayat limits have registered for work under the Act. Of the 353 workers from these families, 201 are women, according to statistics available on the MNREGA website.