The long-pending demand of workers to increase the wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) will be placed for the consideration of Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh during his visit to the city to review the project progress and attend a symposium on rural development on September 28.

Representatives of various local bodies and office-bearers of the Kerala Grama Panchayat Association will submit their requests to the Minister.

The private sector offers daily wages of over Rs.300 to men and women, while the payment under MGNREGS is Rs.180 a day. Though the concept of gender equality is maintained through equal payment under the MGNREGS, it has not evoked a positive response from male workers since they get higher wages in the private sector. In Kozhikode district, 92 per cent of the total MGNREGS workers are women.

K. Yusuf, Joint Programme Coordinator of MGNREGS, said the request to revise the existing payment is under the active consideration of the government.

“At the symposium planned in Kozhikode, representatives of local bodies and the Grama Panchayat Association would submit suggestions on wage revision and other issues,” he adds.

In the absence of pay revision, even the backward segments — who were expected to benefit from the project — have opted for other jobs after quitting MGNREGS. The trend is now clearly visible in Kodenchery panchayat, which has the highest tribal population in the district. Antony Neervelil, president of the grama panchayat, makes it clear that the scheme would fail to make any impact with the existing payment.

“We have seen tribal people moving to other States seeking better work opportunities at private estates and farms,” he said.

Private land

Along with the wage revision plea, suggestions to bring private land for cultivation under the scheme too will be submitted for the consideration of the Union Minister. At present, farming activities on private land utilising the MGNREGS workforce is not permitted.

“In the case of Kerala, agriculture is the main activity and it cannot be detached from any Central scheme. The demand had been forwarded by various States to the Union government,” said Mr. Yusuf.

He said the symposium to be attended by the Union Minister was likely to come out with some reformative steps on the issue after seeking the opinion of the local body heads and panchayat association leaders.

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