MNREGA jobs in Karnataka have become less women friendly with delayed payments, forcing women back to the fields

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) came with the promise of not just providing work, but work on equal footing to men and women. However, while there are complaints about gender disparity in payment at several places, the bigger problem is of the failure to stress on women-friendly work and delay in clearing wages.

This, in turn, is pushing women back to work in agricultural fields with discriminatory wages.

Not suitable

“We are not provided suitable employment. The available work of digging hard soil for laying roads, construction of check-dams and other such works are best suited for men,” says Kallamma Ijeri, a mother of four of Ijeri village in Jewargi taluk, Gulbarga district. “The authorities have little interest to invest MNREGA funds in opening nurseries to cultivate plants for forest, horticulture and sericulture departments.”

Initially, when MNREGA was launched, more stress was given to women-friendly works such as cultivating nurseries and watering plants in watershed areas. But the nature of works taken up under MNREGA has changed with the Union and State governments insisting on creating assets rather than providing employment to the needy.

Another problem which is driving away women from MNREGA was the inordinate delay in payment of wages. “In districts such as Gulbarga, the delay in settling wages ranges from a minimum one month to three years,” says president of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha Maruti Manpade. Women were now being forced to work in agricultural fields where wages are discriminatory.

“I get Rs. 95 a day for working in agricultural fields, though men get Rs. 175. I am happy with even this because I get wages on time,” says Pyari Chavan, agricultural labourer at Naganalli, on the outskirts of Gulbarga city.

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