The attempts of the Edavaka Grama Panchayat in Wayanad district to assure social security and job opportunities to the senior citizens in the panchayat, by providing job opportunities under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee project (MGNREGP) of the Union government has set a model for others to emulate.

Thanal, a novel project launched by the panchayat under MRNREGP, has already provided job opportunities for as many as 600 senior citizens including 250 tribal men and 10 physically challenged persons in 15 nursery units.

The project aimed to ensure social security and job opportunities to the senior citizens, physically challenged and widows in the panchayat, Justin Baby, president Edavaka Panchayat told the Hindu on Thursday.

Though the MGNREGP guidelines suggest assuring job opportunities to the senior citizens, widows and physically challenged persons under the scheme, most of the local self government bodies could not provide it so far, he added.

Though such persons were provided the job card when the NREGP was introduced in the panchayat, a study conducted by the panchayat last year showed that most of the senior citizens did not attend for jobs as they felt that they could not compete with youngsters in the work sites, Mr. Justin Baby said.

Last year, a pilot project was started for them and the success of it inspired the launch of the project in 15 wards of the 18 wards of the panchayat, he said.

The panchayat provided all the raw materials for the nurseries under the supervisions of the Kudumba sree units in those areas. Each of the units have planted as may as 10,000 t0 25,000 plants in polythene bags including the saplings of areca nut ,coffee, pepper, fruit bearing trees and seedlings of other trees.

The saplings would be planted on the house holdings of tribals, marginal and small scale farmers in the panchayat under the MGNREGP of the panchayat by the end of June, K.R. Jayaprakash, and vice president of the panchayat said.

The nursery work such as filling mud in the polythene bags to plant seedlings, planting seeds and watering the plants is not strenuous work for and can easily be done, Annakkutty, 70, of Marikuzhyil at Kunnamagalam said.

Vellachy, 70, a tribal woman of Edacherry Paniya colony near Thonichal said that though she had got the job card of MGNREGP two years ago, when she attended to work with youngsters, she felt that she could not compete with them and stopped the work on the first day. “But now I am happy and I can earn a fair income from the nursery work under the project with the help of Kudumba sree unit members,” Vellachy said.

The panchayat is also planning to launch a new project this year titled as ‘Ente Thanal’, a project similar to Ente Maram project of the state government, by which the plan is to plant the remaining fruit tree saplings of the Thanal project on the way sides of the panchayat with the help of school children and the Kudumba sree workers, Manu Kuzhivelil, the standing committee chairman of the panchayat said.

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