While the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is known for enhancing livelihood security of poor households in rural areas, the scheme also includes ‘holistic fulfillment’ as special attention is focused on the vulnerable sections including differently-abled persons.
The MGNREGA promises 100-day guaranteed unskilled manual work to every rural adult with an aim to alleviate poverty. According to official estimates, during 2011-12 the total number of differently-abled persons working in MGNREGA stood at 3,95,200. For 2012-13 the number of differently-abled persons employed under the scheme was 4,10,393 - up by a mere 15,000 additional opportunities for the differently-abled.
Employment for disabled persons through MGNREGA remains quite limited with only four states- Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tripura and West Bengal providing employment to over 1 per cent of those employed under the scheme.
In absolute numbers, Andhra Pradesh topped the list of states in providing jobs to 1, 16,280 disabled persons, closely followed by West Bengal at 1, 02,480 and Maharashtra at 27,936.
In Gujarat the percentage of disabled persons working in MGNREGA declined from 1.40 per cent in 2011-12 to 1.30 per cent in 2012-13. On the other hand, the population went up for the same period from 0.42 per cent to 0.44 per cent in Tamil Nadu, while Andhra Pradesh saw an increase from 0.96 per cent to 1.10 per cent.
The MGNREGA Operational Guidelines has dedicated a separate chapter entitled “Strategy for Vulnerable Groups” wherein a detailed procedure has been outlined to facilitate differently-abled persons under MGREGA.
“Since MGREGA is a demand driven program backed by legislation, there is no earmarking of funds/reservations for any specific category of workers,” said Pradeep Kumar Jain ‘Aditya’, Minister of State in Ministry of Rural Development.
Further, the Minister stated that there has been an emphasis to create conditions for active participation of differently-abled persons under the scheme. This includes for States to identify specific works which can be done by the differently- abled persons.
“Differently-abled persons can be grouped together as a fixed group to accomplish the works proposed for them. Services of a facilitator/ mate can be utilized to mobilise differently-abled workers for MGNREGA works,” he added.