There are wide variations across States, within States and across districts in the share of workdays going to women under the government’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS). While one of the Act’s provisions is that one-third of those given employment should be women, their participation in the scheme points to some unique and often contradicting aspects.
The required proportion of workdays going to women stands shockingly at less than 33 per cent in four States — Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Bihar and U.P. — while women in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have made considerable gains.
In 2012-13, women accounted for 51 per cent of ‘person-days provided employment under MNREGS.’ Only seven States accounted for a percentage of women’s participation higher than the national average. They included Kerala (93 per cent), Goa (79 per cent), Tamil Nadu (74 per cent), Rajasthan (69 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (58 per cent).
In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan a history of mobilisation of women for schemes and campaigns seems to have contributed to their higher participation. Kerala and Himachal Pradesh also are cited as independent examples and often compared with each other as they have the best performance on human development indicators.
Himachal Pradesh recorded a significant increase in women’s participation at 61 per cent, up from 13 per cent in 2006-07.
At the other end, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir reported low women participation at 20 per cent each. In Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, it was less than 35 per cent.
Development economist Reetika Khera pointed out that delay in wage payments in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has had a particularly adverse impact on women, who are often destitute or marginalised.
“In the case of Bihar and U.P., particularly patriarchal States, women cannot wait for so long to receive payments and end up taking up other works, even if at a lower pay, if the pay is timely,” Ms. Khera told The Hindu.
Further, she highlighted the lack of awareness in such States: “Till a few years ago, women’s names were not even on the job cards. They were unaware of their entitlements. Now even though their names have been added their unawareness still persists.”