Efforts are on to zero in on eligible persons, who may have been left out

A year ago the State authorities in charge of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) decided to rope in the differently-abled .

They chose six village panchayats spread over four panchayat unions — Karamadai panchayat union in Coimbatore; Thiruporur in Kancheepuram; Madurai and Kadayanallur in Tirunelveli — for a study, which was carried out during February and April last year.

The study revealed that on an average, the output of the differently-abled was about 50 per cent less than that of normal persons. It suggested that they could be engaged in activities such as providing water to workers at worksites; looking after children; clearing scrubs in sites and watering the area where silt was to be removed.

In Tamil Nadu, of the nearly 55 lakh households being provided jobs under the Scheme, the differently-abled account for around 1.9 lakh. As per a conservative estimate, the population of the differently-abled in rural areas accounts for four lakh. [According to the 2001 Census, the total population of differently-abled in the State is 16,42,497].

As only those aged 18 years and above can be employed under the Scheme, the authorities have issued job cards to about 1.9 lakh persons. According to an official, the District Rehabilitation Officers for the differently-abled have been asked to zero in eligible persons, who may have been left out.

Drawing inspiration from the Tamil Nadu experience, the Union Government’s Operational Guidelines (the text of which is available on http://nrega.nic.in) have called upon the State-level authorities to create special conditions to facilitate inclusion of the differently-abled in the Scheme.

They are emphatic regarding wage payment: “On no grounds should the disabled and vulnerable persons be paid lower wages as compared to other persons employed in MGNREGA [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] works.”

For the definition of differently-abled, they have taken into account two laws — Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.

Those identified by the 1995 law as persons with disabilities with severity exceeding 40 per cent are regarded as a special category for the purposes of the MGNREGS.

Keywords: MGNREGS scheme