MGNREGS has provided mud roads and linked lakes in villages
Workers of the handloom sector in parts of western districts of the State, despite being hit by industrial slackness, have found an economic security net in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
As of December 2012, out of the 15,627 looms in Salem and Dharmapuri districts, 9,853 were found to be idle and only 5,774 were active, according to the Department of Handloom and Textiles. The two districts account for 63 weavers’ cooperative societies.
Another official information points to the fact that 27 per cent of the total number of weavers are working under the MGNREGS. One has to take into account that handlooms constitute a traditional industry in the district of Salem.
An official says the payment of poor wages in the handloom sector had forced weavers to look for alternative sources of livelihood. They are able to earn about Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 a day for works under the MGNREGS. “However, as silk weaving is still profitable, the looms keep running.”
Most of the units functioning in Attayampatti and Kadayampatti areas are lying idle due to the absence of weavers.
An analysis of the composition of workforce in Salem reveals that the MGNREGS workers have been drawn from different sectors, including handloom, agriculture, brick-making units, coir industry and cottage industrial units making confectionaries. Now they are performing tasks such as laying roads, removing silt from water bodies and strengthening tank bunds.
In many villages, cultivation of crops has to be carried out with the help of machines or by landowners themselves due to non-availability of workers.
The scheme has gone beyond just guaranteeing employment to people, bringing smiles on the face of many villagers. For example, over 800 residents of Jarugumalai are happy as the village, which once could be reached only by trekking through slippery rocks, can now be accessed easily with a mud road laid for 3.5 k.m. under the scheme.
Under the MGNREGS, work is on to interlink 49 lakes in the district to remove the imbalance in water availability, which is the first of its kind in the district, according to officials.
Though many micro and small industrial units here may have been closed down, the MGNREGS has ensured that the rural people are kept engaged in a constructive activity and at the same time, they are paid higher income, leading to improved standard of living.