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Leveraging MGNREGS to mitigate drought distress

G. Srinivasan
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A boon for agricultural workers in Cauvery delta

This year, the Cauvery Delta has borne the brunt of the loss of both short-term kuruvai and long-term samba crops. However, scores of agricultural workers in Thanjavur district, who would have experienced economic distress, have not been badly affected.

The reason is obvious: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has provided them the much-needed relief. Their enthusiasm for the works under the scheme is so perceptible that the workers have demanded that the period of work be extended to 250 days from 100.

In Pudur panchayat of Orathanadu block in Thanjavur district where 63 out of 66 enrolled workers are women, Thamizhselvi, a 63-year-old woman, says: “The MGNREGS is of great help to us at a time when there is no agricultural work. We are getting wages on the basis of the work done by us. We get Rs. 120 per day.” She says that the rate should be hiked.

In recognition of the district administration’s handling of the situation, the Union Government has chosen Thanjavur district for “leveraging MGNREGA to reduce distress due to drought.”

Varadarajan, Project Officer, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) of Thanjavur, says that in 2010-2011, the share of women in the total workforce was 67 per cent and it went up to 82 per cent the next year. In the current year the figure is 70 per cent. Likewise, the proportion of workers belonging to the Scheduled Castes has also been on the rise — 81 per cent in 2010-2011; 89 per cent last year. This year, it is hovering around 83 per cent.

Apart from conventional works, land development activities in lands of SC/STs have been taken up. The administration has been attaching attention to ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels of functionaries, the official says.


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