Sivaganga offers plenty of scope for work under MGNREGS

For Ramaiyu, a 62-year-old widow and Nagajothi, a young pregnant woman, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has provided economic independence and the confidence to face life amid poverty.

Hailing from Thondur village, they were among more than 200 women engaged in de-silting the Singathuraipatti Oorani in Melayur Panchayat of Ilayankudi block under the MGNREGS.

The aged widow enrolled herself in 2006, when Sivaganga became one of the six districts in Tamil Nadu selected for implementation of the MGNREGS in the first phase. “I joined the scheme to take care of my two granddaughters, who were orphaned after the death of my son and daughter-in-law.”

With whatever she earned from the ‘income-earning scheme,’ she arranged the marriage of one granddaughter and helped the other to complete her Plus Two. “I get not less than Rs. 600 a week and spend a portion of it on my granddaughter’s education.”

Like other women, she is aware that the daily wage has been fixed at Rs. 132 and payment is according to the quantum of work done in a week. The workers get a uniform salary of Rs. 600 for six days.

Nagajothi, who is eight months pregnant, has to sweat it out in the sun as she has to take care of her aged aunt. Her husband goes for farm or construction work. “I use the additional income mostly for the medical expenses of my three-year-old son and take care of my aged aunt.”

“The scheme has definitely given economic independence for rural women and brought about a change in their social status,” says Kiran Gurrala, Additional Collector (Development) and Project Director, MGNREGS.

Of the 2.44 lakh active workers in this district close to 90 per cent are women. The men prefer to take up wood cutting, which fetch them more money. There is plenty of scope for providing work under the MGNREGS in the district, which has 3,000-odd tanks. With the decision to converge other departments such as Forest, Agriculture and Horticulture, the district administration will be focussing on asset stability and asset creation, Mr. Gurrala said.

In the first phase of the convergence plan, uncultivated farm lands owned by the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes would be developed. Later, the lands of small and marginal farmers would be developed, involving workers under the MGNREGS.

A survey has been done and approval of the Grama Sabha obtained to develop the lands of willing farmers. “We will first exhaust about 26,000 hectares of lands of SC/ST farmers, before taking up the 1.9 lakh hectares of small and marginal farmers,” Mr. Gurrala said.

The workers would also be involved in the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, a comprehensive programme to ensure sanitation facilities in rural areas.