Employment guarantee law brings solace to poor farmers

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COUNTING BLESSINGS: Work in progress on an NREGA project in Rangapur.
COUNTING BLESSINGS: Work in progress on an NREGA project in Rangapur.

K. Venkateshwarlu

A couple from Rangapur who ran into debt for daughter's wedding is now relieved with Rs.140 wage a day

RANGAPUR (Ranga Reddy dt): Performing the marriage of a grown-up daughter should normally be a happy occasion for parents. But for the resource-poor subsistence farmer of semi- arid region, it is a gargantuan task often landing his family in debts.

Narayana and his wife Anjamma of this village were no different. They ran into a huge debt of Rs. 60,000 after they married off their daughter last year. Owning four acres where they raised maize, they barely managed to survive. They had no clue of how to pay back the loan taken from a local money lender at a high rate of interest until they heard of a new scheme that would ensure them guaranteed employment and fair wages.

Narayana and his wife now form part of 12- member group that is busy digging up a farm pond under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). "It brought us some solace as we are assured of up to Rs. 140 wage a day", he told visiting media persons.

Though belatedly (eight months after the programme has been launched nationally), farm labourers of Basireddypalli village and Rangapur tanda have started getting work. For dryland small and marginal farmers dependent on rains for raising crops, getting work all round the year is a tough task.

Five types

Five types of works are being taken up in these three villages -- farm ponds, mini percolation tanks, bunding and planting of pongamia and horticulture crops. A majority of the works have gone to SCs, STs and BCs but the total number of days so far worked out to 16.

The sarpanch's family set a fine example by giving away one acre required for the farm pond.

Mallaiah, brother-in-law of the sarpanch explained, "it meant wages for so many of our villagers besides benefiting farmers in the vicinity through recharging of ground water. I too would gain as now I can go in for extra crop". Though most of them say it was gram sabha that decided the works, as specified in the NREGA, it was obvious that the prompting came from the local officials.

When it comes to wages in these and surrounding villages of Parigi mandal there is wide variation.

At one extreme, if one hardly got the minimum wage of Rs. 80 at the other end there were instances of farm labourers getting up to Rs.250 a day. Varala Samuel, Mandal Parishad Development Officer, explained that the wage depended on duration of work put in on a given day and the type of soil.

A notable feature was the use of computers for tracking the work and payment of wages through post offices.



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