Staff Reporter

Scheme helped beneficiaries clear debts

Only 10 families could achieve 100 days of job

56 per cent of beneficiaries below 45 years

Thrissur: As the National Rural Employee Guarantee Programme (NREGP), which is believed to have aided Congress victory in rural India, dominates post-election discussions, a study by a Thrissur-based economist has found that it has effectively reduced poverty at Vadakkanchery panchayat in Palakkad district.

According to the study, conducted by economist E. M.Thomas, NREGP has helped 90 per cent of its beneficiaries clear debts. “Absence of gender discrimination in wages has contributed to empowerment of women in the panchayat. As wages are paid through banks, a good number of workers in the panchayat now have bank accounts. About 91 per cent of them opened bank accounts for the first time in their lives,” Dr. Thomas says.

The Kerala Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been implemented in Palakkad and Wayanad districts since February 5, 2006. Although the scheme promises 100 days of employment, only 10 families could attain this target, the study points out. A majority of the households got 25 to 50 days of manual jobs in 2007-08.

About 56 per cent of NREGP beneficiaries in the panchayat are above the age of 45. The educational qualification of 71 per cent is below SSLC. About 17.66 per cent of the beneficiaries are illiterate. About 85 per cent of the beneficiaries are women.

“Social auditing by the panchayat is not satisfactory. In NREGA (Section 17, Sub-section 1,2,3), social auditing is considered an integral part in fulfilling the constitutional and democratic right of citizens to get proper information about spending of public money,” Dr. Thomas says.

According to the study, the panchayat conducted only one social auditing programme between 2006 and 2008.

“It is mandatory that wages should be paid to all beneficiaries of NREGP within 15 days. But most of the beneficiaries in the panchayat receive wages only after 20 days. Notice boards containing details of work programmes are not found in many sites. The wage rate of Rs.125 per day has resulted in flow of farm workers to NREGP work sites,” Dr. Thomas adds.