Create more women-centric NREGS work, says Parl panel

Times of India, August 22, 2022

New Delhi: Noting that the average percentage of women’s participation in the workforce under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been hovering over the 50% mark for more than five years, which is way higher than the stipulated one-third mark, a parliamentary committee has asserted that the government must take measures for better promotion of “women-centric works” through creation or linking of existing livelihood projects under the ambit of the scheme.

The committee has asserted that “the aim should be to provide reasonable platforms for the rural women to strengthen their economic prowess even further”.

An assessment of data in public domain on NREGS from 2016 shows that the proportion of women accounting for ‘persons days’ of work generated has been more than 50%. Given that NREGS is a demand driven wage employment programme, this data reveals that the scheme is clearly seen by women as a route to a livelihood as compared to men, many of whom probably choose to pick up work on contract or outside the village that get them higher wages.

The standing committee on rural development and panchayati raj in its report on action taken on its recommendations based on the “critical assessment of MGNREGA” reiterates its proposal that the long standing demand for increase in wages must be addressed through suitable linkage to the inflation index.

It also reiterates that the ministry of rural development needs to bridge the wage disparity among states by notifying a uniform wage rate structure.

The report highlights the fluctuation in wage rates ranging from Rs 193 to Rs 318 across different states and Union Territories to emphasise its point. A look at the MGNREGA dashboard shows that out of the total person days generated, women accounted for 54.59% out of 267.96 crore person days in 2018-19, 54.78% out of 265.35 crore person days in 2019-20, 53.19% out of 389.09 crore person days in 2020-21 and 54.67% out of 363.4 crore person days in 2021-22. During the ongoing financial year so far women account for 56.05% out of 141.35 crore person days in 2022-23.

In this backdrop, the parliamentary panel in its report emphasises on women-centric works under the scheme. It has reiterated its earlier recommendation to the department of rural development to devise means through which already existing women ‘self help groups’ engaged in farm works or animal rearing activities can be linked to MGNREGA for ensuring increased participation of women.

The department of rural development, in its reply to the committee, said that to encourage women to participate, there are features like separate schedule of rates for women; no discrimination in wages; women caretaker for looking after children up to five years, if there are five or more children of such age; and encouragement to women SHG members as mate and worksite facilities.

The committee in its recommendations, however, states that after thoroughly examining the reply they are “of the strong view that much more needs to be done regarding the exploration of the feasibility for the linkage of existing women-centric works along with finding the practicability of more women-centric programmes under MGNREGA”.

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