Women working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Gundri Panchayat here have urged the Central and State governments to increase the number of working days from 150 to 250.
The panchayat in Sathyamangalam Union has 15 habitations with a population of over 6,200.
The people living here depend on rains for cultivating ragi, millets and other dry crops in their small holdings. The habitations are located 15 km from Kadambur and 80 km from Erode and can be reached only through the Guthiyalathur Reserve Forest in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR).
In the absence of local job opportunities and transportation facilities, many families move to plains for work and return home on weekends. Wages received under the MGNREGS is the only source of income for over 300 families.
In 2020-21, a total of 1,173 persons were provided job cards and were involved in executing 75 works related to natural resources management, including clearing bushes and forming waterways. The daily wage was fixed at ₹ 273 and workers were paid between ₹ 220 and ₹ 250.
“There is no other work for us in the hill area and working days should be increased to 250 or 300,” said C. Devaraj of Kovilur habitation. He said that only one person in a family was allotted job and wanted the norms changed so that both husband and wife were employed.
While many wanted work provided throughout the year, a few women wanted jobs at least for 300 days a year. “If we want to educate our children in plains, we need more money. If we cannot earn, we have to borrow at high interest rates or discontinue their studies,” said a woman worker. Workers said that wages were credited to their bank account only once in a month and there was delay in uploading muster rolls due to lack of internet connectivity.
V.P. Gunasekaran, State Committee Member, Tamil Nadu Tribal People Association, urged the government to provide additional 100 days of employment under the scheme.
“They have no other income and their demands should be met,” he said.
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