Women reap NREGA dividend

Written by Agencies | Jodhpur | Updated: Mar 31 2010, 21:22pm hrs
Bhamori, a mother of eight, is happy that she has a water tank constructed for free and also earned money for its construction in a Rajasthan village where the largest beneficiary of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme are women.

The 60,000 litre water storage tank was built in her home at Sribalaji village in arid Nagaur district, 150 km from Jodhpur, under the NREGA scheme that guarantees 100 days work in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work.

The tank has brought peace of mind to her as earlier she had to trudge over five kilometres every day for two buckets of water for her family during the hot summer months.

"We have spent Rs one lakh to construct this water storage tank for her as we have done for many other families here in this village," gram sevak Lichi Ram told visiting reporters here.

"I worked for this project and earned Rs 100 a day under the NREGA scheme," Bhamori said, pointing out that she not only got the tank free, but also earned money for constructing it. "I was also able to open my first savings account at the local post office," she said proudly.

"Over 67 per cent of total days of work generated by NREGA in Rajasthan were utilised by women with the government assuring a minimum of 33 per cent work for them," CEO of Nagaur district rural development authority S S Pawa said.

"While the hardships of villagers have reduced due to development projects like water tanks and sanitation, better roads, the earnings under the NREGA scheme have also led to a better livelihood," Jethu Bhai, who runs an NGO in Pali district, said.

"Earlier, villagers had to migrate to states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to work in fields and could save very little...Now the women can stay at home and afford two square meals by working under the central rojgar yojna projects," he said.

"It is the first time in my married life that I have saved some money in a bank and can plan for the education of my son," said Manju Parihar, a woman in her 30's who works at a 'kuccha' road construction site at Ahore in Jalor district in south-west Rajasthan along with over 40 others.

The success story gets repeated in several villages across Rajasthan, which has earned a reputation for successful implementation of NREGA schemes.

However, there have also been complaints of misappropriation of funds and nepotism.

In Sateran village at Nagaur district, criminal cases have been registered against the sarpanch, gram sevak and two others for alleged misappropriation of funds and forgery of muster rolls.

Admitting that there was scope for corrupt practices, Nagaur block BDO (Nagaur district) Lachiram Chowdhury said, "Lack of staff to deal with the huge NREGA funds lead to some lacunae in keeping a check and this leads to corrupt practices."

A total of 1,122 complaints were received in Nagaur till the first fortnight of March this year, of which 1,095 cases were disposed, officials said.

While a total of 12,076 complaints were lodged in Rajasthan in 2008-09 relating to NREGA work and funds, 10,352cases were disposed of, they said.