- Villagers desperate for work under welfare scheme NREGA
- Villagers not getting minimum wage prescribed for NREGA
- Farms and crops wasted, NREGA jobs offer only hope
In a small village in Telangana, it’s past noon and tempers are as high as the blistering heat. It’s a blistering 42 degrees in Nalgonda, a district where the spiralling effects of drought for the third consecutive year are everywhere.
Even digging 300 to 400 feet is not yielding a drop of water. Only dust is being kicked up. The gram panchayat dug three bore wells last week. All waste,” says 70-year-old Sadanna, a farmer who owns a tiny plot of land where he once grew paddy.
The village well dried up a long time ago. There is no water supply, no occasional visit by a tanker bearing exigency supplies.
Families have abandoned the prospect of salvaging any part of the crop of cotton that was sown with such hope late last year.
For this sort of village, MNREGA, the scheme for rural employement that guarantees 100 days of work every year, is the only hope for any income.
If we get payments at least once a week, we can survive. But if we are not getting paid for four months, how should we live?” asks Balanarasimhulu, a middle aged man, agitated and frustrated about his own helplessness.
Under pressure from the Supreme Court, the central government has pledged to urgently releasing 12,000 crores to different states which have not paid rural workers because they were waiting for funds from Delhi. Till that money comes through, every day is a challenge of excruciating dimensions.
But the central government has also cut the amount of work available under MNREGA by 10% for this financial year for all states. So either fewer people will be employed under the scheme, or they will have fewer days of work than last year.
In Rajapeta village, some 40 km away, women say they don’t get more than Rs 50-60 rupees for a day’s work, not even half the prescribed minimum wage of Rs 194.
”The soil has turned really hard in the summer and digging the ground at this time is really tough and killing,” says Susheela.
My request to the government is – it is a drought and we are desperate. But there is no work even when we ask and demand for it. Please help us earn our living, ” says Nirmala, the leader of a local self-help group.
All around lie fields of wasteland that have brought nothing but growing debt. “They should pay dues and create work. We have neither food nor water,” said Dasari Ramachandramma, who says she is older than 60.