Cong fails to capitalise on MGNREGS success in TN

Cong fails to capitalise on MGNREGS success in TN

Once the source of her livelihood, the farmland 51-year-old Vellamal owns in Kallupatti village near Tamil Nadu’s Karur district has gone completely dry in the last one year due to monsoon failure. 

The rapidly depleting groundwater forced her to abandon agriculture and Vellamal, left high and dry, signed up to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Now, the scheme feeds her entire family.

As Deccan Herald toured various villages in the state, it was clear that thousands of farmers like Vellamal have given up on farming and signed up for MGNREGS, something the Congress state unit had failed to highlight and use as a trump card to garner votes. 

“Though we get free rice from ration shops, the scheme is the only option for other expenses”, Vellamal, who lost her husband a few years ago, said.

A senior Revenue Department official said about 80 lakh families were provided jobs in 2013-14, 13 lakh more than in 2012-13 when 67 lakh families were given jobs under the scheme. 

“In all the 31 districts which have been drought affected, the present entitlement of 100 days under the scheme has been enhanced to 150 days from last year”, he said.

The Congress is sure to hurt due to its ignorance to highlight the scheme during the campaign here, but the widespread belief among the beneficiaries that the scheme is implemented by the Tamil Nadu government is sure to rub the salt over its wounds. 

“Yes... to some extent we have failed to project our schemes, especially MGNREGS, among the people all these years. This is a big drawback for us (in the elections this time),” Karur Congress Candidate P Jothimani told Deccan Herald.

Learning about the scheme’s impact, other Congress leaders like Tirupur candidate and former Union minister E V K S Elangovan, its nominee from Virudhunagar Manik Thakur and Arani M K Vishnu Prasad made last minute attempts to highlight MGNREGS in their campaigns. 

Despite allegations that most labourers never get fully paid from the scheme and there is delay in receiving the money, its popularity is spreading among farmers in the delta districts of Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Tiruchirapalli, Ariyalur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Tiruvarur. Nearly 20.24 lakh households in these districts have taken up jobs under the scheme due to monsoon failure and non-release of Cauvery water from the dam.

“It has been a huge loss for agricultural activities for the past two years. (MGNREGS) has become the only hope for survival,” Paranthaman, a farmer in Thanjavur, said.

But Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association president V Sathyanarayana said while the scheme is beneficial to farmers in the region; it is reducing traditional paddy cultivation. 

Tamil Nadu is one of the few states in the country to have exceeded the national average in provision of employment per family. 

The average number of man-days provided with employment per family in the state is 49 as against the national average of 39. 

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