MGNREGS workers can do paddy farming: Ombudsman
By Nidheesh J Villatt | ENS | Published: 18th February 2013 11:12 AM |
Efforts to ensure that the paddy field cultivation in the state is no longer affected by dearth of manpower will bear fruits.
According to a recent Ombudsman ruling, sowing, transplanting, weeding and reaping of paddy cultivated by small and marginal farmers will come under the ambit of land development activities done by workers of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGS).
In an erudite analysis of the MGNREG Act, the Ombudsman for MGNREGS, Ernakulam, has come up with a directive to include sowing, transplanting, weeding and reaping of paddy cultivated by small and marginal farmers as defined in the Agriculture Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008, under land development pointed out in the 1B Schedule 1 of the Act.
The ruling is the result of a representation by Nedumpuram Padasekhara Samithi of Maneed grama panchayat.
The Samithi represented by T A George, president, and P I Alias, secretary, had written to the Ombudsman narrating the distress of small and marginal farmers in the paddy sector.
Farmers in the panchayat, who have a vibrant history of paddy cultivation are reportedly under severe crisis due to the skewed economic policy of the government that is against small-scale farming.
The representation pointed out that “because of the marshy structure of the land, paddy farming machines cannot be used in the paddy lands of Maneed”. It also pointed that even if Maneed paddy fields are suitable to raise three crops per year, the geographical specificity and labour shortage are becoming serious obstacles for cultivation.
The farmers complained that a considerable number of labourers who used to help the farmers are not available for work because “most of them are engaged in projects under MGNREG scheme”.
According to the Samithi office-bearers, this peculiar condition has resulted in the desertion of paddy cultivation by many small farmers as well as biting indebtedness.
The Samithi had requested the office of the Ombudsman to include works related to paddy cultivation in the scheme for overcoming the crisis.
“I brought the contention by the Maneed farmers to the notice of the mission director, MGNREGS cell, Thiruvananthapuram and district programme co-coordinator, Ernakulam. But they raised an objection contending that sowing, transplanting, weeding and reaping of paddy are not permissible items as per Schedule 1 of the MGNREG Act and only activities like farm bunding which helps to make bare land suitable for cultivation can be allowed. They also contended that paddy cultivation offers only four weeks’ employment,” said K Chenthamarakshan, Ombudsman.
In his award, the Ombudsman has reasoned that the amendment of Schedule I and II in last May has incorporated the “enhancement of livelihood security of the small and marginal farmers residing in rural area of the country as defined in the Agriculture Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008” in the Act. He also added that the “letter and spirit of the Act will be defeated if workers are not available for further works after farm bunding.”