KURNOOL: The purpose of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) seems to have been defeated in the district as it has failed to check migration of the poor from rural areas.According to an estimate, about 2 lakh rural poor have migrated to other places in search of livelihood in the last four months mainly due to the tardy implementation of MGNREGA. Increased cost of living and payment of meagre wages are said to be the major reasons for the migrations. Under MGNREGA, a worker has to be paid a daily wage of Rs 197 depending on the nature of work.
However, the average daily wage paid to the workers in the district is Rs 99. Even this is not paid regularly. As of June, the arrears due were Rs 52 crore and the following month with release of funds by the centre, Rs 20 crore dues were cleared.
As on date, the MGNREGS wage dues in the district stand at Rs 32 crore. According to MGNREGA workers, their wages are not being paid on a daily basis. The prevailing drought in many parts of the district has also contributed to the migrations. The rush at bus stands and railway stations reflects the rise in migrations. Spurt in cultivation costs, crop failure due to the vagaries of nature, debt burden and lack of remunerative prices for agricultural produce have made many small and marginal farmers daily wagers.
According to official sources, the incidence of migration of the rural poor is high in Aluru, Pattikonda, Dhone, Yemmiganur, Kodumur, Adoni, Mantralayam and Panyam Assembly constituencies. Some villages are almost empty with a majority migrating to Guntur district to work in cotton and chili fields. Others have gone to far off places like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Mumbai to work as construction workers and in the unorganised sector.
About half the houses in some villages are found locked. The school dropout rate is also on the rise with the increased migrations. The attendance in primary schools in the villages is thin. More than 4,000 children have reportedly discontinued primary education as they accompanied their parents to towns in search of work.
Several of those migrating have told TNIE that the development works taken up under MGNREGA are not in the surrounding areas of their villages. Hence, they are finding it difficult to attend MGNREGA works at far off places. As per the new MGNREGA norms, 150 days of work has to be provided to the rural poor on a need basis and others should be employed for 100 days.
As the work is being allotted to all the eligible members of a family the same day, it has become difficult for them to attend at once. Though there are about 10 lakh job card holders in the district, only 2.2 lakh are availing of MGNREGA. The number of people utilising job cards has declined to 40,000 in recent times.
Speaking to Express, District Water Management Agency Project Director Ch Pulla Reddy said, “We are ready to provide work to all the needy rural poor under MGNREGA. But some of the villagers are not content with the daily wage of Rs 100 paid under the scheme. Despite the conduct of awareness programmes on MGNREGA and other schemes, the number of rural poor utilising them has not increased significantly. We have decided to focus on checking migration of rural poor through effective implementation of MGNREGA in the district.”