Chennai Corporation's nursery plan gives hope to workers of TNUES
So far, only desilting of drains was being undertaken under the scheme
CHENNAI: The Greater Chennai Corporation’s plans to diversify work taken up under the Tamil Nadu Urban Employment Scheme (TNUES) may come as a relief to those who have signed up for the scheme.
With desilting of stormwater drains being the only work taken up under the scheme so far, beneficiaries, especially women, said it was difficult to meet daily targets without toilet and drinking water facilities.
Corporation officials told TNIE they were in the process of setting up a nursery at the Communicable Diseases Hospital premises to be operated and maintained under TNUES. Officials in Thiru Vi Ka Nagar said they were also looking to employ them for plantation.
However, for now, the only work taken up under the scheme is the desilting of drains and the target is 16 bags of silt to get the full day’s wage of Rs 328. A majority of those employed under the scheme in both Tondiarpet and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar zones are women.
Mallika (name changed) who was employed under the scheme said although they were allowed to rest for some time in the afternoon, they did not always have access to toilets and drinking water. “If we fall short of the target, around Rs 20-30 is deducted. We ask house owners near which we work for drinking water but sometimes they refuse since we are covered in dirt,” she said.
The GO issued by the Municipal Administration and Water Supply (MAWS) Department mentions working on recharge pits, restoration of ponds, avenue and roadside plantation, formation of drainage channels, formation of footpaths and traffic islands, and development of parks as the permitted works under TNUES, apart from desilting. “I prefer maintaining parks, and nurseries and if trained, engage in roadside plantation too, but we don’t have a choice, so we do what we get,” said Kumari (name changed). Apart from the lack of diversity in the works, those engaged under the scheme are yet to be linked with skill development programmes as was mentioned in the Finance Minister’s 2021-2022 budget speech.
Policy researchers said the scheme has plenty of room for improvement. “The guidelines for the scheme issued by the MAWS department should be revised in line with the MGNREGA guidelines and include more people from vulnerable sections. There should also be social audits to ensure transparency and accountability,” said Vanessa Peter, founder of Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
‘No work for 10 days’
According to Keerthana (name changed), a 38-year-old woman whose husband left her two years ago, there has been no work for 10 days. “I worked for around one and a half months and I have not been called for work recently. With no other sources of income, I am in a tight spot right now,” she said. Keerthana claimed she has not received wages for the 45-day work.
While the scheme is currently being carried out in Thiru Vi Ka Nagar and Tondiarpet, the corporation budget document shows there is no allocation made to Tondiarpet under the scheme for 2023-2024 and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar has been allocated Rs 60 lakh. A corporation official said, “I’m yet to see the budget estimates but the scheme will continue in both zones.”