New Delhi: In a move to make the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s flagship national rural employment guarantee scheme more women friendly, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has made a series of suggestions in letters to state chief ministers seeking special and priority jobs for widowed, destitute and disabled women.
In identical letters to all state chief ministers despatched last month, Ramesh said the suggestions, “if implemented would greatly add to the empowerment of women”.
The suggestions include identifying “widowed, deserted and destitute women...to ensure that they are provided job cards and are given 100 days of work”.
“Ensure special works, which require less effort and those that are close to their house, are given to pregnant women and lactating mothers,” Ramesh wrote in one of the letters addressed to Jagadish Shettar, chief minister of Karnataka.
Another suggestion is related to ensuring at least 50% of worksite supervisors are women.
“Priority should be given to women workers who have put in maximum work in the last three years or their daughters. Within this, first priority may be given to disabled women,” Ramesh wrote in the letters dated 21 December.
The minister also sought the establishment of worksite facilities such as creches and drinking water besides protection from the vagaries of weather for women workers.
In another letter dated 3 December, Ramesh directed states to “compulsorily” open individual bank or post office accounts in the name of all women MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers so that their wages are directly credited to them.
The rural jobs scheme, launched in February 2006, aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of employment in a financial year to a rural household the adult members of which volunteer for unskilled manual work. The programme is considered the brainchild of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) that sets the social agenda of the government.
According to an impact assessment report released by the government in July, women had a national participation rate of 47% under the jobs programme.
The UPA government came to power in 2004 for the first time on a pro-poor ticket and the scheme was one of the main programmes targeting the section during the alliance’s first term in office. The popularity of the scheme is seen as one of the reasons for the re-election of the Congress-led UPA for a second term in 2009. The programme seeks to create “durable assets” such as roads and irrigation facilities.