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Nrega Challenges

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  • August 2013
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NREGA
First, in many areas there are tenacious social norms against women working outside the home. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, field investigators met women who said they had not been able to register and were told that this programme was “not for them”. The second big hurdle is the lack of child-care facilities. The Act requires that when there are more than five children under the age of six at a worksite, a female worker should be spared to take care of them. But field investigators did not find child-care facilities anywhere (except at two or three worksites, that too possibly as “window dressing”). The lack of these facilities can be crippling for women, especially those with breastfeeding babies. Third, the continued illegal presence of contractors at many worksites affects the availability of work and its benefits for women. In some places, the presence of contractors actively impacted women’s participation in NREGA work. At some sites in Madhya Pradesh, contractors offered work only to young, able-bodied men. At worksites where contractors were involved, 35 per cent of women workers said they had faced some harassment, as against only 8 per cent at contractor-free worksites. Fourth, in some States productivity norms are too exacting because the “schedule of rates” is yet to be revised in line with NREGA norms. For instance, in Jharkhand the standard task for a day’s work at the time of the survey was digging 110 cubic feet (in soft soil), which is far too much. Certain types of NREGA work limit the participation of women. This applies, for instance, to the construction of wells on private land; women are not employed after digging reaches a certain depth. Fifth, delayed payments also come in the way of participation of poor women. Delays in wage payments make things particularly difficult for single women, who cannot afford to wait as they are the sole earners in the family. When the wages do not come on time, they are often forced to return to...