New Delhi: Finding faults with the MGNREGA scheme, a Parliamentary Panel has said that there was confusion over its definition of the term `households` which was being twisted to suit male heads of families which should be corrected.
In its report, the Committee on empowerment of Women in Rural areas said that due to this confusion the scheme was not reaching its targeted beneficiaries.
The panel noted that as per the operational guidelines of MGNREGA, `household` meant "a nuclear family comprising the mother, the father and their children and may include any person wholly or substantially dependent on the head of the family."
"There is still a lot of confusion about the definition of this critical term as reports of denial of registration to the joint families and handicaps by the gram panchayats of many villages are still coming on," the panel added.
The panel also said the provision of work to one person of the family under MGNREGA was being misinterpreted to suit the male head of the household.
The panel said the definition of the term household should be clearly structured as "twist in the interpretations" by vested interests "will continue in the same fashion denying a large chunk of genuine employment-demanding population from their legal right of livelihood."
The Committee`s report also noted that participation of women under the scheme was high in certain states but abysmally low in others and has asked also asked for an inter-state comparison-based study to evaluate the participation of women under the scheme.
"When states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu register 90.39 percent and 82.59 percent women`s participation in MGNREGA, Uttar Pradesh shows just 21.42 percent, Assam 26.51 percent and Bihar 28.49 percent," the report said.
The committee said the Ministry of Rural Development had,
in its report, attributed this disparity among various states to factors like caste, religion and social hierarchies.
It opined a study examining the level of women`s participation through intra and inter-state comparisons would identify the factors responsible for variability in women`s participation in various states and help creation of better policy.
"The committee recommends that the Ministry of Rural Development should move a proposal in this regard at the earliest," the report said.
The panel also said that it apprehended the capture of Panchayati Raj Institutions, which play a pivotal role in implementation of the scheme, by landed elite in certain cases could defeat the purpose of MGNREGA which is to liberate vulnerable sections from oppressive grip of land owners.
"The Committee therefore, recommends that the Central Government should issue suitable directives to the state governments to take appropriate measures for capacity building of down trodden communities," it said.
It said that this was necessary "to remove the fear of Pradhan of their gram panchayats and encourage them to speak the truth about the performance of the scheme, before other implementing agencies." The committee also stressed capacity building of women leadership.
The panel said government should sort out problems related to wage disbursement and shortage of technical staff related to MGNREGA. The committee asked the central government to provide facilities like drinking water, shade for kids and first aid, as envisaged under MGNREGA.
It also pushed for a greater proportion of women as `mates` under the scheme as they were the ones who looked after the on-ground execution of the scheme. The parliamentary panel also suggested better monitoring and grievance redressal mechanisms.