The Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers will stage a protest on May 17 in Chennai to fulfil various demands, including job cards.

Disabled person on crutchesPicxy.com/venkyeyemagic
news Employment Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - 17:39

“Why has the Tamil Nadu government refused to implement the Union government’s 2017 guidelines for issuing nationwide uniform job cards in the last five years, to persons with disabilities, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)? We have been demanding the implementation for more than 4 years, but there has been no action from the government’s side,” laments Namburajan, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC). Job card is an entitlement card issued to a rural household whose adult members demand employment under MNREGA. It’s divided into general and special purpose. The MNREGA Act 2005 mandates beneficiaries to possess job card, issued by the competent authority of the respective Gram Panchayat.

Members of TARATDAC are going to stage a protest on May 17, in front of the Directorate of Rural Development & Panchayat Raj, Chennai, to fulfil various demands, including job cards. They are also demanding the government to remove the signing authority of the panchayat leaders in the job cards and to take actions against the officials who are asking persons with disabilities to file job seeking petitions to the panchayat leaders and those who violate government guidelines. 

“In Tamil Nadu, the job cards should be provided in distinctive blue colour for persons with disabilities. But, in the last five years, only a few thousand cards were provided. If a block has 2000 persons with disabilities, only 300 of them are getting blue colour job cards. The guidelines issued by the Union government stressed distinctive blue colour job cards for the special category. But it's sad to see what is happening in Tamil Nadu” says Namburajan. 

"If the job seeker is a single woman or disabled person or aged person or belonging to a particularly vulnerable tribal group, they must be given a special job card of a distinct colour which will ensure them special protection in providing work, work evaluation, and work site facilities, as the case may be. Two types of the job cards are proposed. One for the general category and another one for the special category. Background colour of the front cover of the general category job card is proposed as yellow with text printed in blue with a blue band on top. Job cards for the special category may have a green band on top for easier identification,” the guideline from the Ministry of Rural Development reads. 

“We want to know who gave the superior authority to the panchayat chiefs? Panchayat leaders are providing jobs to their party members as well as their community members. Fifty per cent of workers are appointed directly like this, by the panchayat chiefs and they are not coming to work. They don't want any persons with disabilities to work because they think they are not very helpful to complete the tasks,” says Namburaj, speaking to TNM. 

According to the guidelines provided by the Union government, the Block Development Officer (BDO) is the authority to sign the job cards but in Tamil Nadu, the panchayat president or panchayat secretary authorises such cards. The practice started in the AIADMK government but things are getting worse after the DMK came to power, he adds. 

When TNM asked about the estimated number of people with disabilities getting jobs under this scheme, he says, “Government data shows around two lakh people with disabilities are getting the employment opportunities under this scheme but, to our knowledge, the estimation is somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.” 

Namburajan says people with disabilities are willing to work under any situation but this discriminating mentality from the panchayat leaders keeps them away from utilising such schemes. We are asking the Tamil Nadu government to provide distinctive cards and separate NMR (non-muster rolls) for the persons with disabilities. We are also stressing the government to take actions against those panchayat members who are favouring their party members and community members. 

“33 persons with disabilities are getting jobs under this scheme in our villages. I have been working under the scheme for more than a decade now but I am yet to receive my job card. In the special category, people like us are assigned to work for four hours only. But here I used to come at 7.30 in the morning to present a photo proof whether I come to work regularly or not and have to wait till 2 pm after the supervisor comes and takes snaps of us,” says Muthu, a resident of Kolathur village in Thiruvannamalai district. “Sometimes, we ask the supervisors to visit other disabled persons, in the morning, to take photographs since they are unable to move without the help of others. Rude supervisors would ask us to bring them by wheelchairs. But this is not the same case with the panchayat leader’s relatives or party members. In the last 10 years, I don't remember a year in which I completed 100 days of work. Sometimes it was just 20 days a year to a maximum of 40 days. They would say they were going to block our salary if we ever thought of raising our concerns” he adds. 

“I have my job card long back and there is no partiality or discrimination in our working environment. But in the last two years, due to the COVID-19, the number of working days has been drastically reduced but overall we are benefiting from this scheme,” says Ramamurthy, a resident from Thiruvannamalai. When TNM asked about the working hours per day, he says “It’s usually 4 hours. But the supervisors are used to keeping us waiting till 2 o'clock to take the photographs.” 

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) was launched in 2006. According to the government data, the adult members of every household residing in any rural area and who are willing to do unskilled manual work, are entitled to get employment opportunities under this scheme. A total of 12 jobs have been identified for persons with disabilities as per a Government Order.

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