People above 55 years, who were recently excluded from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, are struggling in their day-to-day lives in several parts of Tamil Nadu.
Nearly 1.35 crore people of Tamil Nadu are engaged under MGNREGA, of which a whopping 35 per cent are above 55 years.
K.S. Palanisamy, former Commissioner of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, on April 19 had directed that workers with symptoms such as common cold, influenza, sneezing, cough, or morbid diseases like hypertension and heart ailments, as well as above 55 years should not be engaged under MGNREGA.
A. Dhanalakshmi, Vice President, Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, speaking to IANS, said, "The elderly people are starving and avoiding a whole group citing reasons like cold and influenza is not understandable. Government must take immediate steps to include these people in the MGNREGA list and conduct free RT-PCR and other necessary tests to weed out those who have been infected by Covid-19. People are struggling for food and it is the responsibility of the elected government to support these people, getting Rs 4,000 through ration cards and food kits will not solve the problem."
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko, and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader, Thol. Thirumavalavan, have already come out against excluding the elderly people from MGNREGA and called upon the government to take urgent measures to prevent starvation deaths among the elderly.
Subbalakshmi, 59, a widow from rural Nilgiris, told IANS, "I was living mainly depending on the MGNREGA wages and when the department banned us from being engaged under this scheme it came as a bolt from the blue. I have a daughter to support who is not married and most of the days we are starving but there is nobody to help."
Rural Department officials told IANS that the department has already sent a proposal to revoke the order excluding the elderly people from the scheme and expected a reply from the government any day.
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