From political opponents to ordinary rural women, people from different spheres have lampooned the NTK leader for his remarks.
In fact, history would suggest that Seeman was not the first to discredit the scheme that won the appreciation of Jean Dreze and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Long before Seeman, MNM leader Kamal Haasan had criticised the scheme.
Indeed, like all government schemes, MGNREGS has had its share of shortcomings, which were vividly documented in CAG reports and even a few expert studies. However, one would be missing the woods for the trees if s/he summarily devalued a pioneering “social security” scheme by merely magnifying the pitfalls in implementation.
Probably, TNCC leader and former civil servant Sasikanth Senthil was justified in demanding an apology from Seeman. For, such is the extent to which the scheme has liberated the rural people from poverty and given a sense of dignity to their labour, which was one of the objectives of the scheme.
Defending the flagship scheme of the Congress regime, in video messages posted on social media, Senthil said, “The statements of Seeman and Kamal only show their elitist mindset and who their politics is meant for. Their concerns are for the land holding gentry, not the landless farm labourers who benefit from MGNREGS. Hence, the lazy people statement.” “Caste is another hidden agenda behind such skewed perceptions. From being harassed for Rs 40 and 50 by landlords, the farm labourers are now earning manifold with dignity. The landless farm labourers, most of whom are SCs, are no longer dependent on their oppressors. The independence of the labourers and loss of control of the dominant castes angers such leaders who want to keep it intact,” he said.
The imperativeness of the scheme was never felt more than during the first half of 2020 when the dreaded coronavirus swept through the country. MGNREGS proved to be the saving grace that delivered bread and butter to the rural poor households.
In 2019-20, during the lockdown, the state increased the daily wage to Rs 254, doubling household income to Rs 1,400 in the first six months of the pandemic. The average employment days per household increased to 50.22 in 2020-21 from 43.99 in 2019-20. Such was the importance of the scheme that MGNREGS was the first to be relaxed on April 23, 2020 when COVID was wreaking havoc.