Kerala: Decision to Bar Those Above 65 From MGNREGA Work Will Deprive 4 Lakh People

The decision was taken as the state expects a spurt in COVID-19 cases and has followed the 'reverse quarantine' method.

New Delhi: The Kerala government has decided to bar those above the age of 65 from MGNREGA work sites and this could mean that ‘at least’ 4 lakh registered workers will not be able to work and get wages, the Indian Express reported.

Last month after work under MGNREGA was reopened, Kerala had set an age bar of 60 years for working on an MGNREGA site. Now the age bar has been revised to 65, which would still mean that around 4 lakh people could be impacted. ‘Sources’ told the Indian Express that a quarter of all MGNREGA workers in the state will not be able to work due to the age restrictions.

The decision was taken as the state expects a spurt in COVID-19 cases and has followed the ‘reverse quarantine’ method of asking vulnerable sections of people to stay within their homes. The Centre’s latest guidelines on the lockdown also urge elderly, pregnant woman and children below the age of ten to stay within their homes, except for health or essential purposes.

“Of the 16.54 lakh workers who were on the roll in the last fiscal, 4,03,965 were aged above 60. Of them, around 85 to 90 per cent would be above 65. We have 11,000 people aged above 80,” the English daily reported.

A large proportion of Kerala’s elderly population seeks work under MGNREGA. The share of those above 60 in Kerala’s population is 12.7% as per the 2011 census. However, 24% of all workers under MGNREGA are above 60.

Sources also told the Indian Express that there is significant demand for work under MGNREGA coming from the elderly. “But we have to ensure their safety and follow the state government’s advisory. There is a section of workers who don’t have any other source of income. Many are destitute. There are others who live alone or who do want to approach their wards for money,” the ‘source’ said.

However, some village panchayats are making their own decisions and allowing the elderly to work under MGNREGA. “However, no order has been issued in that effect. If the elderly workers do not have any other source of income, they can be allowed in small numbers provided they don’t have any underlying health issues,’’ a state mission official told the newspaper.