Empowerment of Persons with Disability through Participatory Inclusion under MGNREGS
Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Tamil Nadu

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
As per Census 2011, in India, out of the 1.21 billion population, about 2.68 million persons have been categorized as persons with disability which is 2.21% of the total population. Sixty-nine percent of the disabled population live in rural India. In an era where ‘inclusive development’ is being emphasised as the right path towards sustainable development, focussed initiatives for the welfare of persons with disability becomes essential. Significant percentage of person with disability do not find opportunities to work and contribute to the society, despite the fact that they are willing to work, earn a living and live a life of dignity. The government programs are designed to provide sustenance allowances, implements or skill building through different schemes for persons with disability. In order to provide work opportunity to the rural poor, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) Act was notified during September 2005. The mandate of the Act is to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members engage in unskilled manual work in rural India and empowerment of socially disadvantaged. The scheme was implemented from 02.02.2006 in Tamil Nadu, providing work opportunity to people living in the rural areas. During 2010-2011, a total of 5,089,273 workers were engaged in Tamil Nadu but the scheme did not actively provide work opportunity to persons with disability until 2012 due to various factors as listed. ● Lack of clarity on the nature and duration of work that could be allocated ● Barriers in attitude, spaces and services on the part of various stakeholders. ● Lack of awareness amongst the public functionaries about the possibility of participation of Persons with Disability (PwDs). ● Account for the presence of the caregiver along with the PwDs especially care givers of mentally challenged persons. ● Absence of institutionalized mechanism to enroll and follow up the involvement of PwDs in Government schemes. Understanding the great opportunity to bring about a significant change in the quality of life of PwDs in the rural Tamil Nadu. Research has demonstrated that work participation influences extent of recovery and therefore burden of disease, with non-worker displaying longer duration of illness and severe disability. Despite the fact that disability can happen to anyone, existing programs have not attempted to address their needs to ensure their participation. The Commissioner, Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of Tamil Nadu in 2012 took steps to systematically address the issue. As the first step, the department in coordination with other line departments enumerated 121,000 persons with disability in rural Tamil Nadu. A population that would have not had the opportunity to right to work. The critical issue to be addressed for efficiently implementing the scheme was to bring about a radical change in the mindset of the service provider (i.e. Government employees across various structures) and more importantly among the primary stakeholder (the persons with disability). This initiative was conceived and designed to specifically address this issue to bring about an inclusive community approach to meaningful engagement of PwDs in work.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The initiative focused on meaningful engagement of Persons with Disability under the MGNREGS which would provide an opportunity for sustained employment while positively improving social inclusion, financial independence and quality of life. In order to give legal sanctity to this initiative a Government Order was issued to include persons with disability under MGNREGS on special work provisions and rates of wages. Scale up and sustenance of the initiative was ensured by actively advocating with the Government of India to make necessary changes in the guidelines and notification in the Gazette of India.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The MGNREG Act was notified in 2005, and had clearly stated that persons with disability are to be engaged under MGNREGS. The challenge was that it did not state as to how to engage persons with disability. The number of persons with disability employed under the scheme was very minimal (no data was captured) and only those with lesser degree of disability who would otherwise be able to engage in manual work were the only ones covered by the scheme and not categorized as persons with disability but was employed like the other rural population. The scheme in Tamil Nadu did not capture information regarding Persons with Disability working with the scheme until 2012. Understanding the limitations of the scheme due to lack of understanding as to how to employ persons with disability. The initiative took the following steps: i. Identifying factors for non-participation of PwDs through consultation with multiple stakeholders ii. Conducting a time and motion study to determine activities that could be executed by PwDs and finalizing special provisions for engagement of PwDs along with the caregivers and other members of the community. iii. Issuing of Government Order to operationalise and provide institutional and financial support to the activity, very importantly provide a legal mechanism for special Schedule of Rates. iv. Sensitising the field level machinery at the panchayat, block and district levels on the gains from inclusion to development and therefore the need to mainstream PwDs v. Establishing a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to assess impact vi. Advocating at the national level to ensure scale up of the initiative and sustainability The Government of India when presented with the lessons learnt from the implementation of the initiative in Tamil Nadu, directed the other States to adopted the Tamil Nadu model for engaging persons with disability and also incorporated indicators in the MIS to capture data on number of persons with disability engaged by the States. Though several empirical studies have shown that meaningful engagement of persons with disability (both physical and mental) brought about significant improvement in the quality of their livers. To understand this an Independent study was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS). Key findings of the study highlighted that the three major indicators considered for determining the effectiveness of the inclusion of the persons with impairment was found to be significantly better for the study group in comparison to the waitlisted (i.e. persons not engaged in MGNREGS work). The mean level of functionality was higher in the study group and severe disability was seen among the waitlisted group Quality of life in all the four domains of physical, psychological, social and environmental was reportedly significantly better among the study than the wait listed group. Of the four domains the environmental quality of life saw the larger change, followed by physical, psychological and social. The findings of the study was also shared with the Government of India which lead to the issue of directions to other States to replicate the Tamil Nadu Model.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The initiative identified the problem i.e. non-inclusion/non-participation of persons with disability in the rural employment scheme, a systematic enquiry was conducted to understood the reasons for non-inclusion/non-participation of persons with disability and based on the results of the study, consultation meetings, strategies to address the problem through an inclusive approach was developed. Understanding that hitherto the thrust of the government programs for persons with disability in Tamil Nadu was towards the employment of educated youth or distribution of aids/implements or providing sustenance allowance. For the first time, focus was on Persons with Disability from vulnerable and less privileged backgrounds including women and the elderly who were willing to work. The initiative sought to bring about economic empowerment of persons with disabilities and provision of employment within the precincts of their own village borders and ensuring that the persons with disability were working shoulder to shoulder with other people from their own village a positive step for promoting social inclusion and equity. The thrust has been on awareness creation of stakeholders i.e., Persons with disability, their families, village panchayat leaders, this has led to sustained participation in the scheme.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
This initiative is being implemented by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of Tamil Nadu. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department is responsible for the implementation of various Centrally-sponsored, State-funded, and Externally-aided schemes for poverty alleviation, employment generation, sanitation, capacity building, women’s social and economic empowerment, Tsunami rehabilitation, apart from provision of basic amenities and services. The Department is also entrusted with the responsibility of enabling the various Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) to function as effective units of Local Self-Government. There are 12,524 Village Panchayats, 385 Panchayat Unions (co-terminus with Blocks) and 31 District Panchayats under the purview of the Department. In Tamil Nadu, the program during the financial years 2012-2013 to 2016-17 engaged between 63,141 to 80,451 persons with disability per year. The scheme provided work opportunity to 414,817 to 505,136 persons with disability per year during the same period across the country.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The strategies adopted for bringing about the transformation and positive impact are: i. Identifying special provisions for inclusion of Persons with Disability ii. Identifying a range of activities for PwDs iii. Issuing Government Order to provide clearly defined guidelines for ensuring easy implementation. iv. Establishing Monitoring and Evaluation mechanism in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs). The approach to this was systematic and consultative throughout the development and implementation phases of the initiative. The steps included: 1. Discussions with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Meetings were conducted with CSOs to identify reasons for not participation and specific activities for persons with disability under MGNREGS and work on the modalities to assist such persons under the scheme. 2. Development of a framework for action • A consultative meeting was conducted to identify Village Panchayats where the pilot could be tested through a Time and Motion study. • Sensitisation meeting was conducted for select Village Panchayat Presidents, Project Directors, DRDA, Engineers, District Rehabilitation Officers to finalise the list of village panchayats. • Conduct of Time and Motion Study • Draft recommendations for programme design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation developed. 3. Time and Motion Study A comprehensive Time and Motion study was undertaken in 4 districts in 4 regions of Tamil Nadu viz. Coimbatore, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Kancheepuram along with selected NGOs. Pilot Panchayats were selected in each of the districts. The CSOs worked on enrolment of PwDs and assessing capacity and nature of work to ensure wider enrollment in the scheme. 4. Outcomes of Time and Motion study • Special activities to be earmarked for Persons with disability in MGNREGS work. • It was ascertained that Persons with Disability can be engaged in excavation of earthwork with an expectation of 50% output of regular MGNREGS work. • An optimum requirement of 4 hours of work at full pay was suggested for PwDs vis-a-vis 8 hours of work. The study found that PwDs could work without fatigue for upto 4 hours. 5. Issuance of Government Order Based on the outcomes of the study, a Government Order (vide. G.O. (MS) No. 52, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (CGS. 1) Department, dated 25.06.2012) was issued with the following provisions: • Special Activities - Watermen/Water-women at the worksite, who can distribute water to the workers, Caretaker to look after the children. • Minor Activities- Clearing uprooted jungle from the site (Only Scrubs, Light Jungle), Watering (wetting) the area to be desilted (especially in summers), Compacting the earth deposited on bund by using spade, solid rods and earth breaking rods, Benching and leveling the bund, Sectioning and sloping the bund. • In the worksite(s) where the number of PwDs are less in number then they must be engaged only in the special activities enlisted above. • In the worksite(s) where the number of disabled workers are high then they can be engaged in earthwork. In such cases, they can be grouped into group of 5 or 10 and the pre-marking shall be done only for 50% of quantity earmarked for regular workers. • Special Wages - When the PwDs complete 50% of outturn of the above listed works for a day, they should be paid full wage rate. Considering the physical/mental limitations of these workers, intermittent rest/break are provided during the working hours and the workers are permitted to leave once they complete the required out turn before time. 6. Issuing Job cards for Persons with Disabilities across Tamil Nadu Identification and issuing of job cards, identifying activities to be executed and engaging PwDs in MGNREGS was initiated in March 2012. 100% enrolment of all the PwDs who were willing to work under MGNREGS was mandated from 01.04.2012 onwards. Project Funding: The project is a Government of India and Government of Tamil Nadu funded program.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
This initiative was conceptualized by Dr. S. Vijayakumar, an Indian Administrative Service Officer while working as the Commissioner, Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj. Several stakeholders were involved during the initial discussions to understand the non-participation of persons with disability that included Officials of the Rehabilitation Department, Officials of Rural Development & Panchayat Raj Department, District Level Functionaries, Panchayat Raj Institution Representatives etc., for implementation of the new initiative of engaging PwDs in MGNREGS works. Extensively worked with NGOs who were already working with PwDs in evolving strategies, conducting time and motion study and finalizing the activities best suited for PwDs. Engaged NGOs in motivating field level stake holders including the persons with disability so that any gap in communication and awareness on the part of the official machinery could be negated. District officials of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department and Rehabilitation Department organised special camps in every panchayat union to sensitize PwDs about the provision of employment opportunity under the MGNREGS, which resulted in large scale participation. PRI representatives especially the President, Village Panchayat a key stakeholder for this initiative. It is the President, Village Panchayat who is the first point of contact for the persons with disability and their families. When the panchayat leaders were motivated they ensured that the persons with disability were enrolled within a short span of 3 months. The Department of Welfare of Differently Abled through District Differently Abled Welfare Officers provided data on people in possession of National Identity card for disabled. The following data of persons with disability above 18 years of age who can participate in MGNREGS. Total disability identity card holders above 18 years of age in rural areas was 222,027 persons of which 179,029 were physically challenged, 25,804 were mentally challenged and 17,195 were visually challenged. Nearly 189,000 Persons with Disability as stakeholders positively responded to the new initiative and enrolled with the program, the active participation over a five-year period has been between 63,141 to 80,451 persons with disability per year as the program was based on the concept of willingness to work.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The most significant outputs of the initiative towards achieving the SDG 8.5, to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value are listed below: • Work inclusion of persons with disabilities through provision of employment opportunity within the precincts of their own village borders was a positive step towards promoting social inclusion and equity. • Enrolment of PwDs in the scheme over the period 2012-2017, has been between 65,000 to 80,000 indicating sustained involvement in the program over a period of 5 years. • Financial Inclusion & Economic Empowerment of PwDs was a step towards providing an opportunity to the marginalized and disadvantaged persons to be considered productive members of the society. Bank accounts were opened for the PwDs a first for most of them. Change from being dependent to being contributing members of family, has changed not only their lives but their families too. • Independent evaluation studies have shown significant improvement in the self-esteem of the PwDs and improvement in their overall quality of life • Number of person days generated: During the 5-year period 2012-13 to 2016-17, the average person days of work that was generated per year was 3.454 billion person days, a potential that was not utilized thus far. Annual wages paid was to persons with disability employed by the scheme during 2012-13 was USD 1.8 Million and during the year 2015-2016 was USD 10.26 Million. The person days shows a 114% increase from the baseline and wages paid shows a 158% increase from the baseline (Baseline FY 2012 & Reference period FY 2015)

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacle for the engagement of persons with disability under the MGNREG Scheme was the stakeholders themselves. Though the MGNREG Act had provisions to engage persons with disability, they were not actively participating in the MGNREGS work. The first step was the most difficult understanding why and how persons with disability could be engaged under the scheme. This was overcome by conducting a Time and Motion study to understand the reasons for non-participation and the extent to which persons with disability could be engaged under the MGNREGS. A process that was conducted involving multiple stakeholders including civil society organizations and the beneficiaries. The next step was to create ownership and supportive environment for the implementation of the initiative by different stakeholders. The initiative ensured this through active involvement of different line departments, CSOs, village panchayat leaders, beneficiaries throughout the process. The periodic consultative processes ensured that the initial implementation challenges were addressed.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The focus of this initiative was meaningful inclusion of Persons with Disability under the MGNREGS within their community spaces. The key benefits of the initiative are listed below: • Work inclusion of persons with disabilities through provision of employment opportunity within the precincts of their own village borders was a positive step towards promoting social inclusion and right to work • Economic Empowerment of PwDs was a step towards providing an opportunity to the marginalized and disadvantaged persons to be considered productive members of the society. • Financial inclusion: Bank accounts were opened by the panchayats for the PwDs, a first for most of them. Change from being dependent to being contributing members of family, has changed not only their lives but their families too. • Working shoulder to shoulder with their own co-villagers increased interaction and participation in social gatherings resulting in decreased stigma and improved social inclusion. • Independent evaluation studies have shown significant improvement in the self-esteem of the PwDs and improvement in their overall quality of life • Increased ownership by the local governance structures seeing the results of the contribution they could make for the most disadvantaged members of the community they serve.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Providing work opportunity for persons with disability was never even considered important by the government schemes thus far the focus was always on doing what can be done easily i.e. providing sustenance allowances. The initiative in order to address financial leakages during disbursement of wages ensured that every person with disability was provided support to open a bank account and the wages were transferred through the electronic fund management system, a mechanism that was piloted in 2013 and subsequently scaled up across the State. As the guidelines clearly stated that employment opportunity must be provided for 100 days in a year. The panchayats were mandated to provide job opportunity for the persons enrolled for work. During 2013, social audit was initiated and 19 model social audits in 19 districts were conducted and communicated to the implementing authorities for submitting the Action Taken Report. Subsequently, it was mandated to conduct regular social audit of the works ensuring transparency and accountability of the public delivery system.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The initiative’s focus being inclusive MGNREGS, ensured provision of work for those who were willing to work especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the society including both men and women with disability who are above 18 years. Number of persons with disability engaged on a regular basis with the scheme shows a gender distribution was 50.38% women and 49.61% males. Signifying that the scheme provided opportunity to both women and males with disability with parity in wages paid. Under MGNREGS, Awards for the Best Performing States was initiated for the first time by Government of India under 3 categories during the year 2012-13. Tamil Nadu bagged the Best Performing State Award in the category of Social Inclusion (Source: Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Tamil Nadu Policy Note 2014-2015 presented in the Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly).

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Tamil Nadu
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Vijayakumar Sankaran
Title:   Secretary  
Telephone/ Fax:   9840045215
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   vijay_krs@yahoo.com  
Address:   1, Jeenis Road, Panagal Maaligai, Saidapet,
Postal Code:   600015
City:   Chennai
State/Province:   Tamil Nadu

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