Apart from ensuring development in their areas, the tribals in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh are also reaping financial benefits under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA) which has led to a jump in their earnings.

A state government official said COVID-19 came as an eclipse and the worksites did not open up causing deep stress to the underprivileged and the weaker sections of the society.

However, the Union government came out with a decision to open MNREGA works last month which came as a huge breather to many who took up jobs under MNREGA Act to make both ends meet.

And the decision has worked wonders amongst the rural poor, especially in the tribal regions.

“The tribal region of Kinnaur, where the working season is limited due to its topographical variations (5-6 months only), have allotted development works in 61 Panchayats and this resulted in the poor getting jobs at their very doorstep. As many as 785 development works are in progress with a total of 6,931 persons getting employment and timely payments as well,” he said.

The official said the allocation of panchayats and labourers are done accordingly to complete the works in higher regions on priority.

Around 328 development works are being carried out in 25 Panchayats of Kalpa block, 399 works in 18 Panchayats of Nichar block and 58 works are being carried out in 20 Panchayats of Pooh development block.

“What differentiates the tribal regions from the rest of the state is that the honorarium under MNREGA in these regions is Rs 248 per day as compared to Rs 198 per day in non-tribal regions. This is due to the topographical and geographical features of tribal areas. We have kept a target of generating 6,78,327 man-days in the present fiscal, besides, the district has been allocated funds to the tune of Rs 7918.05 lakh,” Deputy Director cum Project Officer, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) Kinnaur, Jaywanti Negi Thakur said.

Thakur said a sum of Rs 827.85 lakh has been sanctioned for Kalpa Block, Rs 4554.10 lakh for Nichar block and Rs 2486.10 lakh for Pooh development block.

And at present, there are 19,173 job card holders in Kinnaur district.

“I am grateful to the government to have opened the works under the scheme as it was becoming difficult to even make both ends meet,” Sonam, a labourer from Pooh said.

The labourers are strictly following social distancing norms and other advisories of the government and we hope to complete all the ongoing works well in time, DRDA project officer added.