Workers bear the brunt of summer in Prakasam

They toil in inhospitable weather conditions in the absence of viable alternative economic activity

Fifty-eight-year-old Podapatti Malakondaiah swooned while removing earth under the blazing sun at remote Kondamudusupalem village in Prakasam district as part of works under the Centre’s flagship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

He was rushed to the government hospital at Kandukur but he succumbed to heatstroke. His widow was paid a paltry ₹50,000 as compensation.

Four others, including two in Markapur mandal, met with a similar fate in different parts of the district during peak summer this fiscal. Close to 8.37 lakh workers work under inhospitable weather conditions in the absence of any other viable economic activity in the drought-prone district.

The district tops the State in creation of work under MGNREGS for 2.70 crore man days so far this fiscal with a wage component of ₹578 crore and material component of ₹348 crore.

Facilities remain on paper

At least 10% of workers suffer from mild to severe heatstroke as mercury soars to over 45° Celcius, especially during the summer months when workers toil travelling up to 5 km away from their villages.

Though there is a provision for pitching tents at work spot and for providing first-aid kits and butter milk, they had practically remained on paper in many cases, says Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Workers Union (APAWU) district secretary K. Anjaneyulu. The work of supplying butter milk was entrusted to self-help group (SHG) women and now they have stopped supply due to non-clearance of bills in most places, he alleges.

Relief under new norms

Bracing for a severe summer this time, the district administration has prepared a schedule of works. The workers will have to work for only three hours from 6 a.m. They will be provided a better working environment, says District Water Management Agency (DWMA) Project Director K. Seena Reddy.

“The government intends to spend over ₹1,000 crore under MGNREGS in the next fiscal,” he adds.

The government bears the entire medical treatment cost for the sunstroke victims who do not make any claim under YSR Aarogyasree or any other insurance scheme. The workers are provided a summer allowance of 30% of the daily wages in April and May and 20% during June. They get more pay for less work during summer.

The government should hike the compensation to at least ₹5 lakh for each deceased worker’s family and provide work for 100 days per person as against per family now as workers toil even risking their lives during summer, demands the APAWU district president Jala Anjaiah.

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