The move assumes importance because over 1.3 crore NREGA accounts operate on a joint basis, thereby allowing the male members of the family to withdraw the money and spend it on things like liquor — leaving nothing for the women to spend on the household.
The mandatory instruction, to be part of the new set of NREGA guidelines, would ensure that money earned by women is deposited in a separate account — from which only she can make withdrawals.
Though the Act mandates a minimum 33% participation, the actual participation of women in NREGA projects is about 50%. However, various studies have pointed at the interference of men in the utilisation of money earned under the scheme. While 82% of the widows regarded NREGA as a very important source of income in a survey conducted across six states, only 69% of the women stated that NREGA helped them keep hunger at bay.
“Henceforth, individual bank/post office accounts must compulsorily be opened in the names of all women MGNREGA workers, and their wages directly credited to their own account for the number of days worked by them,” Ramesh said in the letters.
Separate accounts for women would also help quantify their participation and economic gains accurately, officials said.
There are 8.4 crore NREGA accounts, out of which 1.3 crore operate on a joint basis. About 80% of the NREGA payments are made through banks and post offices. While Tamil Nadu is slowly transitioning towards financial inclusion under the scheme, 78 naxal-hit districts are exempted due to accessibility issues.