Padmini Sivarajah, TNN, Apr 18, 2010, 04.43am IST
MADURAI: Karupayee is one of the first at the panchayat union office,
hoping there's work for her under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural
Employment Generation Scheme (MNREGS). Her story is similar to
millions of other Indians who have benefited from the government
programme providing for 100 days of guaranteed employment. But
Karupayee is 101 years old.
Karupayee of Thanakankulam village in Thiruparankundram panchayat
union in Madurai district is probably the oldest NREGS employee. She
doesn't have records to prove her age, but when she enrolled herself
in the scheme last year, she told the officers that she was 110 years
old. They re-calculated it based on the age of her eldest son
Sandhanam, who is 82, and put her age down as 100 on her NREGS card.
Villagers call her 'suru surupu paati' (brisk granny) as even at a
ripe old age she hasn't stopped working. Karupayee has worked for 60
days so far, between April 2009 and March 2010, and says it has helped
her live with dignity. "My husband always said we should be
independent, and that is what I am doing by earning and cooking my own
food," she says.
She married Chockanvirumandi, a mill worker, over 80 years ago. He
died 50 years ago, after contracting rabies when a street dog bit him.
She kept her family afloat by taking up various jobs.
Only three of her seven children are alive today, but she has 15
grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren. She also avails of
the monthly widow pension of Rs 400 given by the state government.