Mandatory digital attendance for MGNREGA will destroy scheme -Himanshu Nitnaware

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published Published on Jan 2, 2023   modified Modified on Jan 4, 2023

-Down to Earth

The central government has mandated digitally capturing the attendance of all workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGnregs). Labourers and activist groups have opposed this and pointed out several loopholes in the move.

The National Mobile Monitoring System, which came into effect on January 1, 2023, was launched with claims of bringing transparency and eliminating corruption at the ground level. Pilot tests began in May 2021 at sites with 20 or more workers. Activists say that there are several stumbling blocks to its implementation, the biggest one being lack of access to technology like smartphones and the internet among labourers. Ashish Jha, coordinator of the nrega sangharsh morcha, said that the digital attendance system needs the uploading of stamped and geotagged photographs twice a day. Access to smartphones and the technological savvy of using them will be problems for rural workers, Jha said. Even if some of them have smart phones, internet connectivity in rural areas is poor, he added.

Digital attendance will impact the fundamental rights of nrega workers and eventually kill the scheme that is a lifeline for the rural poor, claim activists. The system was not even tested in states like Bihar, they added. Jha also questioned the lack of transparency behind not disclosing the survey outcome for the pilot study. “The only reason to push the digital system is to prevent corruption, as cited by the government. But the process punishes the poor for the failures of institutional mechanisms to control graft in the labour force,” he told Down To Earth. 

Compulsory digital attendance is discouraging workers, concurred a MGnrega coordinator from Uttar Pradesh, Suresh Rathaur. “The patchy internet compels the workers to wait for hours to register their attendance. It demotivates them, as it means losing time and eventually money for daily wages,” he said. The government should increase labour days and reimbursement costs, but instead, the new move aims to destroy the flagship scheme, Rathaur said. In addition, delayed payments were already discouraging the workers, he added.

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Down to Earth, 2 January, 2023,

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