Parliamentary standing panel questions new attendance and payment systems for MGNREGS workers

Economic times, April 18, 2023

The Centre’s new initiatives of National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) for marking attendance and Aadhaar-based payment system for beneficiaries of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) have come under the scanner of a parliamentary committee.

As MGNREGS beneficiaries protest against non-payment and delayed payment of wages across states and at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the standing committee on rural development started examining the initiatives introduced earlier this year.

At its first meeting on the issue on Monday, the committee members sought an explanation from the ministry on the reasons for making NMMS app mandatory for marking attendance. Starting January 1, the ministry had made it mandatory for every MGNREGS worker to mark his attendance by uploading a photograph twice a day on the NMMS app.

Workers in several states complained of non-payment of wages as they could not upload photographs and mark attendance due to poor internet connectivity and lack of technological know-how.

As per sources, the standing committee members pointed out that there were several complaints of legitimate users unable to upload photographs.

A member pointed out this amounted to “working for free for the government and bonded labour”.

The rural development ministry, however, assured the committee that it was looking into complaints.

The government had asked states to route all payments to MGNREGS workers through the Aadhaar Based Payment System (ABPS) starting February 1. So far, there were two payment modes – account-based and ABPS. Members pointed out to the ministry that for ABPS to work for a MGNREGS worker, his job card and bank account needed to be Aadhaar seeded.

“It is difficult that the name of a person is same in all three. They don’t get payments because of this. Sometimes the payments have come in their Aadhaar-linked Jan Dhan account and they are not aware of how to access it,” pointed out a member. The committee has sought a report from the ministry on how it is finding solutions to the problems faced by MGNREGS beneficiaries.

The members pointed out the non-release of MGNREGS funds to West Bengal, which has become a politically potent issue. According to sources, the ministry has been asked to give a detailed state-wise report on how much money has been released in different tranches.

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