42 per cent of NREGA workers in a fix post Aadhaar payout

To be eligible for APBS wage payments, a worker must have a job card and her bank account should be seeded with an Aadhaar card.
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | EPS)
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | EPS)

NEW DELHI:  As the Aadhaar-based payment system (ABPS) for receiving wages for workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is set to become mandatory from September 1, data shows that only 57.75 per cent of workers are eligible for it despite the Union government issuing multiple deadline extensions.

To be eligible for APBS wage payments, a worker must have a job card and her bank account should be seeded with an Aadhaar card. The account must also be connected to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) mapper, a complex process known as ‘mapping’.

Activists and workers have been protesting against the ABPS as there are widely reported cases of failure of Aadhaar-mapping with NPCI, resulting in the rejection of payments and deletion of job cards of workers in large numbers. According to data analysed by non-profit LibTech India, the national average of ABPS-eligible workers stood at a mere 57.75 per cent out of the total of 26.84 crore workers under the rural job scheme as of August 21.

The data from the NREGA MIS further showed that eight states have less than 60 per cent of ABPS-eligible workers. While Assam recorded 25.1 per cent, bigger states such as Maharashtra (26.7), Gujarat (33.1), Uttar Pradesh (55.3), Bihar (46.7) and Madhya Pradesh (58.3) are lagging.

However, as per the Union Rural Development Ministry’s data on August 26, out of 14. 4 core active workers, the beneficiaries eligible for Aadhaar-based payments were only 81.50 per cent. Nearly 20 per cent of workers are yet to be made eligible. According to the ministry website, Meghalaya (3.1 per cent), Nagaland (20.8), Assam (38.7), Lakshadweep (60.8) and Arunachal Pradesh (62.2) are the bottom five states in terms of ABPS eligibility.

Speaking to this newspaper, Nikhil Dey of the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said that the rural employment law stipulates that the workers have to be paid within 15 days of doing the job, and denying them payment based on ABPS eligibility is unconstitutional.  “The ministry has only looked at the numbers of active beneficiaries, who are eligible for Aadhaar-based payments. The number of total workers in the country needs to be included.

Even the fact that 20 per cent of over 14 crore workers are not eligible for payment is a huge number,” said Dey, adding that the unions will be soon submitting a memorandum to the Ministry of Rural Development. “By ignoring non-active workers, the government is undermining their constitutional right to work,” said Laavanya Tamang of Libtech India.

Though the Union government made the Aadhaar-based payment mandatory in February this year, it later allowed multiple extensions, the latest till August 31. The introduction of ABPS has invited strong protests from many quarters including workers and activists. While the Union government admitted in July that over five crore job cards were deleted in 2022-23, activists point out that in many cases, it is wrongfully deleted. 

The ABPS exacerbates the problem, says Tamang, “In several cases, we found that officials find it difficult to sort out inconsistencies regarding ABPS. As there is no SoP or guideline, they find it convenient to delete the job cards of workers who are not eligible,” she said.

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