About the scheme
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme is the largest social security scheme in the world — guaranteeing 100 days of work to any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
- The act makes it obligatory for the State to give rural households work on demand. In case such employment is not provided within 15 days of registration, the applicant becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.
- The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments.
- One-third of the stipulated workforce must be women.
- The employment will be provided within a radius of 5 km: if it is above 5 km extra wage will be paid.
- The wages are revised according to the Consumer Price Index-Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL).
- Work site facilities such as crèche, drinking water, shade have to be provided.
- Social Audit has to be done by the Gram Sabha
Why in News?
- LibTech India, a Non-Governmental Organization, released its study on the difficulties faced by workers dependent on the MGNREGS.
- The study, based on a 2018-19 survey of almost 2,000 workers in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, was sponsored by a research grant from Azim Premji University.
Highlights of the study
- Many of the rural workers dependent on the MGNREGS are forced to make multiple trips to the bank, adding travel costs and income losses, and face repeated rejections of payment, biometric errors and wrong information, just to get their hands on their wages.
- For example, take a worker in Jharkhand who puts in a week of hard labour to earn ₹1,026 which the government credits directly into her bank account. The study found that almost 40% of the workers must make multiple trips to the bank branch to withdraw their money.
- Even in regular times, these last mile challenges make it hard for workers to access their own wages in a timely manner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is exacerbated as transport becomes harder, and there is no question of physical distancing at a rural bank.
Lack of financial inclusion
- The study found that only one in 10 workers get an SMS message that their wages have been credited. A third of workers must visit the bank branch just to find out whether their wages have been credited.
- Another quarter of respondents said despite being informed that their wages had been credited, they found that the money was not in the accounts.
Biometric authentication failures
- Customer service points and banking correspondents were meant to reduce the gap between workers and banks and bring service delivery to the doorstep.
- However, 40% of workers reported facing biometric authentication failures at least once in their last five transactions at such agencies, and 7% reported that all five of their last transactions had failed due to biometric authentication issues.
- Almost 13% of workers had rejected payments, which are transactions that are stuck due to technical errors of the payment system, bank account problems or data entry errors. About 77% of them had no idea why their payments had been rejected, which means that rectification is not possible and all future MGNREGS payments to these individuals will also be rejected.
- Government data show that about ₹4,639 crore worth of payments were rejected in the last five years, and about ₹1,236 crore is still pending to be paid to workers.
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