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Digital attendance of MGNREGA will be universal from January 1, 2023 to weed out corruptions

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Digital attendance of MGNREGA will be universal from January 1, 2023 to weed out corruptions

Ayodhya : ensure more transparency, accountability, efficiency and monitoring, and then weed out corruptions reported in the process of implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGREGS), Government of India has made digitally capturing the attendance of workers employed under it, universal from January 1, 2023. In its latest order, the Union Ministry of Rural Development, has made it mandatory for all worksites regardless of the number of workers engaged as allegations of corruption, improper implementation, duplication of work, misuse of funds have been doing the round for quite some time.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and several other top officials of the Government of India and state governments, have time and again, raised the issue of ghost accounts, which turn out to be a source of corruption for the middle men and officials.

MGREGS is a demand driven programme meant to provide employment during lean season of agriculture, but corruption charges of hundreds of crore, appear to have dented its image. The primary type of misappropriation in most cases was financial, which includes bribery, payments to non-existent persons and to vendors at inflated procurement prices.

Earlier, a pilot project to capture attendance at worksite through a mobile application- the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) with two time-stamped and geo-tagged photographs of the workers in a day, had been started on 21st May, 2021, which increased citizen oversight of the program and ease of governance.

Taking feedbacks and experiences from the applicability of NMMS, first, it was decided to discontinue the manual attendance on 1st May, 2022 for all the worksites, wherein muster rolls issued for 20 or more beneficiaries. Finally, the system came into force from 16th May, 2022. Now, the concerned ministry has decided to make it universal by ensuring capturing of attendance for all the works except Individual Beneficiary Scheme, through NMMS from 1st Junuary, 2023.

Since any transition takes some time to take the right shape, the Government of India has also given enough time to the process and persons to adapt to the new system. Women mates are encouraged to take the responsibility of capturing the attendance of the workers through the NMMS App. The ministry has been providing training to the states and union territories to ensure smooth transitioning to NMMS app as and when requested by them.

The technical issues faced by workers, were taken up with NIC, rural development on real time basis. The new provisions and suggestions requested by the states, have been incorporated in the system. All the issues concerning the NMMS application, have also been reviewed and resolved from time to time.

In the process, some important decisions taken as per request of state governments include NMMS application being modified to capture second photograph just after the 4 hours from the uploading of attendance and first photograph, which eases out the specific time point requirement for capturing the attendance and photographs. Moreover, the morning attendance along with the first photograph can be captured in offline mode also, and then could easily be uploaded once device comes in network to avert a situation when erratic internet connectivity happens.

In case of exceptional circumstances due to which attendance doesn’t get uploaded, the District Programme Coordinator (DPC) has been authorised to upload the manual attendance. To make the new system easier and convenient to all, the NMMS mobile app is available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam for now.

Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has come as a great help for the workers in rural areas, providing them with an alternative employment, especially during Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the Centre enhanced the outlay of MahatmaGandhi NREGS for the year 2020-21 from Rs. 61,500 crore to 1.11 lakh crore to ensure all needy households get work under the scheme as per their need.

Another good part of this process is that the ministry makes almost 99% wage payment directly into the bank account of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA workers by way of DBT through NeFMS. This is a big step towards transparency and accountability. The well-coordinated efforts of all the government agencies have helped in removing the charge of ghost assets being financed through the scheme, thereby winning the trust of citizens about the programme.

The payment process has also been hastened. The Minister of State for Rural Development, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti informed the parliament during winter session, 2022, that in the current financial year as on 18.12.2022, the percentage of payment generated within 15 days, is 95.55%. The minister said that any delay in payment of compensation beyond a period of fifteen days from the date it becomes payable, shall be considered in the same manner as the delay in payment of wages.

In case of delay, the state government shall pay the compensation upfront after due verification within the time limits as specified above and recover the compensation amount from the functionaries or agencies responsible for the delay. To ensure timely payment of wages to workers upscaling of National Electronic Fund Management System (Ne-FMS) in 27 States and 3 Union Territories, has been done with formulation of standard operating procedure for monitoring.

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