Friday, March 1, 2024

“PM Modi’s cruel new year gift”: Congress as millions to be excluded as Aadhaar-based system made mandatory for MGNREGS

Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

Millions of workers will be deprived of a basic income as the Congress claims that the Union government’s mandatory implementation of an Aadhaar-based payment system for workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) will hinder their earnings.

34.8 % of those who hold job cards under the scheme, which guarantees 100 days of work for every rural household in the country, were still ineligible for the payment system as of December 27, according to Union Rural Development Ministry data.

To receive payment through the Aadhaar-based system, workers must link their Aadhaar details to both their job cards and bank accounts. Additionally, their Aadhaar information needs to be synchronized with the National Payments Corporation of India’s database. Subsequently, the bank’s institutional identification number must also be integrated into the National Payments Corporation of India’s database.

Starting February 1, the Union government mandated that all payments within the scheme should utilize the Aadhaar-based payment system. Initially, workers could opt for bank account-based payments. Despite this, the government extended the deadline for implementing the mandatory system five times, with the latest extension concluding on December 31.

The Congress described the Union government’s decision as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “cruel New Year gift” that would prevent crores of workers from earning a basic income under the scheme.

“The Indian National Congress also reiterates its demands from 30th August, 2023, that the Modi government should stop weaponizing technology, especially Aadhaar to deny the most vulnerable Indians their social welfare benefits, release delayed wage payments and implement open muster rolls and social audits to improve transparency,” Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said.

Ramesh alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “well-known disdain” towards the scheme has translated into a number of experiments such as the payment system, digital attendance, drone monitoring and the proposed integration of facial recognition into the digital attendance.

“No due consultation or scientific piloting was done before unleashing these ‘experiments’ on crores of Indians,” he added.

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