Jharkhand is a state rich in minerals and natural beauty, but poor in terms of economy. For the upliftment of people, especially in the rural areas, many schemes have been introduced by the government, one such scheme being MGNREGA. Started in 2005, this is a scheme providing 100 days of employment to the rural people. It helps the rural people to have a stable economic background, and also nowadays as the MGNREGA money is transferred directly to the bank, it creates a saving habit among the rural people. The latest upgrade in this scheme was the linking of Aadhar card, a 12 digit unique identification number to the bank account of the MGNREGA workers. This was done mainly to have transparency in the payment of the MGNREGA workers. Jharkhand, in 2013 was the first state to implement the linkage of Aadhar with a bank account. It was a bold move taken by the government so as to eradicate the corruption that had crawled into the displacement of the MGNREGA money. It had been effective in the state as in the last 4 years in the state 99% of the MGNREGA workers have enrolled themselves for Aadhar and an equal percentage have opened a bank account. But the beneficiaries are still having a problem getting their well-deserved money from the government.
One of the problems being that there are workers who have not linked their Aadhar card to their MGNREGA account because of which they are not getting their money. When asked about this matter they said,” But going to the bank at Namkum block would mean shelling out at least 40 rupees. Who has that much money?”. Even if some people go to the banks for the linkage, the officials deny the linkage as the names of the villagers are wrong or the village from where they come is pronounced wrong. (Niyogi, 2017)
Even if for some MGNREGA workers, the hurdle of the linking process had been overcome, still they are not getting their money in their accounts. When probed into this matter it was found out that the block office, which is situated at the Mandu block of Ramgarh district which has to maintain MIS due to the linkage of Aadhar to MGNREGA accounts are not working efficiently . James Herenj, who is in non-profit Jharkahnd MGNREGA-watch, has said that the officials work for long hours, make typing and data entry mistakes by linking others Aadhar card with others accounts due to which the actual payment is going to someone else's account. A villager from Jobla village claimed that his account was credited with Rs. 11,356 even though he has not worked in any MGNREGA scheme. But the MIS report shows that he has worked in a farm pond for 68 days!
There are many occasion in which the MGNREGA money has been deposited to another account of that same person (Niyogi, 2017). The rural people to attain the benefits of the schemes like the Atal Pension Yojna and the Jan Dhan Yojna opens their bank accounts accordingly, but due to the wrong linkages, it becomes difficult to track their money. There is an instance in the Byangdih village where Jeet Munda, to avail the benefits of the government schemes have opened up 3 accounts in 3 different banks namely Cooperative Bank, Bank Of India and Gramin Bank. Though the MGNREGA Account is with Bank of India, the wrong linkages have resulted in the deposition of MGNREGA in Cooperative Bank. Many people due to the incompetency leave this benefit scheme.
While stepping towards digitalization, if the government thinks that they can eradicate corruption, they have to think again as there are chances of corruption creeping into the system of MIS. Villagers not knowing anything about the digitalization process tend to trust the officials who promise them to help them get the money but do not tend to do so. Under the Electronic Fund Management System, the funds are electronically transferred to the accounts of the workers. To release the money, digital signatures of the Gram Panchayat President is required. As the village has no proper internet connectivity The Gram Panchayat President has to go to the Block Office to give his signature. The possibility of him coming frequently is not possible due to which he had given his digital signature in a dongle to Block Level functionaries. This becomes a huge passage for committing corruption as with the President's signature the money can be released as and when desired by the functionaries.
The banks also do not leave any stone unturned to grab the opportunity to make a profit out of the poor village people. In the Boram block of East Singhbhum district, the officials from ICICI Bank came and asked the villagers for their Aadhar card number as they claimed they would open accounts of the villagers to avail the benefits of the Atal Pension Yojna. The villagers also gave away their Aadhar number to these officials but after some days, the MGNREGA money coming into their existing accounts abruptly stopped. After complaining in the Block Office, regarding this problem they came to know that their MGNREGA accounts have been transferred to ICICI banks. They did not know how to avail their money as they have not received any passbook, checkbook, or ATM card from the ICICI Bank. They just have been given a Biometric Card which can be used only when the Bank Mitras come with their micro-ATM. It has become so difficult to get the money as these Bank Mitras do not come most of the time and even at times when they come, they do not carry sufficient cash or the internet connectivity in rural areas is down, due to which the transaction is not possible. As Biometric card is used to get the money from the Bank Mitras many people do not get the benefit of the machine do not get the fingerprints of these people as their skin gets hardened while working.
The Jharkhand government made a great effort of making the money dispersion system as smooth and as corruption free as possible but still, some reforms are needed to be made. It is high time that the government becomes strict in making sure that the MIS officials work efficiently. The requirement now is not of compulsory linkages of Aadhar with MGNREGA accounts but to make sure that the workers are getting their money on time and without any hassle. There is a requirement of greater and better connectivity of banks in the village and also connectivity of the internet. These are small measures but can hopefully make the lives of the MGNREGA workers a little better and easy.
How tech is undoing NREGA in Jharkhand. (2017, Feb 16). Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/how-tech-is-undoing-nrega-in-jharkhand/articleshow/57175473.cms.
Niyogi, D.(2017). Welfare interrupted. Down To Earth,26-28.