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Union minister 'lying': multiple complaints made on NREGA workers' digital attendance

By Our Representative 

Taking strong exception to Union Minister Giriraj Singh’s recent statement in the Lok Sabha, statement that the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) had not received any complaints related to the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) digital attendance app, top advocacy network NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has claimed, it relentlessly drew the Ministry’s attention to the chaos that has been unleashed by the NMMS app and the Aadhaar-based payment system (ABPS), both of which are now compulsory for NREGA wage payments.
According to the top NGO, its members made multiple visits to the MoRD on 15th, 17th & 20th February. 
“Workers from Bihar met Amit Kataria, Joint Secretary on 20th February. On 1st March, a delegation of workers from West Bengal went to the Minister’s residence to seek an appointment. In the previous year, representation from the campaign met the Secretary, Joint Secretary and Commissioner of MoRD two times to draw attention to the havoc being created due to the imposition of the App”, it said.
In a note, the NGO said, “These are inappropriate technologies and were made compulsory, on 1 January and 1 February 2023 respectively. We have raised these concerns through various means including written complaints, social media posts and delegations (or attempted delegations) to the MoRD.”
Attaching a sample of its complaints, the NGO insisted, “All of them have been ignored by the Ministry. We have also attached the MoRD’s own data regarding the status of both these interventions.” It added, “We have reached an unprecedented situation where many NREGA workers work without being paid because of technical problems related to NMMS or ABPS.”
Stating that “this is grossly unjust, unacceptable and illegal”, the NGO demanded “an opportunity to brief the Ministry on the ground realities of digital harassment and their consequences for NREGA workers.”
Offering a graph which looks at the proportion of the muster rolls issued on the NMMS that have actually been filled, it said, “On average, only 70% of muster rolls issued on the NMMS this FY have been filled. This indicates NREGA functionaries are facing difficulties in filling muster rolls.”
Comparing the number of eMRs that were issued but not filled in February FY 21-22, and February FY 22-23 for 10 states, the NGO network said, “There is a huge difference in the numbers for all states, with February FY 22-23 having a very large number of unfilled eMRs.”
It added, “Since the introduction of the NMMS app, Mates and workers across the country have complained of multiple issues that do not allow them to fill their eMRs - network issues, inscrutable error codes, and device problems. The data shows that there are lakhs of workers whose demand for work led to the issuance of eMRs, but whose attendance was never filled. The NMMS app has undermined workers’ right to work as guaranteed under NREGA.”
It continued, “The MoRD’s own data on the MIS showed that on 1 February, 2023, when the ABPS was mandated, only about 40% of NREGA workers were eligible for ABPS payments. This meant that about 10 crore workers from across India could no longer be paid for work.”
It added, “More than a month since the mandation of ABPS, still only 47.1% of workers are eligible for ABPS payments. On 15 March 2023, the MoRD extended the deadline for mandatory ABPS to 31 March, 2023, but that is unlikely to be enough to ensure all workers are able to get ABPS payments.”

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