Rural Development Ministry seeks to give the scheme a base

Disregarding apprehensions sounded by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the Ministry of Rural Development will press ahead with its pilot project to link payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) with the Aadhaar number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India in a bid to give the scheme, which is currently stuck, a base.

In Ramgarh district, Jharkhand, a project plan for UID enrolment of MGNREGA workers has been prepared, which might just about widen the fissures further within the Union government over the purposefulness or otherwise of scheme.

Chidambaram's issues

Mr. Chidambaram had written to the Planning Commission claiming that the data being collected under the Unique Identification Authority of Indians ran the risk of including non-usual residents, creation of false profiles and did not comply with internal security norms.

The Ministry has been forced into picking Ramgarh, a left-wing-extremism-affected area, for the pilot project as it happened to be the chosen registrar for five States, including Jharkhand; other states, such as Assam, Bihar, Tripura and West Bengal, under its jurisdiction, posed greater problems.

Mr. Ramesh emphasised that the project did not hamper any government programme or scheme but for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

He pointed out that neither the population census nor the current exercise of socio Economic Caste Census had been obstructed.

The Reserve Bank of India is still not open to the idea of allowing the opening of bank accounts on the basis of Aadhaar number.

It first rejected the proposal before allowing, apparently under pressure, the opening of bank accounts on the basis of the UID number.

Soon, however, the RBI amended its order saying that even while accepting UID numbers, banks should secure other documents for proof of identity and residence.

Connectivity is likely to be the primary issue in the district, which comprises six blocks and 143 panchayats.

There are about half a dozen gram panchayats which are not connected through wireless and as many as 65 of these lack wimax (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) connectivity.

Only 15 gram panchayats have bank correspondents and the State has promised to appoint one in each of the gram panchayats by December 20 at the latest.

Out of the 1.84 lakh people enrolled, only 70,931 have been issued with the UID number and the government has promised to update the MGNREGA software by December 25.

In phases

The process of enrolment is underway in about 30 gram panchayats. In the rest of the panchayats, the process will be launched in a phased manner starting December 14, while the last phase will commence in March.

Similarly, the opening of bank accounts too will commence, in a phased manner, only after the second week of January and the last segment will be taken up in April.

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