Prompt payment through bank; corruption eliminated; in fact, some workers have a saving

They are all manual workers earning Rs. 100 daily under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and some of them have a bank balance — no matter how small — made possible because of their financial inclusion and the introduction of technology that links their accounts biometrically through the Aadhaar number.

As the new system ensures payment of wages within a week, the demand for work under MGNREGS has gone up. Consequently, migration has been checked, families have been reunited and, no less important, some workers have a saving in the bank.

There are labourers who do not debit wage payment even after two weeks of work — assured that their money is safe in the bank, in this case the Bank of India.

Aadhaar-linked micro ATMs have been provided in three panchayats of this block for a beginning and these are carried by the bank's business correspondents. The beneficiary has to remember his number or carry the UID card and then the genuineness of the person is verified biometrically. That links him to his bank account. He can then withdraw money and receive an acknowledgement slip that also specifies his balance, if any.

Jharkhand is among the five States where Aadhaar number has been linked to payment of wages as a pilot project. The State has been facing complaints of delayed payment of wages. Ratu block is part of Ranchi district.

Pradeep Oraon made a debit for the first time after putting in two weeks of work and withdrew Rs. 700 — a week's wage — leaving a like amount in his account.

Jukral Ansari enrolled himself for a job, assured that there would henceforth be no delay in wage payment.

The Aadhaar number ensures a one-to-one match of the biometric fingerprint without the need for fishing through a plethora of data to identify a person and his account. In the days to come, the individual may jolly well access his account irrespective of his location in any part of the country.

However, availability of power and internet connectivity remains a challenge, particularly in these remote parts of a backward and hilly State, not to mention its dense forest cover. Even if the facilities are made available, at times the time taken for connectivity is longer. These factors could test the patience of the business correspondents, let alone the beneficiaries.

As for advantages, the panchayat heads, including Jyoti Devi of Tigra, say the new payment system under MGNREGS has eliminated corruption. For, payment is made directly to the worker. Earlier somebody else got it.

But their main complaint is that authorities have failed to accept their recommendation for including the names of the poor in the BPL list. “Until all are included, how can you ensure development?” they wonder.