Increasing its surveillance of worksites under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, the Union Ministry of Rural Development will be pressing drones into service to monitor both the progress and quality of assets produced.
According to a standard operating procedure (SOP) recently issued by the Ministry, the drones will be used for four types of monitoring: surveying the ongoing works, inspecting the completed works, impact assessment, and special inspection in case of complaints.
“There are several complaints about corruption in MNREGS works that we receive regularly. These vary from machines being used in place of the workers, many receiving wages without doing work, or works beyond the approved list being undertaken, and so on. Drones will be especially helpful in such cases for real-time monitoring and for garnering evidence,” a senior Ministry official said.
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This will be the second big technological intervention introduced to keep a check on MGNREGA workers. From May 2022, the Union government made it mandatory to capture attendance at all worksites using a specially-developed mobile-based application.
The SOP stipulates that the drones will be used by the ombudsperson; according to the Act which governs the scheme, there should one ombudsperson per district who is responsible for registering suo moto complaints and disposing of them within 30 days. “For efficient monitoring and redressal of grievances, it is decided by the Ministry that the ombudsperson may use drone technology facilities for verification of the works virtually,” the SOP states. It has directed State governments to provide the facility to ombudspersons, as needed.
No extra funds
However, the Union government is not providing the States with any extra funds to deploy these drones. According to the guidelines, State governments are expected to draw the necessary funds from the administrative head, which is roughly 10% of a State’s MGNREGA budget. Rather than purchasing drones, the Union government has directed States to hire agencies specialising in drones for this purpose.
The Ministry also proposes to form a centralised dashboard to store the videos and photos collected from the drones, for data analysis and reporting purposes.