Group wants new order on MGNREGA workers revoked

Peoples Action For Employment Guarantee says rule that mandates recording attendance on a mobile app is a violation of the NREGA law

Updated - June 23, 2022 11:10 pm IST

Published - June 23, 2022 08:14 pm IST - New Delhi

Villagers engaged in desilting a dry pond under the MNREGA project. Photo used for representation purpose only. File

Villagers engaged in desilting a dry pond under the MNREGA project. Photo used for representation purpose only. File | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Union Rural Development Ministry must withdraw its order to discontinue manual attendance for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme work sites with more than 20 workers to replace it using a mobile phone-based application — National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) for recording attendance, the Peoples Action For Employment Guarantee (PAEG), a group of academicians and activists working in the field, said.

PAEG, in a recent letter to Secretary Rural Development N.N. Sinha, said that the Ministry’s May 13th order is a violation of the NREGA law and also flagged a series of technical and sociological issues with the app- including discouraging the women from being the supervisors or NREGA mates.

Section 15 – schedule 1 that lays down rules about the muster rolls, clearly says that the muster roll must be accessible to the workers on demand all days during all working hours. The availability of muster roll only digitally limits the access.

The app specifies that it is mandatory for workers to upload two time stamped photos within a pre-determined time window designed by the app. “This is in direct contravention of Section 3 of the Act which clearly states that workers are entitled to their wages under MGNREGA on the basis of work completed by them that is on a piece rate basis. By forcing the workers to stay for a specified number of hours irrespective of when they finish their work, the app is forcing a time rate basis payment for wages,” the letter states.

The app discourages the women from being mates which fundamentally undermines the Ministry’s own repeated push towards encouraging women workers as NREGA mates. “Having a smartphone is now mandatory for mates to record attendance on the NMMS. However, as you appreciate, many women from poorer households, a large fraction of whom belong to SC/ST households, do not have access to smartphones. Even amongst families that have smartphones, it is an accepted reality that women are the last ones to access them as per priority. Consequently, the NMMS order is a massive deterrent towards women empowerment,” the letter says.

The app has been designed completely in English and there is no technical help provided to redress several problems that the users face. In case of a technical glitch, the workers who come to NREGA sites are told to go back, since attendance cannot be registered. This, PAEG said, is a violation of rights of workers.

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