Scrap app-based attendance system, demand NREGA workers and activists
Founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Magsaysay Award recipient, Aruna Roy said that the app is simply a "surveillance mechanism"
As the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha protest entered its 18th day on Thursday, thousands of NREGA activists, staging demonstrations at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, raised their pitch for the scrapping of app-based attendance system.
Saying that the new attendance system is nothing but "surveillance mechanism" brought in by the Modi government to "deprive them (NREGA workers) of their livelihood," NREGA activists alleged "lack of transparency" in the app based attendance system.
Questioning the intent of the Modi government, protesters alleged that the new system is the Centre's way to reduce expenditure on the MGNREGA scheme, as those unable to register attendance will invariably lose their wages.
Protesting under the banner of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the activists and workers demanded that the new attendance-app be immediately scrapped.
On January 1, the Modi government introduced a mandatory app-based system for collecting attendance of MGNREGA workers through the National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS).
On February 13, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers from different parts of the nation gathered at Jantar Mantar to begin a 100-day protest against the BJP government's recently introduced app-based attendance system.
Women workers gathered on stage and voiced their concerns surrounding the various shortcomings of the scheme. Most of them complained of not having received their wages despite months of labour.
Deepali Gob (34) from Purulia, West Bengal claimed that she had worked as a NREGA worker from January to March and is yet to receive any payment.
“We have to walk 4-5 kilometres to go to the work site. We are ready to work, but after reaching the site, if the attendance does not get marked, then we don’t get paid,” said Mandavi Devi from Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
Similarly, Ganga Gope (35) stated that NREGA workers from West Bengal have not received their wages for the past 13 months.
Anjali Bhardwaj from Satark Naagrik Samiti (SNS) asked,"If labourers are denied wages amidst inflation, how will they survive in this economy?".
Murlidharan from the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled highlighted that the app is of particular hindrance to the disabled workers, and emphasised the solidarity among the physically challenged labourers and those who have gathered at Jantar Mantar.
Institute of Grassroots Governance (IGG) also joined the protests on Thursday, expressing their solidarity with the workers.
NREGA protestors have highlighted that such an app is inherently exclusionary as most of these workers lack a stable internet connection, smartphones and lack the digital literacy required to use it effectively.
Protestors have also emphasised that there is a lack of "transparency" and the government is trying to collect "private information of the masses" while dismissing the concerns that may arise from the workers' inability to use the app.
Social activist Aruna Roy joined the protest on February 24 and in her speech mentioned that the app is simply a "surveillance mechanism" and accused the govt. of trying to destroy the law by "cutting allocations" and making the process of seeking employment difficult by introducing the app-based attendance system and Aadhaar-based payment system.
"Lakhs of people struggled for 10-12 years to get a law to give employment guarantee. Now they’re destroying the law by just issuing an order. I’m not appalled, is this democracy? This cannot be done, you can’t ignore demands of the majority of people on edge of starvation. You gave the smallest amount of succour and are now withdrawing it. Is it a democracy?" asked Roy during her speech.
"Our immediate demand of the revocation of NMMS App that some workers have renamed as Narendra Modi Master System app," she asserted.
Launched by the Congress-led UPA government in 2006, MGNREGA scheme has been the lifeblood for rural workers as it guarantees the 'right to work'.