Stop weaponising Aadhaar-based payment system: Congress

More than 41% of the total 26 crore MNREGA cardholders remain ineligible for the Aadhaar-based payment system (ABPS)  

The Aadhaar logo in the foreground; an Aadhaar card in the background (photo: IANS)
The Aadhaar logo in the foreground; an Aadhaar card in the background (photo: IANS)

NH Political Bureau

For those who get their wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), the deadline for registration for the Aadhaar-Based Payments System (ABPS) has been extended again.

The Union ministry of rural development has extended the deadline this time — the fifth time — till 31 December 2023.

Reacting to this latest extension, the Indian National Congress said that the “Modi government is trying to delay the ‘inevitable’ with its continued experiments with technology”.

Notably, 41.1 percent of the total 26 crore cardholders still remain ineligible for this mode of payment, and the Modi government had on 1 August said no more extensions would be done.

Alleging that “PM Modi’s disdain for MNREGA is well-documented”, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, “To escape its law-mandated responsibility to pay wages to all those who demand work, the Modi government, in the name of improving transparency and efficiency, has repeatedly denied work or wages to MNREGA workers.”

Ramesh added that crores of workers whose job cards were deleted due to various errors of omission have not been paid.

Demanding the implementation of open muster rolls and social audits to improve transparency, the Congress leader said that the Modi government should release the pending wages at the earliest.

Referring to a working paper released by public research and advocacy group Libtech, Ramesh noted that “there is no significant efficiency gain with ABPS vis-a-vis bank account payments—as there is neither a notable difference in time taken to process payments (39 per cent in 7 days versus 36 per cent) nor an improvement in rejection rates (2.1 per cent versus 2.6 per cent)”.

Analysing approximately 3.2 crore wage transactions spread across 327 blocks in 10 states, the Libtech paper noted, 'Wages are being diverted or misdirected to different account holders due to Aadhaar linking errors, and crores of job cards have been deleted as workers are unable to meet the cumbersome ABPS requirements.'

Despite repeated demands, Ramesh said, “a large amount of the delayed payment compensation has not been released yet" either.

The Congress leader also said that Aadhaar was introduced by the UPA government as a tool to empower citizens, Modi government used it as a weapon to exclude citizens from their guaranteed rights, especially in the case of MNREGA.

According to government's own estimate, more than 2.6 crore active workers enrolled under MNREGA have not been paid their wages.

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