Public Administration Mains 2018 : Model Question and Answer - 103

(Public Administration Paper II / Chapter: Rural Development)

(Current Based) Question: Delayed and failed wage payments under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is undermining the entire programme. Comment. (25 Marks/300 Words)

Model Answer:

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is going through a deep crisis and

crisis has at least four manifestations: Delayed payments, rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments.

Delays in wage payments have plagued NREGA ever since bank payments were introduced about 10 years ago. One reason why delays have persisted for so long is that the payment system is constantly being re-designed.

Even as the delays continue, the latest payment systems are largely responsible for rejected payments, diverted payments and locked payments. Rejected payments were not unknown earlier but they have become endemic ever since the linking of NREGA wage payments with Aadhaar. Linking the bank accounts of NREGA workers with Aadhaar may seem like a trivial matter but in practice it creates endless problems, associated for instance with inconsistencies between different databases — job cards, bank accounts and Aadhaar. Today, “e-KYC” (biometric authentication of Aadhaar-linked accounts) is compulsory for NREGA workers, if not in theory then certainly in practice. That, too, is a fountain of technical glitches.

Worse, wages are sometimes paid into accounts that workers know nothing about, for example, accounts opened without consent in the initial Jan Dhan Yojana frenzy, or Airtel wallets. Even worse, wages are sometimes sent to the wrong person, because that person’s account has been linked to the concerned worker’s Aadhaar by mistake (for instance, due to data entry errors). These diverted payments are very difficult to retrieve — most NREGA workers are powerless to do anything about them.

Last but not least, many NREGA workers today are unable to withdraw their wages from their bank accounts even after their wages have been paid — this is the problem of “locked payments”. Workers are locked out of their bank account when the bank treats it as “dormant” or “frozen” because it does not meet the current norms. (Total Words- 303)

Valuable inputs from The Indian Express Coulmns: ‘Hollowing Out a Promise' by Jean Dreze

(Linkages: NREGA and Delayed Payment, NREGA and e-KYC, NREGA and Jan Dhan Yojana)

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