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THE HINDU EDITORIAL BRIEF 23rd July 2019 : A Misleading Presentation of the Labour Programme

A chapter of the Economic Survey on "Transformational" impact of Aadhar on MGNREGA has presented a skewed and unbalanced view of the programme's technical interventions instead of taking a comprehensive view of implementation.

Reasons why ECONOMIC SURVEY's presentation of MGNREGA is misleading?
  1. Misconception about Aadhar 
    • Aadhar has to be understood as merely being a pipeline for funds transfer in MGNREGA. A lack of adequate financial allocation, pending liabilities and low wage have dogged the programme over the past 8 years.
    • Instead of sufficiently funding MGNREGA, a legal right, in times of severe drought, there is disproportionate attention by govt. towards creating architecture based on technical solution.
  2. Misrepresentation of Technological Inputs in MGNREGA by the Economic Survey since its inception.
    • In 2011, Electronic Funds transfer started through Electronic Funds Management System(eFMS), and became symbolic of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). This served as basis for National Electronic Fund Management System (N-eFMS), introduced in 2016. 
    • But, the Economic Survey uses the term 'Aadhar Linked Payment' and conflates it with DBT by repeatedly referring to the time before 2015 as 'pre-DBT' to make its claim.
  3. Survey make strong assertion that timely payment of wages have positively impacted workers' participation.
    • To support this, Survey makes dubious casual claims on reduction in payment delays due to introduction of Aadhar. But, their understanding of payment delays is faulty.
    • What is the Reality?
      • Wage Payment happens in 2 stages in MGNREGA.
      • First Stage is the time taken by the blocks to generate the electronic Funds Transfer Order (FTOs) and send it digitally to Central Government.
      • Second Stage is the time taken by the Central Government to process these FTOs and transfer wages to workers accounts.
      • The delays made in the Second Stage is unacceptably high. (Only 30% of payment credited on time. Generally 50 days taken by the Central Government to trasfer wage to worker).
      • The Survey considered only the Ist Stage and Aadhar comes to play only in 2nd Stage.
  4. Survey attributes an increase in demand for and supply of work in drought-affected areas to Aadhar ignoring other critical and crucial factors.
  5. While the Survey rightfully acknowledges the nature of positive targeting of MGNREGA-with women, Dalit and Adivasis benefiting the most- it wrongfully attributes it wholly to the introduction of Aadhar.
    • The argument denies the unambiguous impact of the universal access of MGNREGA without having to meet any eligibility criteria.
  6. The Survey's claim about the Aadhar Linked Payments (ALP) identifying "ghost-beneficiaries" is exaggrated, as an RTI query showed that they accounted for only 1.4% of the total households in 2017.
What is actually missed?
  • The Economic Survey completely ignores numerous instances where technology has resulted in violation of worker's rights under MGNREGA.
  • Another ISB study which was not mentioned in the Economic Survey, shows that 38% of Aadhar-based transactions in Jharkhand were diverted to a different account. Hence, the Economic Survey needs a detailed revision as it has come under the scrutiny due to its misguiding interpretation of Aadhar.

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