On 13 May, the government of India put out a notification making attendance through a mobile app a mandatory feature of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGP) to increase transparency and plug leakages.
National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS), an app launched by the Ministry of Rural Development is being used to mark the daily attendance of the beneficiaries at work sites where 20 or more are employed. In case of technical issues, provision for manual attendance has also been provided.
What Does The App Intend To Do?
The app records attendance in real-time by uploading geo-tagged photographs of worksites. A worker is required to upload two time-stamped photos, one at 11 am and the other at 2 pm.
The project was underway on a voluntary basis since May last year. In March 2022, after holding a top-level review meeting and consultation with states, the NMMS App was made mandatory.
The digital attendance would make sure that only genuine workers are paid, and any kind of pilferage is stopped.
A group of activists and academicians have opposed the move. Their contention is that most beneficiaries do not have access to the Internet and smartphones.
The Peoples Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) claims a rule that mandates recording attendance on a mobile app is a violation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
It has written to the Rural Ministry flagging a series of technical and sociological issues with the app and has argued that the app discourages women from being the supervisors or NREGA mates since they are most likely to not carry a smartphone.
Need For e-Attendance Since UPA Era
The need to make Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) more transparent by introducing electronic attendance has not arisen in recent times. During the UPA era, the government was mulling the introduction of biometrics cards and electronic attendance systems to plug the leakages in its flagship employment scheme NREGA.
However, due to UPA’s acute policy paralysis, it did not implement the electronic attendance.
The Bottom Line
Introduction of an attendance system in MNREGS is in line with the government’s agenda to increase transparency in the implementation of schemes on the ground and is based on feedback from the states. There could be scope for further improvement in the scheme but revoking it altogether should not be an option.
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