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India: ICT for People’s Entitlement under MGNREGA
Source: southasia.oneworld.net
Source Date: Monday, August 23, 2010
Focus: Citizens’ Service Delivery
Country: India
Created: Aug 30, 2010

India's rural development Ministry at a workshop unveiled their strategy for nationwide rollout of biometric enabled ICT applications for improved MGNREGA implementation, and signed an MoU with the UIDAI towards this end. Rural women demonstrated how this has helped ensure their rights under the scheme. UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani congratulates Dr.C.P.Joshi Union Minister for Rural Development on launch of National Framework for ICT enabled MGNREGA. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Environment, and Ministers of State Agatha Sangma, Sisir Adhikari and Pradeep Jain Aditya look on. The Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India (MoRD) on 20th August, 2010 unveiled their strategy for nationwide rollout of biometric enabled ICT applications for improving delivery of services under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), at a national workshop titled “Mahatma Gandhi NREGA - making ICT an instrument for people’s entitlement: A step towards Governance Reform and Transparency”. Women from Suwana block, Bhilwara district in Rajasthan demonstrate how a hand-held device can help them register demand for work, receive a dated receipt and collect wages under MGNREGA. “Today we have moved a step towards good governance and transparency,” said Dr.C.P.Joshi, Union Minister for Rural Development, following the demonstration of an end to end ICT-based solution by OneWorld Foundation India, where rural women of Suwana Block, Bhilwara district of Rajasthan accessed information on their work history, demanded jobs against a dated receipt, and also received wages - on a simple biometric registration. “We have shown that it is possible to introduce efficiency and also address key problems of our central NREGA stakeholders – the workers – including delays in work allocation, bogus muster rolls and non-payment of wages, and we will focus on concretising these ideas further in the coming year” he said. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment and Forests, complimented the Ministry on pioneering steps towards better service delivery in NREGA through ICT.

Remembering the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he said, “I feel it is a befitting tribute that this important step towards ICT enabled innovation to ensure rights of rural workers is being showcased on his birthday.” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission calls for incorporation of ICTs in all schemes under the 12th Plan document. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission – India’s apex planning body, expressed hope that approach documents for the 12th Plan would incorporate the use of such tried and tested technologies for bringing several other schemes, for example PDS, on to a heightened scale of implementation. The occasion also saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the MoRD and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to integrate MGNREGA processes and database with ‘Aadhar’ the unique identification that would be given to every citizen. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman UIDAI, expressed delight at the imminent possibility that the unique id ‘Aadhar’ would soon facilitate a range of NREGA, banking, insurance and other services for rural citizens bringing them on par with their urban counterparts. Congratulating the Ministry on the successful integration of ICT for benefit of rural populace, Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, said, “Our task is to democratise information from Panchayat level onwards to ensure that key stakeholders get to participate in government schemes.” “ICTs can act as enablers, provided we create the right environment – mindsets, work flows, work culture – what we need is an effective communication network buttressed by a broadband platform, UID platform, GIS platform, and appropriate application software, security, human resources – young talent with the ability to manage and maintain these tools at local level,” he added.

MGNREGA is a landmark social security legislation that epitomizes the right to employment on demand. Independent studies by reputed institutions have indicated that since its inception in 2006, the act has provided nearly 800 crore persondays of employment with 50% of share for women and more than 50% for SC/ST, and Rs.66976.91 crore as wages. It has resulted in enhanced wage rates and bargaining power of labourers, increased purchasing power resulting in increased spending on food, health and education, reduced distress migration, and augmented productivity through green jobs. The large scale of operations and the need to handle large volumes of information in a transparent manner necessitated the use of ICTs in programme delivery. In the last year, pilot initiatives were undertaken in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Starting 2nd October 2009, OneWorld had attempted to imbibe transparency and public accountability in MGNREGA by e-enabling all the processes right from bio-metric based registration, demand for work, issue of dated receipt, allocation of work, recording of attendance with GPS coordinates and work measurement using hand-held devices. A digital repository facilitating access to NREGA related knowledge for practitioners, and a community radio initiative complete the cycle of knowledge facilitating the transition of rural poor from wage employment to sustainable livelihood. Lessons from this pilot, executed in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, and the UNDP, did demonstrate considerable potential for expanding, extending and scaling this effort – to reach out to NREGS beneficiaries – preferably on voice mode to mitigate the constraint of literacy, and riding on all-encompassing reach of mobile and hand-held technologies. Going forward, integration into the comprehensive MG-NREGA database on real-time basis will eliminate fraud, duplication and delays in work measurements and payments, translating to significant overall benefits to workers in financial terms. The data generated can be linked with the unique identification numbers of citizens ‘Aadhar’. It can also be used by banks, post offices for the purpose of servicing MGNREGA accounts through the Business Correspondent Model.
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