Technology Sans Accountability
CPR South 2018, Policy Brief
4 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 30, 2018
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) guarantees 100 days of work in a year for every rural household in India on demand. The Act mandates that every worker must receive their wages within 15 days of completion of a work week.
Since 2015, wages are paid directly from the central government to the workers’ bank account through the National Electronic Financial Management System (N-eFMS). The government believes that such a system will streamline the payment process and ensure faster, “real time” payments. The payment guidelines state that it is supposed to take one day for the transfers to take place. (Ministry of Rural Development, India 2018). However, a previous study by my team showed that, when state/ local government generated the payorder within 15 days, it took an additional 63 days on average, for the wages to be credited to the workers’ bank account (Rajendran Narayanan, Sakina Dhorajiwala, and Rajesh Golani 2017).
The delays are further exacerbated at the last mile due to poor infrastructure and policy design challenges. Complex norms for accessing the payments make banking a cumbersome experience. The excessive centralisation of the entire payment architecture has meant that the baton of accountability is passed around by the bureaucracy leaving the workers in abeyance about their wages. When a grievance arises workers often have to run from administrative offices to banks to ensure grievance redressal. This involves spending hundreds of rupees, making multiple trips to the government office and loss of daily wages. The design of the system shifts the entire burden of grievance redressal onto the worker. As a result, workers are losing faith in the programme.
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