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01st April 2024 (12 Topics)

Workers, not tech, should be state’s priority


 The Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) and its implications for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) have sparked critical attention due to various challenges and issues.

Challenges in ABPS Implementation:

  • Technological Hurdles: Numerous challenges plague the ABPS-MGNREGS linkage, including Internet connectivity issues, fingerprint recognition problems, and difficulties faced by the disabled. These challenges hinder the smooth functioning of the payment system and adversely affect beneficiaries.
  • Database Management Issues: Despite a significant budgetary allocation to MGNREGS, issues such as unrecorded working days, name duplication, errors in linking, and elimination of names persist. The deletion of 5.2 crore workers from the database in 2022-23 and the ineligibility of 34.8% of job card holders for ABPS highlight the magnitude of the problem.
  • Dependency on Technology: The ABPS places rural workers at the mercy of technology, prioritizing technological solutions over employment security. This approach undermines the core objective of MGNREGS, which is to provide socio-economic security to rural households through guaranteed wage employment.

Technology vs. Worker Empowerment:

  • Misconception of Technology's Role: The design and deployment of ABPS have positioned technology as the focal point, sidelining the welfare of workers. Rather than empowering workers, technology has become an overbearing element in their lives, overshadowing employment security.
  • Ideal Objectives of Employment Guarantee Schemes: Schemes like MGNREGS aim to provide work security and alleviate socio-economic distress, not serve as platforms for technological interventions. The state's techno-centric approach risks undermining the scheme's ideals of inclusion and equity.
  • Need for Balanced Approach: While technology has the potential to support socio-economic development, it must not overshadow the core objectives of employment guarantee schemes. Lessons from past failures in technological interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic emphasize the importance of prioritizing workers' welfare over technological advancements.

Revisiting Developmental Imaginaries:

  • Alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Rural employment guarantee schemes contribute significantly to achieving SDGs, directly and indirectly. However, the state's techno-centric approach must align with the goals of inclusivity and socio-economic empowerment.
  • Budgetary Allocation Considerations: The substantial budget allocated to MGNREGS should prioritize rectifying technological maladies and ensure efficient delivery of benefits to beneficiaries. Fundamental developmental imaginaries need reconsideration to place workers' welfare at the forefront.
  • Socio-Economic Security Priority: In an era of growing inequality and rural distress, technology can play a supportive role, but the primary focus should always be on ensuring the livelihood security of workers. The state must strike a balance between technological advancements and socio-economic welfare.
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