NREGA's technological sabbatical

NREGA and Biometrics: conflicts and conclusions

By: Jyotika Sood

Over 25 million job card holders registered under Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) could be affected by the rural development ministry’s decision to introduce biometrics (a form of identity access management and access control) to the scheme. The ministry even claims that this project will overcome the drawbacks of MGNREGA like fake job cards and ghost beneficiaries.

Under the Rs 2,162-crore public private partnership biometrics project, the ministry would appoint a service provider in each state. The provider would collect information and biometric details like fingerprints and iris scan of the card holders. Besides, the provider will also lend technological support like machinery and software for the project at the worksites.

“The ministry has made the MGNAREGA enrolment process compliant with Unique Identification Authority of India(UDAI) which is a time consuming process and would disrupt the employment programme,” said Reetika, development economist at Delhi University. She even mentioned that the proposal to introduce biometric attendance at the work site with GPS coordinates is ‘impractical’ because many MGNREGA worksites are in remote areas with poor or no connectivity.

Whereas project consultant for biometric with the rural development ministry like Ritesh says, “implementation of the project would not take too long. As far as linking UID with MNREGA is concerned, we are just following the parameters laid by UIDAI for the biometrics projects.”