India's digitisation efforts may end up affecting the right to work of millions of rural workers employed by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA). Yesterday, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a national coalition of NREGA workers and organisations, noted that along with budget cuts and delayed wages, the government's efforts to mandate Aadhaar-based payments and app-based monitoring of work are "an assault on the right to work guaranteed" by the scheme. What's this scheme?: People who sign up for NREGA are guaranteed at least 100 days of paid and unskilled manual work per year. Workers are paid within 15 days. The scheme has turned into a lifeline for millions of rural Indians—last year, 11.37 crore households participated in NREGA. Why have Aadhaar-based payments raised eyebrows?: The government's order "mandating that all wage payments under NREGA be through the ABPS [Aadhaar Based Payment System] is yet another instance where the government of India is imposing an unreliable payment system that will exacerbate wage delays and denials by force," the Morcha argued. They want the order to be revoked. Here's what that means. Until now, NREGA wages could be paid through an account-based transfer (or a direct bank transfer) or through an "Aadhaar-based transfer" [ABPS]. According to economist Jean Drezé, ABPS treats a worker's Aadhaar as their "financial address". The worker's job card and bank account need to be connected to their Aadhaar, while their bank account must also be linked to the National Payments Corporation of India's (NPCI) "mapper". The thing is,…
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