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Uttar Pradesh Government begins process to use Drones to Monitor MNREGS Sites

In July 2023, the state’s rural development department released SOPs for monitoring, inspecting MNREGS work using drones.

What’s the news: Uttar Pradesh government has initiated the process to deploy drones for the monitoring of Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) worksites, reported the Hindustan Times on December 5, 2023. According to Anil Kumar Pandey, Joint Commissioner for Rural Development – MNREGS, while the process has begun, the financial bids to hire drones are yet to be opened.

Drones to address complaints of corruption: In July 2023, the state’s rural development department released the standard operating procedure for monitoring, inspecting MNREGS work and making impact assessments using drones. The drones will be able to take photos and images with a data retention period of 15 days. All this was done in the name of gathering evidence to address complaints of corruption in MNREGS work.

However, as per the Hindustan Times report, government authorities still haven’t shared details regarding this new move. Officials only reiterated complete transparency in the implementation of the scheme and assured that “the process of appointing an agency to provide drones in all districts is underway.”

Past attempts to monitor workers by state agencies

Uttar Pradesh is not the first to come with such a form of surveillance that violates workers’ right to privacy and movement. In 2020, the Chandigarh government distributed GPS-enabled smartwatches to safai karamcharis so that faceless supervisors may track their move from a centralised command. Many voices of the community like the Chandigarh Safai Karamchari Union, Bezwada Wilson, national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, called it a form of bonded labour and an extension of the caste system.

Worse still, the incident was a case study of how such monitoring turns out to be inaccurate since the GPS does not always work accurately and misattributes the location of a worker.

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I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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