New Delhi, August 31: Congress on Wednesday slammed the PM Modi-led BJP government at the Centre for mandating payments for the MGNREGA via the Aadhaar-based payments system. Congress said that the government is trying to delay the inevitable with its continued ‘experiments with technology’ and it must stop weaponising Aadhaar and technology to deny the most vulnerable citizens their social welfare benefits.
Jairam Ramesh targets Centre
In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “The Union Ministry of Rural Development has extended till December 31, 2023 the deadline for mandating payments for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) via the Aadhaar Based Payments System (ABPS) for the fifth time.”
He said, “This has become inevitable because despite four extensions, 41.1 per cent of the total 26 crore job card holders still remain ineligible for this mode of payment. The Modi government had initially ruled out any more extensions as the fourth extension ends on August 31, saying that only 18.3 per cent active workers will become ineligible.”
Targeting the government at the centre, the Congress leader said, “With the five state polls around the corner and the widespread outrage, the Modi government is trying to delay the inevitable with its continued ‘experiments with technology’.”
He further said that the Prime Minister’s disdain for MGNREGA is well-documented and yet, it was forced to turn to MGNREGS during the COVID-19 pandemic and even now due to the continuing rural distress, record numbers of workers have demanded work under MGNREGA this year.
“To escape its law-mandated responsibility to pay wages to all those who demand work, the Modi government, in the name of improving transparency and efficiency, has repeatedly denied work or wages to MGNREGA workers,” he alleged.
He said that according to the government’s own estimate, more than 2.6 crore active workers would not have been paid their legally mandated wages from September 1, 2023.
“This number does not include the crores of workers who have had their jobcards deleted due to various errors of omission and commission,” the Congress leader pointed out. He pointed out that Aadhaar was introduced by the UPA government as a tool to empower citizens by making it easier for them to access social welfare benefits.
“The Modi government, especially in the case of MGNREGA and soon with pensions and other social welfare benefits, has used it (Aadhaar) as a weapon to exclude citizens from their guaranteed rights. By making them bear the brunt of its ‘experiments with technology’, the Modi government has hurt the incomes of the most vulnerable and the poorest of the poor,” Ramesh said.
Congress demands Modi govt to stop weaponizing Aadhaar
“Congress demands that the Modi government should stop weaponizing Aadhaar and technology to deny the most vulnerable citizens their social welfare benefits, release the payments due to MGNREGA workers, and instead implement open muster rolls and social audits to improve transparency,” the Congress leader added. He also cited a working paper released by a public research and advocacy group to back his claims.