New Delhi: The Union Rural Development Ministry informed the Lok Sabha Tuesday that 5.18 crore names of workers were deleted from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) list in 2022-23, against 1.49 crore in 2021-22.
Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh, in a written response to a question by Congress MPs V.K. Sreekandan and Gaurav Gogoi, said the reasons spanned from death of workers to “fake job cards”.
The deletion of an MGNREGS worker from the rolls basically means that the person is ineligible to work as he is no longer registered under the rural job programme. Under the scheme, every eligible household is given a job card, which entitles its willing adult members to 100 days of work a year.
The deletions, Singh said, couldn’t be blamed on a “system error” due to the use of technology in monitoring the scheme.
In January, the Modi government had made online attendance through the National Mobile Monitoring System mandatory for MGNREGS workers. It is also pushing for an Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) for settling of MGNREGS wages — in a bid to ensure “timely payment of wages” — in spite of widespread protests by workers and activists. The deadline for ABPS implementation has been extended to 31 August 2023.
MGNREGS activists have been of the view that, in many cases, villagers’ names could have been deleted because his/her job card was not linked to the ABPS.
However, Singh stated in his written reply: “As such ‘system error’ is not a defined reason for the deletion of job cards… The various reasons for the deletion of job cards are given below: i. fake job card (incorrect job card) ii. duplicate job card iii. now, not willing to work iv. family shifted from gram panchayat permanently v. single person in job card and the person is expired.”
According to data provided by the ministry, West Bengal (83.36 lakh) saw the highest number of name deletions in 2022-23, followed by Andhra Pradesh (78.05 lakh), Odisha (77.78 lakh), Bihar (76.68 lakh) and Uttar Pradesh (62.98 lakh).
In West Bengal — where the state government and the Centre are at loggerheads after the latter decided in December 2021 to withhold funds for MGNREGS over alleged violation of rules in the scheme’s implementation of the scheme — 1.57 lakh names were deleted from the list of registered MGNREGS workers in 2021-22.
In response to another question on the payment of the MGNREGS wage component by the Centre to the state governments, Minister of State for Rural Development Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti stated: “An amount of Rs 2,765.55 crore is pending for wage component in respect of state of West Bengal under Mahatma Gandhi NREGS as on 21.07.2023.”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)