UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | NMMS and Issues | 25 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the recently launched NMMS and concerns associated with it.

Syllabus: GS-II Government Schemes and interventions; NREGA

NMMS

  • In May 2021, the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) launched the National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) app, a new application meant for “improving citizen oversight and increasing transparency” in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) works.
    • It is to be deployed by NREGA Mates, local women at the panchayat level who are selected and trained to monitor NREGA worksites.
    • The main feature of the app is the real-time, photographed, geo-tagged attendance of every worker to be taken once in each half of the day. 

Concerns:

  • In most States, NREGA wages are calculated based on the amount of work done each day, and workers do not need to commit to fixed hours.
    • This flexibility has been key to NREGA’s widespread demand. However, marking attendance on the app mandates that workers are at the worksite the entire day. This causes significant difficulty for NREGA workers.
  • NREGA has historically had a higher proportion of women workers (54.7% in FY 2021-22) and has been pivotal in changing working conditions for women in rural areas.
    • Due to the traditional burden of household chores and care work on women, the app is likely to disproportionately affect women workers.
    • The conditions for registering NREGA attendance on the app put them in a dilemma where they may end up foregoing NREGA work.
  • A stable network is a must for real-time monitoring; unfortunately, it remains patchy in much of rural India. This could lead to workers not being able to mark their attendance, and consequently lose a day of wages.
    • Workers in Kerala and Jharkhand are already facing problems in uploading their attendance on the app due to network problems.
  • The app has adversely impacted NREGA Mates as well. The role of a Mate was conceptualised as an opportunity to empower local women to manage attendance and work measurement in their panchayat.
    • But now, to be a Mate, one needs to have a smartphone. This new condition disqualifies thousands of women who do not own smartphones from becoming Mates.
  • Officials and activists confirmed these implementation errors had been evident throughout the pilot process. However, there is no information available publicly about the errors found and measures taken to address them.
    • With no physical attendance records signed by workers anymore, workers have no proof of their attendance and work done. Since there are no physical records the workers can use as evidence, they have no way of proving their attendance, and will consequently lose out on pay for two full weeks of work.

Way Out:

  • Instead of focusing on this app or introducing other complex technological reforms, we strongly believe social audits must be strengthened. 



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