Bihar to fix snags in MGNREGA’s app-based attendance system

Payment due: Workers at an MGNREGA worksite.

Payment due: Workers at an MGNREGA worksite.

The district administration in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur has stepped in to help workers employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme resolve the problems they face while marking their attendance using the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS). In its latest order, dated December 23, the Union Ministry of Rural Development had made digital capturing of attendance mandatory at all MGNREGA worksites from January 1, 2023.

Workers in Muzaffarpur had threatened to go on strike over errors while uploading their geotagged and time-stamped photographs once in each half of the day using the app, resulting in non-payment of wages – a problem all workers face across the State. Out of the 13 lakh workers registered under the scheme in the district, 3.74 lakh are active workers who are paid ₹210 for a day’s work.

“We are taking all efforts to rectify the problem,” said Amna Zohra, District Programme Officer, MGNREGA, Muzaffarpur, who added that all panchayat rozgar sevaks and barefoot technicians were being trained on how to use the app.

“They have been instructed to clear the mobile phone’s cache every morning to free up memory space. Mobile connectivity is a must and the device must be adequately charged. The screenshots of the problems they face can be sent and we will work on it. We have deputed an additional PO (Programme Officer) for the task who will be given access to the app.”

Speaking to  The Hindu, Muzaffarpur District Magistrate Pranav Kumar said no MGNREGA workers would be staging a sit-in as the issue has been resolved. “There is no problem at all. We have deputed a dedicated official to upload the photographs within a stipulated time frame,” Mr. Kumar said.

‘No mobile connectivity’

Sanjay Sahni, coordinator of MGNREGA Watch, an organization based in the district, had pointed out that thousands of workers employed at Sakra, Kudhani, Gaighat, Bandra, Mudaul, Mushahari, Bochaha, Aurai and Katra blocks in the district had not received their wages as their attendance had not been recorded on the app.

“Often, there is no mobile connectivity and the photo does not get uploaded, resulting in non-payment. If 200 workers are working on a site, then it takes two hours to register the attendance of 100 workers. After 11 a.m., the photos cannot be uploaded as the system hangs and technical issues hamper its functioning,” he said.

As a result, the attendance of 50% of workers are not completed at the worksites in the district. “We will stage an indefinite dharna on the premises of the District Magistrate’s office from January 17 if the attendance of thousands of MGNREGA workers are not properly recorded,” Mr. Sahni said.

Several workers have pointed out that despite putting in several days of work, they are not paid their full wages as their attendance has not been marked in the system. “I lost my husband four years ago. I have to feed four children and I have to borrow money to survive,” said Neelam Devi of Kudhani block.

Nirmala Devi of Gaighat block said she has no option but to borrow money at high interest rates from local traders as her husband is a migrant worker in Punjab and she is dependent on the MGNREGA scheme to look after her three children.

Bihar has around 1.09 crore active workers under the scheme, which gives rural families the right to 100 days of employment every year. These workers earn ₹10,000 to ₹12,000 a year, but that too has become hard to earn now.

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