MGNREGA Scheme

Issues with use of NMMS app in NREGA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Use of NMMS app and issues

Context

The National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) app seeks to improve citizen oversight and increase transparency in NREGA works. This causes significant difficulty for NREGA workers.

About NMMS app

  • National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) App  was launched by the Minister of Rural Development on May, 21 2021.
  • The National Mobile Monitoring App is applicable for the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA workers for all the States/ Union Territories.
  • This app is aimed at bringing more transparency and ensure proper monitoring of the schemes.
  •  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. 
  • The app helps in increasing citizen oversight of the programme.

Issues with the use of the app

  • While such an app may be useful in monitoring the attendance of workers who have fixed work timings, 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.
  • Disproportionately affects women: 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.
  • Lack of stable network: There are challenges of implementation with the NMMS as well.
  • A stable network is a must for real-time monitoring; unfortunately, it remains patchy in much of rural India.
  • NREGA Mates impacted: 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.
  • 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.
  • Erosion of transparency:  The app claims to “increase citizen oversight” by “bringing more transparency and ensuring proper monitoring of the schemes, besides potentially enabling processing payments faster”.
  • With no physical attendance records signed by workers anymore, workers have no proof of their attendance and work done.
  • No clarity provided on corruption: While ostensibly the NMMS’s focus on real-time, geo-tagged attendance could be one way of addressing this corruption, the MoRD has not provided much clarity on either the magnitude of this corruption or the manner in which the NMMS addresses it.
  • No parameters: There are no parameters established to assess the app’s performance, either on transparency, or on quicker processed payments.

Way forward

  • Social audits: Social audits are citizen-centric institutions, where the citizens of the panchayat have a direct role and say in how NREGA functions in their panchayat.
  • Audits have worked well in the past, allowing the local rights holders to be invested in decisions, and hold the administration accountable themselves.

Conclusion

The NMMS has very clear problems that will make it increasingly difficult for workers to continue working under NREGA, eroding the right to work that underwrites the NREGA Act.

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