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Keep UID out of NREGA!

2 December 2010

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The undersigned demand that the plan to link MGNREGA to aadhaar (or UID) be revoked immediately. This is an extremely dangerous move that threatens to cause havoc in MGNREGA’s fragile structure.

The Ministry of Rural Development has put out a tender (dated 11 October, 2010) worth Rs. 2162 crores to engage "service providers" for MGNREGA under a "public private partnership" model. The contract includes "UIDAI compliant enrolment of job card holders under MGNREGA scheme", "Recording...data in the field such as biometric attendance at worksite with GPS coordinates..and updation of centralized MIS." and similar measures.

Clearly, the Ministry intends to link the issue of new job cards to UID enrolment in the states. Job cards issued in 2006 are due to expire in 2011. Job cards are required to claim employment under the MGNREGA. If the issue of new job cards is linked to UID enrolment, there is a danger of creating a jam that would disrupt the programme. The process of job cards renewal, in any case a slow process, will be further slowed down. Many people are likely to be denied their entitlement to 100 days of work as they will be without a job card. Further, in spite of the hiring of "service providers", the entire administrative machinery is likely to be diverted into capturing of biometrics or supervising "service providers". The scale of MGNREGA works is bound to suffer. This would be a gross injustice to NREGA workers, who are already deprived of their basic entitlements.

The proposal of "biometric attendance at the worksite with GPS coordinates" is completely impractical - many MGNREGA worksites are in remote areas with poor or no connectivity. Does that mean those worksites will close down?

We do welcome the use of technology provided that it enhances transparency, empowers labourers and is cost effective. Such technology has been used with success in Tamil Nadu. For instance, it combines SMS reports on daily attendance with random spot checks to curb the problem of fake muster roll entries. Localized use of biometrics, independent of UID, to speed up payments can be considered. Biometrics and UID are not the same. In Rajasthan, simpler measures have been put in place, such as "transparency walls" where all job card holders in the Gram Panchayat are listed along with days of work, allowing people to monitor implementation.

There are many problems in the implementation of the MGNREGA which need the urgent attention of the Ministry. These include the non-payment of minimum wages, delays in wage payments, insufficient scale of MGNREGA works, discrimination against Dalits and women, and so on.

We therefore demand that neither MGNREGA employment nor wage payments be linked to UID enrolment. Employment of 100 days under MGNREGA is the only universal entitlement that the rural poor enjoy. It should not be jeopardized by the introduction of disruptive technology under pressure from corporate and security lobbies.

Signatories

1. Anindita Adhikari (NREGA researcher)
2. Jasveen Ahluwalia
3. Sohail Akbar (Associate Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia University)
4. Evangeline Ambat (Consultant, Child In Need Institute, Ranchi)
5. Anivar Aravind (Information Architect, Bangalore)
6. ASHA Parivar (Uttar Pradesh)
7. Lalit Batra (Department of Geography, University of Minnesota)
8. Niloufer Bhagwat (Advocate, Mumbai)
9. Bela Bhatia (Human Rights Activist)
10. Kiran Bhatty
11. Arudra Burra (Post-doctoral Scholar, UCLA School of Law)
12. Karthik Rao Cavale (Student, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey)
13. Professor Uma Chandru (member, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka)
14. Mihir Chattopadhyay (Student, St. Stephen’s College)
15. Rajdev Chaturvedi (Gramin Punarnirman Sansthan)
16. Anuradha Chenoy (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
17. Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
18. Deepta Chopra (Research Fellow, IDS, University of Sussex)
19. Samantak Das (Reader, Jadavpur University)
20. Rohit De (Princeton University)
21. Nikhil Dey, Aruna Roy and Shankar Singh (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
22. Arundhati Dhuru (National Alliance of People’s Movements)
23. Jean Drèze (Honorary Professor, University of Allahabad)
24. Archana Dwivedi (Centre for Health and Social Justice)
25. Pradeep Esteves (Context India, Bangalore)
26. Jayati Ghosh (Professor, CESP/SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
27. Shohini Ghosh (Professor, AJK MCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia University)
28. Aashish Gutpa (Student, IIT Madras)
29. Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD)
30. Rohini Hensman (Insaaniyat)
31. Himanshu (Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
32. Radha Holla (Campaign Coordinator, IBFAN Asia/BPNI)
33. Javed Iqbal (Journalist, The New Indian Express)
34. Maidul Islam (University of Oxford)
35. Praveen Jha (Professor, CESP/SSS, Jawharlal Nehru University)
36. Harsh Jhaveri (Student, Yale University)
37. Anirban Kar (Associate Professor, Delhi School of Economics)
38. Pratiksha Khanduri (Delhi University)
39. Reetika Khera (Visitor, Centre for Development Economics)
40. Sowmya Kidambi (Social Activist)
41. Gopal Krishna (Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties)
42. Madhuri Krishnaswamy (Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan)
43. Abhay Kumar (Navjeevan Mahila Okkoota, Karnataka)
44. Aishwary Kumar (Assitiant Professor, Stanford University)
45. Hemanshu Kumar (Ph.D. Scholar, Delhi School of Economics)
46. Pankaj Kumar (Majdoor Kisan Samiti, Deoghar, Jharkhand)
47. Lok Samiti (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh)
48. Kamayani Bali Mahabal (Human Rights Activist and lawyer)
49. Simrin Makhija (Co-ordinator, Khunti NREGA Sahayata Kendra)
50. Ragini Saira Malhotra
51. Nandini Manjrekar (Ph. D., Tata Institute of Social Sciences)
52. Ali Mir (Professor, New York Institute of Technology)
53. Rajkishore Mishra (Right to food campaign, Orissa)
54. Srijit Mishra (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai)
55. Gautam Mody (on behalf of New Trade Union Initiative)
56. Bidyut Mohanty (SPREAD, Koraput, Orissa)
57. Amitabh Mukhopadhyay (Director General, Training & Communication, CAG office)
58. Sukumar Muralidharan (Freelance Journalist)
59. Sameer Murthy (Visiting fellow, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research)
60. Karuna Muthiah (Right to food campaign, Tamil Nadu)
61. Siddharth Narrain (Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore)
62. Vimla Nadkarni (Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences)
63. Subhalakshmi Nandi
64. Gopika Nangia (Student, Lady Sri Ram college, University of Delhi)
65. Sudha Narayanan (Cornell University)
66. Nandini Nayak (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
67. Gangaram Paikra (Chhattisgarh Kisan Mazdoor Andolan)
68. Aseem Prakash (Senior Fellow, Institute for Human Development, New Delhi)
69. Mythri Prasad (Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram)
70. Kalyani Raghunathan (Economics Ph.D. candidate, Cornell University)
71. Mridu Rai (Trinity college, Dublin)
72. Vinod Raina (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti)
73. Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women)
74. Suvrat Raju (Ph. D., Harish-Chandra Research Institute)
75. R. Ramakumar (Associate Professor, Tata Institute for Social Sciences)
76. Shamika Ravi (Assistant Professor, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad)
77. Ben Rogaly (University of Sussex)
78. Indrajit Roy (D.Phil candidate, University of Oxford)
79. Salil Dias Sabir (Business Analyst, KPMG Advisory, Mumbai)
80. Ruhi Saith (Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study, JNU)
81. Preeti Sampat (City University of New York)
82. Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Shakti Sangathan (Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh)
83. Sanil M.N. (Research Scholar, CSSS/SSS, JNU, New Delhi)
84. Mallika Sarabhai (CRANTI, Citizens Resource and Action Network Initiative)
85. Joseph Sebastian (Student, St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai)
86. Mitu Sengupta (Associate Professor, Ryerson University, Toronto)
87. S. Seshan (Teacher, Mumbai)
88. Shaheen (Bangalore)
89. Ujjainee Sharma (Student, Delhi School of Economics)
90. Urvashi Sharma (Founder & Convener, "YAISHWARYAJ")
91. Dr. K. Shanmugavelayutham (Convenor, TN-FORCES)
92. Pritam Singh (Reader, Oxford Brookes University Business School)
93. Dipa Sinha (Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
94. Sowmya Sivakumar (Freelance journalist)
95. Kavita Srivastava (People’s Union for Civil Liberties)
96. Kamayani Swami and Ashish Ranjan (Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar)
97. Anuradha Talwar (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, West Bengal)
98. Sonya Thomas (Intern, Opportunity International Australia)
99. Shashank Verma (Director, CleanStar Energy)
100. Vikram Vyas (Physicist, St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi)