In an innovative move, biometric cards will be given to those working under NREGA to bring more transparency in the implementation of the Centre's employment guarantee programme, facing complaints of gross irregularities and malpractices in many parts of the country.
A decision to prepare biometric database of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA workers "within 12 months" has recently been taken by the Rural Development Ministry in New Delhi in a meeting which was also attended by officials from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), official sources in the ministry said.
For this, it was decided that the Ministry will prepare and share guidelines and service level agreement with states "with an objective to complete the project within 12 months from the date of start," they said.
In the meeting, it was also decided that the database will be shared with UIDAI for its unique identification project, which has recently been renamed as 'Aadhar Project of India', they added.
Sources said the plan to introduce biometric cards for payment of wage under NREGA had been pending with the Ministry since long. A few states, including Orissa, Rajasthan, Assam and Bihar, started it on a pilot basis in some of their districts.
"The process for its preparation was initiated as minister (CP Joshi) was himself very keen on it, especially because the Ministry had been continuously receiving complaints of irregularities in the payment of wages from different parts of the country," they said.
As per figures with the Ministry, over five crore households have so far been offered jobs across the country under NREGA which guarantees 100 days employment annually on demand to any adult in rural areas.
About 1,230 complaints regarding irregularities in the implementation of the Act have been brought to the notice of the Ministry of Rural Development since launching of the programme in 2006.
In the last three years, about 100 complaints regarding non-payment of wages and 36 complaints regarding untimely payment of wages have been received by the Ministry, sources said.
There were also complaints from some states about leakage of funds due to fake attendance. "Biometric card is expected to help contain such alleged cases of irregularities to a great extent. It can make manipulation of data impossible," they said.