Notwithstanding opposition to the Aadhaar-linked scheme, the Centre authorises a mixed payment channel for NREGS until March 31.

Facing opposition to a mandatory Aadhaar-based wage payment system for the rural job guarantee plan, the Union government agreed on Sunday to use a “mixed model” payment method until March 31.

Workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) can be paid using this channel via the Aadhar Based Payment System (ABPS) and the National Automated Clearing House (NACH).

The National Payments Corporation of India established the NACH, a fund-clearing platform that electronically allows recurring interbank transactions. While the ABPS uses Aadhaar numbers to identify recipients for financial transfers, the NACH uses bank account information.

With effect from February 1, the Centre decided to make using the ABPS mandatory for payment of NREGS wages. The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha activists have been condemning this move.

“The workers are demanding I the immediate removal of the NMMS app, (ii) the reversal of the order dated February 3, 2023, requiring all NREGA payments to be made via the Aadhar Based Payment System (ABPS), and (iii) timely payment of wages and immediate release of wages that have been pending for over a year,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.

“For wage payment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Government has decided, on the request of States, to have a mixed model for payment route up to 31st March, 2023,” the Ministry of Rural Development said in a statement on Sunday. Wages are paid to all MGNREGS beneficiaries utilising the Aadhar Based Payment System (ABPS) or the National Automated Clearing House (NACH), depending on the beneficiary’s ABPS status.”

“There are two routes to be used in wage payment: ABPS- If the beneficiary is linked with ABPS, then payment can be made through ABPS only, and NACH- If the beneficiary is not linked with ABPS due to some technical reasons, etc., then Program Officer can select NACH as the mode of wage payment,” according to a statement released on Sunday.

“The number of active workers under the Mahatma Gandhi NREG Program is 14.96 crore,” according to the announcement. The Government of India is dedicated to ensuring that all workers receive their wages on time under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA. Aadhaar seeding of 14.27 crore workers (95.4%) has been done in NREGASoft out of 14.96 crore workers, with a total of 10.05 crore workers registered under the ABPS.”

“In the month of February 2023, there were a total of 4.60 crore transactions for wage payment, of which 3.57 crore transactions (77.6%) were made through ABPS,” it stated.

“The ABPS was implemented as one of the avenues for salary payment under Mahatma Gandhi NREGS for timely payment of wages,” the government stated. The mechanism assures that payments will not be delayed due to bank account issues. The approach also ensures that workers are paid transparently. Since 2017, the scheme has included Aadhaar seeding and ABPS.”

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