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Congress Accuses BJP Govt Of 'Weaponizing' Adhaar To Deny Most Vulnerable Citizens Their Social Welfare Benefits

After the Ministry of Rural Development announced that the progress of the Aadhaar-based payment system has been reviewed and the mixed payment method has been extended until 31 December or until further orders, the opposition party hit out at the BJP government.

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Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of weaponizing Adhaar and technology to deny the most vulnerable citizens their social welfare benefits and demanded the release of payments due to MGNREGA workers.

 Days after the Ministry of Rural Development announced that the progress of the Aadhaar-based payment system has been reviewed and the mixed payment method has been extended until 31 December or until further orders, the opposition party hit out at the BJP government.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in a statement reminded that this was the fifth extension given by the government. 

Ramesh further said that this has become unavoidable as 41.1 per cent of the 26 crore job card holders are still unable to use this payment method despite four extensions. He continued to say that with the 4th extension to expire on August 31st, only 18.3 % of current workers would be ineligible, the government had indicated that there would be no further extensions.

Ramesh said that instead of implementing open muster rolls and social audits to improve transparency, the government should stop "weaponizing" Aadhaar and technology to deny the most vulnerable citizens their social welfare benefits and release the payments due to MGNREGA workers. The Modi government, especially in the case of MGNREGA and soon with pensions and other social welfare benefits, has used it as a "weapon to exclude citizens from their guaranteed rights", Ramesh said. 

"By making them bear the brunt of its 'experiments with technology', the Modi government has hurt the incomes of the most vulnerable and the poorest of the poor," he alleged.

Aadhaar was introduced by the UPA government as a tool to empower citizens by making it easier for them to access social welfare benefits, he said. 

Ramesh alleged that with five state polls around the corner and the widespread outrage, the government is trying to delay the inevitable with its continued "experiments with technology".

He reportedly said, "The prime minister's disdain for MNREGA is well-documented. Yet, the Modi government was forced to turn to MGNREGS during the COVID-19 pandemic and even now due to the continuing rural distress, record numbers of workers have demanded work under MGNREGA this year."

Ramesh further accused the Centre of repeatedly denying work or wages to MGNREGA workers to escape its law-mandated responsibility to pay wages to all those who demand work in the name of improving transparency and efficiency.

According to the government's own estimate, more than 2.6 crore active workers would not have been paid their legally mandated wages from September 1, Ramesh said. He added that this number does not include the crores of workers who have had their job cards deleted due to various errors of omission and commission.

Ramesh explained, "A working paper released by a public research & advocacy group, Libtech, analyses approximately 3.2 crore wage transactions, spread across 327 blocks in 10 states notes that there is no significant efficiency gain with Aadhaar-based payment system vis-a-vis bank account payments - as there is neither a notable difference in time taken to process payments (39 per cent in 7 days versus 36 per cent), nor an improvement in rejection rates (2.1 per cent versus 2.6 per cent)."

The paper also notes that massive issues exist with the payments system - wages are being diverted or misdirected to different account holders due to Aadhaar linking errors, and crores of job cards have been deleted as workers are unable to meet the cumbersome Aadhaar-based payment system requirements due to systemic errors and systematic discrimination, he said.

"A large amount of the delay payment compensation due to the workers has not been released yet, nor even acknowledged by the Modi government, despite repeated demands," Ramesh said, citing the paper.

(With PTI inputs)

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