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Thursday 20 October 2011

UID project hits job plan roadblock

UID project hits job plan roadblock
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 17, 2011

Nandan Nilekani lead the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has hit a Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) roadblock.
The government had refused to make unique number or Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme unless all residents are covered.
The reason given was that MGNREGA is a universal scheme and anyone can demand work. Unless all resident in a district have an Aadhaar number, accepting UIDAI’s request will be in violation of the job guarantee law.
“Only when Aadhaar becomes universal the UIDAI request can be accepted,” a plan panel member said, while adding that there was still a long way for UIDAI to achieve the goal.
The UIDAI wanted the government to declare Aadhaar must for issuing the job cards to foster enrolment of people for the unique identity number scheme. But, the rural development ministry found that very few Aadhaar numbers have been issued to those enrolled in MGNREGA even in state such as Jharkhand, where it was launched first.
Nilekani had recently told reporters that Aadhaar number will be linked for MGNREGA bank accounts for electronic transfer of wages. It was the next step UIDAI was looking at after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) declared Aadhaar as enough for one to open a bank account. 
UIDAI chairperson Nilekani had recently met Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh and plan panel member Mihir Shah to explore the possibility of linking Aadhaar with MGNREGA bank accounts.
Once that happens, Nilekani had proposed the MGNREGA workers will get the facility of withdrawing the money at their doorsteps through banking correspondent model. A person having a small hand-held machine linked with the banks server through mobile based internet service is called banking correspondent.
The plan panel was also skeptical on the banking correspondent model as it has been employed in small pilots but not vigorously tested in the tough rural landscape, where mobile connectivity is still a problem.
“A lot of issues would have to be sorted out before UIDAI is made mandatory for MGNREHA bank accounts,” the member said.

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