The Centre on Saturday urged state governments to ensure that Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme workers receive wages through the Aadhaar-based payment system.

The social security scheme introduced in 2005 guarantees 100 days of unskilled work annually for every rural household. On February 1, the Centre had made it mandatory for all payments under the scheme to be made through an Aadhaar-based payment system. Earlier, the workers had the option to choose for a bank account-based payment.

However, only 43% of the workers are enrolled for the payment system. This has led to protests from workers, activists and politicians, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. In April, the Centre had extended the deadline for workers to use the Aadhaar-based payment system for receiving wages till June 30.

The NREGA Sangarsh Morcha, a workers’ collective focused on the social security scheme, had said that it is quite difficult for the workers under MGNREGS to meet the requirements of the Aadhaar-based payment system.

“...The ABPS [Aadhaar-based payment system] is a complex, cumbersome and unreliable system that has caused severe problems in the last few years,” it had said. “There is no case for making it compulsory.”

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On Saturday, the Centre said that in many cases the authorities are not updated of frequent changes in bank account number of the beneficiaries due to which several wage payments were being rejected by banks.

“It is found to avoid such rejections; ABPS [Aadhaar-based payment system] is the best route for making wage payment through DBT [Direct Benefit Transfer],” the Centre said. “It will help the beneficiaries in getting their wage payment on time.”

On Saturday, the Union Rural Development Ministry said that out of the total 14.28 crore active beneficiaries of the employment, Aadhaar has been seeded for 13.75 crore workers. Of these, a total 12.17 crore Aadhaar numbers have been authenticated and so 77.81% workers were now eligible for the Aadhaar-based payment system.

Last month, the about 88% of the wage payment was made through the Aadhaar-based payment system, according to the ministry.

The Union Rural Development Ministry also asked state governments to organise camps and follow up with beneficiaries to ensure all payments are made through Aadhaar. However, the Centre has clarified that although beneficiaries should be requested to provide their Aadhaar number, they cannot not be refused work if they do not have one.