Govt banks on geotagging to fix leaks in NREG scheme

Govt banks on geotagging to fix leaks in NREG scheme

Representative image.

The state government is banking on technology to curtail irregularities under the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department has mandated geotagging of all works taken up under the scheme after it found over 4,000 cases of irregularities last year, in which officials were also booked for violating the scheme’s guidelines.  

A geotag is an electronic tag that assigns a geographical location to a photograph or video that gets uploaded on a digital platform. In this case, all works taken up under the rural employment guarantee scheme are uploaded on Bhuvan, a portal developed by the Centre.

“In the light of the irregularities, every work is being geotagged,” RDPR Commissioner Upendra Pratap Singh, who is in charge of the MGNREGS, said. “For example, if an anganwadi is sanctioned under the scheme, it is now mandatory to upload two photographs with latitude and longitude before construction. After 30% of the work is completed, two more photographs of the same location should be uploaded. Once the work is fully done, a final geotagging is done,” he explained.  

So far, about 22 lakh assets have been created in Karnataka under the rural employment scheme. “We have geotagged 90% of the assets. For all new works, geotagging has become compulsory since November 2017,” Singh said.

Under the MGNREGS, unskilled labourers are provided employment for 100 days in a year with a pay of Rs 236 per day. A total of 8.42 lakh works under MGNREGS are underway in Karnataka. Authorities managed to identify irregularities in 4,119 works, according to a recent RDPR department report.

“These violations include inflation of the work done, poor quality, non-maintenance of records, excess payments and so on. Many FIRs have been lodged,” Singh said. “No other scheme in India has checks and balances like the MGNREGS. Still, errors do get committed because of the sheer scale. There are 6,024 gram panchayats in the state.”

The Narendra Modi administration is pushing all states to strengthen the rural employment scheme. Last year, the Centre pulled up Karnataka for lagging behind targets in construction of farm ponds, vermi-compost pits and anganwadis.