Interview

Use of ICT and biometrics will bring transparency in MGNREGA : Agatha Sangma, Union Minister of State for Rural Development, Government of India, India

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The Rural Housing Division has recently launched IAY Management Information System (IAY-MIS) software ‘AWAASSoft’

Agatha Sangma
Union Minister of State for Rural Development, Government of India

Agatha Sangma, Hon’ble Union Minister of States for Rural Development, is the youngest minister in the council of ministers of 15th Lok Sabha. A lawyer, an environmentalist, an amateur photographer, Agatha Sangma in an interview with Prachi Shirur of eGov, she talks about the role of ICT in enhancing MGNREGA and what to look forward as far as new technologies are concerned in the role they play in rural development.

What steps are being taken to strengthen Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNERGA) through ICT?

Successful implementation of MGNREGA critically depends on the establishment and operationalisation of a proper computer based Management Information System through an ICT network interconnecting all the gram panchayat (GPs), blocks, districts, states and the Union Ministry.

The Ministry of Rural Development has taken numerous steps for MGNREGA. Bharat Nirman Rajeev Gandhi Sewa Kendra (BNRGSK) is notified under permissible works, for providing infrastructure for citizen centering of MGNREGA processes to strengthen the ICT at GP level Ministry has permitted States to make onetime expenses over and above 6 percent on augmentation of computational facilities and to strengthen the level staffing a GRS and Technical Unit of 2-4 core professionals in management, engineering, accounts and ICT will be deployed at each GP.

Towards this end, MGNREGA has in recent years been most proactive in promoting ICT innovations including biometrics and low cost hand-held devices.

What are the implementing challenges and how are these being overcome by the Ministry?

Some implementation challenges include widespread existence of ghost workers, discrimination in awarding work, delays in the preparations of muster rolls, delays in measurement resulting in delayed payments.

The Ministry has initiated use of biometric and ICT to check corruption and delays under MGNERGA which will bring in transparency in implementation

The objective of the proposed system is to capture and use biometric information through appropriate ICT devices for identification of the workers at the work sites and to improve the overall delivery system in the implementation of the scheme by capturing all the processes right from registration, demand of work, issue of dated receipt, allocation of work, attendance at worksite with GPS Coordinates (Latitude and longitude), measurement of work and wage payments.

The biometric data will be UIDAI and core banking compliant which may be used by UIDAI to issue ‘Adhaar’ number or by financial institutions for the wage payment in a more transparent manner.

How can use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) accelerate the rural development and bring in transparency in implementing the various development schemes for rural India?

An online monitoring mechanism has been put in place which is web enabled. All District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) are expected to give their monthly progress reports in a specified format directly into the website. Ministry has also introduced monitoring format for convergence of Indira Aawas Yojana (IAY) with other centrally sponsored schemes. All the financial sanctions issued by this division are also put on the Ministry’s website.

The relevant information containing the implementation and progress is also available for public on Ministry’s website: www.rural.nic.in with a view to generate awareness among the masses. Release of funds is also monitored by the Controller General of Account (CGA) through its website. All the sanctions for release of funds under IAY are put on CGA’s website before sending the hard copy of the sanction orders to the Pay & Accounts Office.

For National Social Assistance Programme, challenges are Weak infrastructure  at field level restricts speedy application of ICT activities”

Funds to the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAS) are released electronically by click of mouse. Beneficiaries for IAY are selected by the Gram Sabha out of the permanent IAY waitlists approved by it.

The Rural Housing Division has recently launched IAY Management Information System (IAY-MIS) software ‘AWAASSoft’. AWAASSoft is a local language enabled workflow based transaction level Management Information System to facilitate e-Governance in the system. AWAASSoft starts with setting of targets by Ministry of Rural Development for a financial year and provides for tracking release of funds to each beneficiary along with status of house construction. The objectives of AWAASSoft are work flow automation, transparency in the system, information exchange among stakeholders and empowering people. The MIS will be accessible not only to all the stake holders including beneficiaries but also citizens at large.

Training programmes to update the above mentioned software have also been chalked out to train the officials at district and block/gram panchayat level who are required to operate the software.

What are some of the challenges of implementing ICT in National Social Assistance Programme? (NSAP)?

For National Social Assistance Programme, challenges are weak infrastructure and lack of human resources at field level restricts the speedy application of ICT activities of NSAP-MIS. National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), at present, comprises Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) and Annapurna Scheme.

In order to increase the transparency, accountability and monitoring of implementation of NSAP schemes, it had been decided to computerise the data base of the beneficiaries under various schemes of NSAP.  NIC has developed the complete software for the purpose. The information can be accessed on http://nsap.nic.in. The software captures all the essential processes and includes modules on identification, disbursement of pension, release of funds, verification, sanction of pension, ground for refusal etc. Presently work is underway to integrate the State Pension Scheme to the NSAP-MIS to make it more effective.

Date of Birth
24th July, 1980

Education
LLB degree from Pune University
Masters in environmental Management from Nottingham University

Recognition
Agatha K Sangma is a Member of Parliament of India (MP), and part of the 15th Lok Sabha. She represents the Tura constituency of Meghalaya state, and won the Indian parliamentary elections as a candidate of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Presently she is youngest Minister of State in the current Cabinet

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