Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Workers’ Union has exposed an allegedly ‘illegal’ system of issuing identity cards by a private agency for employment guarantee scheme workers in Mandal Offices in the state’s Kurnool district.
The District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) and District Water Management Agency (DWMA) are two agencies among state government departments which are implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme in the state.
According to the agriculture workers’ union leaders, Akshaya Communications CEO, an NGO has recently set up desks in several mandal offices of DWMA, claiming to be providing new identity cards (ID cards) signed by the project director of DWMA.
The sample ID card and the advertisement by the private company (displayed below) states that the card will contain all the card numbers of 13 other identity cards issued by the central and state governments. Furthermore, it also states that it is mandatory for all MGNREGA workers. The NGO, in the sample card states that they will be issuing the ID cards as per the directions of the district collector and DWMA project director. The private agency claimed to be providing the ID card at Rs 40 per person.
After receiving several complaints from agriculture workers over the new ID cards for wage seekers under MGNREGA being issued by an ‘unauthorised’ private agency, M Girija Shankar, Commissioner of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development had on March 20 issued instructions to B Amarnatha Reddy, Project Director of DWMA to stop the alleged issuance of such cards.
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As per the MGNREGA, job cards and job slips are issued by the gram panchayats. “Firstly, there is no requirement for new identity cards for job seekers under MGNREGA by private agencies as job cards will be issued by gram panchayats. Secondly, if the government wants to issue new cards through private agencies, the officers are obliged to follow certain rules such as notifying a bidding process and so on to select the private agency. However, in this case, no such procedure has been followed,” said V Venkateshwarlu, general secretary of Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Workers’ Union.
He added, “It was only after our repeated complaints regarding the illegal process that the commissioner has directed the officers to stop the process.”
The project director Amarnatha Reddy confirmed to NewsClick that he had issued instructions to all Mandal Parishad District Officers on February 25 to allow the private agency to issue ID cards for MGNREGA workers as directed by the District Collector. But, Reddy said that the option of availing the ID card for the workers was only ‘voluntary’ basis.
The district collector was not available for comments through telephonic mode. This report will be updated if the collector comments on the issue.
“There are about 94 lakh job cards issued in Andhra Pradesh. If all the workers were asked to avail new ID cards at Rs 40 per card, the profit of ID card issuing agencies will run into tens of crores,” explained Venkateshwarlu. A job card is issued for every household whose adult members have applied for jobs under MGNREGA and are eligible to work.
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Meanwhile, observers state that the sensitive data of the agriculture workers including their Aadhar number, bank account details and so on could be misused if unauthorised private entities gather the data in the name of issuing ID cards.
Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s state general secretary P Madhu on March 23 had written a letter to the Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy to initiate a probe into the issue. “It is illegal for permitting unauthorised private agencies to issue odentity cards. This is a clear case of cheating the workers and misusing their private information,” said Madhu in the letter.
As on March 23, there are about 1.89 crore workers under the MGNREGA scheme in the state, almost double the number of job cards issued.