Fulfilling the promise of ONORC: 3 recommendations on how to bridge the gaps for both beneficiaries and dealers
Increase Awareness of Portability
Inform beneficiaries about the availability of portability through their preferred channels: PDS dealers and news media.
Support general efforts with focused awareness campaigns for high-priority groups, such as migrant construction workers and marginalized women.
An estimated 880, 000 households expressed a desire to use portability but did not know they could access it. Raising awareness could unlock benefits for them.
In addition: clearly inform PDS dealers about the possibility of inter-state portability.
Improve Portability for Beneficiaries
Improve connectivity for FPS
Upgrade technology in FPS to ensure better connectivity. E.g., ensure that all ePoS devices are 4G-enabled or extend high-speed connectivity to FPS.
This could help up to 210,000 households per month who experience transaction failures due to poor connectivity when attempting to collect rations under portability. It could support 1.3 million households per month that experience poor connectivity under PDS in general.
Implement exception handling for portability transactions when biometric authentication doesn’t work
State governments could consider developing and notifying clear rules for providing rations to portability customers when poor connectivity or authentication errors lead to failed attempts to collect rations. The Union government could provide support by developing model rules.
Once the rules are notified, raise awareness of PDS dealers and beneficiaries to ensure that all parties know how exception handling works.
This could help up to 240,000 households per month who could not access their rations at all using portability. It could support 650,000 households per month that could not get their food at all when availing rations under PDS overall.
Ensure that ration cards are issued, updated and seeded, especially for vulnerable groups
Close the remaining seeding gap through seeding camps and targeted seeding drives at FPS, focused on districts with the largest gaps.
Simplify procedures to update or correct ration cards.
Prioritize issuing ration cards for vulnerable women; simplify procedures and reduce the documentation burden for them.
Improve Portability for PDS Dealers
Allow flexible stock requisiton for PDS dealers
Implement a system to let PDS dealers requisition additional stocks when they run low, so that they can meet fluctuating demand. Andhra Pradesh has implemented such a model, which can offer learnings for other states.
Improve demand planning by using data analytics to detect patterns and shifts in portability uptake and to predict demand more accurately. This could help better manage procurement, allocation, storage, and distribution of rations.
Together, these measures could improve availability of rations and reduce PDS dealers’ fear of stockouts, which is currently an important deterrent to serving portability customers.
5 recommendations on how to bridge the gaps in the MGNREGS scheme for both beneficiaries and local administrators
Enrolment in MGNREGS
Improve beneficiaries’ awareness of MGNREGS processes through targeted CSO-led drives.
Targeted CSO-led awareness drives could help eligible individuals who are not aware of the processes with different aspects of the scheme, such as registering for a job card.
States like Andhra Pradesh have successfully collaborated with CSOs to raise awareness in Gram Panchayats where uptake of the scheme was low. They reported increased levels of awareness among beneficiaries of the different processes and their entitlements.
This has the potential to enable up to 5.4 million rural adults (estimated) in the five studied states to avail work under the scheme.
Getting employment in MGNREGS
Ensure Rozgar Diwas is held regularly and set up village level help desks to support job card holders who want to apply for employment.
Schedule Rozgar Diwas every month and inform potential beneficiaries of the date. Enlist CSOs to support with spreading awareness about the Diwas and organizing it.
Help desks located at the Gram Panchayat office have shown promise in supporting beneficiaries to fill application forms for obtaining job cards or employment, troubleshooting, and addressing general queries.
▷ Andhra Pradesh recruited additional MGNREGS staff (on a contract basis) or designated top MGNREGS beneficiaries in the Gram Panchayat to establish such help desks.
▷ Jharkhand leveraged support from empaneled CSOs to establish and operate such help desks.
This could enable an estimated 9 million rural adults across the five study states who are unable to apply for employment to receive entitlements under the scheme.
Ensuring timely wage payments
Accelerate recruitment of technical staff at Gram panchayat and Block level.
Fill up vacancies for Junior Engineers and Technical Assistants in a time-bound manner. States should make adequate budgetary provisions for hiring and retaining this staff.
Consider expanding the pool of barefoot technicians in Gram Panchayats to undertake measurement of work and assist Junior Engineers and Technical Assistants. This could ensure greater leverage for technical staff authorized to approve measurements and generate FTOs.
Faster measurement of work could speed up the process of Fund Transfer Generation Order and approval at the Gram Panchayat and Block level.
Supporting women’s participation in MGNREGS
Make more work available for women.
Expand the types of work available or introduce exclusive categories of work available for women to help them gain employment under the scheme. Ensure these are incorporated in the annual work plan for Gram Panchayats.
For example, Jharkhand has introduced the Didi Bagiya scheme under convergence with MGNREGS to train women SHGs for the creation of nurseries that support plantation activities in the state. The scheme has demonstrated early success and other states could seek inspiration from it.
This measure has the potential to impact an estimated 1.5 million women across the five study states who were not able to get MGNREGS work due to lack of available employment for women.
Leverage female role models to help overcome prejudices against women’s employment.
Female role models and support from self-help groups (SHGs) can help women overcome social norms (e.g., burden of running a household) that keep them from applying for MGNREGS employment.
The union government promoted measures to increase the proportion of female mates (head worker of a MGNREGS site crew) and barefoot technicians (semi-skilled workers supporting MGNREGS works). States like Karnataka that have adopted these measures reported that more women accessed MGNREGS.
SHGs in several other states such as UP have successfully supported women in navigating challenges and completing their job card applications.
This could help an estimated 4 million women across the five study states who want to avail MGNREGS work.
Improve Gram Panchayat level work planning and data entry for better implementation and accountability
Strengthen work-planning capacity at the local level through training or specialist support.
Andhra Pradesh and other states have invested in targeted training for both local staff and MGNREGS beneficiaries to support work planning. Workers receive regular training conducted by the state governments on tools and techniques to estimate demand for work and for mobilizing community participation. At the same time, groups of 15-20 top MGNREGS workers in each Gram Sabha receive training to support the planning efforts, and exercise agency during meetings to ensure the community voice is heard.
Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and other states have formed Cluster Facilitation Teams (CFTs) comprising experts in different fields, including community mobilization, to support local staff.
Capture all data, especially applications for employment.
Currently, MGNREGS applications for employment are often not accepted or recorded if no work is available in many Gram Panchayats. Entering all applications into the system (and providing a dated receipt) would provide a truer picture of demand for MGNREGS work and help applicants access their unemployment allowance when no work is available.
These improvements have the potential to enable an estimated 14 million rural households across the five study states to receive more entitlements under the scheme.