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New system to aid wage-earners

Shillong, Dec. 19: Meghalaya today launched the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system to aid in the delivery of wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

The system was launched at the Khatar Shnong Laitkroh community and rural development block by Sohra legislator P.W. Khongjee. The block covers about 76 village employment councils.

Through the system, workers under this scheme can receive funds electronically through a smart card similar to a bank debit card. This is expected to streamline the implementation of the job scheme where there have been several instances of alleged financial anomalies at the grassroots level.

Additional chief secretary (finance) B.K. Dev Varma said the system would promote financial inclusion as Meghalaya has only 200 bank branches.

He said the state has a very low credit:deposit ratio of about 40 per cent against the national average of 60 per cent apart from low credit linkages.

Principal secretary (community & rural development) department K.N. Kumar said banks would be paid two per cent by the government from every EBT payment disbursed to each worker under this scheme.

“Through the system, no third party will be able to withdraw the wages of the workers since wages earned is credited directly to a worker’s account after receiving the wage list from the BDO. This is also part of financial inclusion to provide doorstep banking to the rural people,” Kumar said.

He also said the state has about 4 lakh jobcard holders and one million workers.

Till date, around 28,000 MGNREGA workers have registered with their respective blocks for receiving the wages electronically by using the smart card system.

The electronic system will also be implemented in all blocks except in South Garo Hills district. The state has 39 blocks spread across 11 districts.

Last year, the state government had signed memorandums of understanding with four banks — ICICI Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), Axis Bank and the Meghalaya Cooperative Apex Bank — to implement the electronic system.

The ICICI Bank will implement the system in West Khasi Hills and East Garo Hills districts while Axis Bank will cater to areas falling under West Garo Hills, Jaintia Hills and four blocks under East Khasi Hills district.

The Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank, on the other hand, will cover blocks under Ri-Bhoi district while the SBI will implement the system in another four blocks in East Khasi Hills.