Getting wages harder than the labour

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published Published on Nov 18, 2020   modified Modified on Nov 19, 2020

-The Hindu

Multiple bank visits, repeated rejections and biometric errors mar payment system, says study.

For most rural workers dependent on the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), their labour does not end at the work site. According to a study by LibTech India released on Wednesday, many of them are forced to make multiple trips to the bank, adding travel costs and income losses, and face repeated rejections of payment, biometric errors and wrong information, just to get their hands on their wages.

For example, take a worker in Jharkhand who puts in a week of hard labour to earn 1,026 which the government credits directly into her bank account. The study found that almost 40% of the workers must make multiple trips to the bank branch to withdraw their money.

It costs an average of 53 a trip, and as the branch is usually at the block headquarters a significant distance from her home village, and the time spent at the bank is three to four hours, a worker will also lose the day’s wages while she attempts to withdraw her money. Paying 100 for travel for two trips, plus 342 for lost wages, plus about 25 for food, the worker may spend 392, effectively shelling out a third of her weekly wage just to withdraw it.

Pandemic blues

“Even in regular times, these last mile challenges make it hard for workers to access their own wages in a timely manner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is exacerbated as transport becomes harder, and there is no question of physical distancing at a rural bank,” says LibTech researcher Sakina Dhorajiwala, who is one of the lead authors of the report.

The study, based on a 2018-19 survey of almost 2,000 workers in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, was sponsored by a research grant from Azim Premji University. “In the two years since we did the survey, there has been little change in the number of bank branches per capita in rural areas, so most of these challenges remain. There is only one branch per 20 gram panchayats,” she said.

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The Hindu, 18 November, 2020,

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