by June 30, 2011 0 comments

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, commonly known as NREGA, is a job guarantee scheme that pledges 100 days of unskilled labour to an unemployed member from every rural household. Implemented by the Govt of India in Feb ’06, the scheme aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas. However, the biggest challenge for the govt in implementing this scheme has been in ensuring that the right people benefit from this scheme, without any duplication. Another key challenge is in ensuring that the money is transferred transparently and on time. The Govt. of Bihar took the lead in overcoming these challenges and with the help of technology was born the e-Shakti project. It’s a mammoth project, aimed at identifying the 2.5 crore BPL (Below Poverty Line) inhabitants in Bihar, and ensuring that they get the benefits due.

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e-Shakti, which is also considered as the original form of the UID project was launched in 2009. The Bihar govt. decided to register their BPL population electronically, merging their personal identification through biometric forms with a bank account. By automating this process, the money is directly disbursed to the beneficiary’s account, thereby making it a cashless transaction, thus reducing instances of corruption. Till now, 7lakh+cards have been distributed across Patna and this number is to go up to 40 Lakh over 4 districts soon. Over the course of the project the entire BPL population of Bihar is the targeted beneficiaries


Reluctance from officials, ensuring community participation at the rural level, collection of data in outlaw/naxal hit areas were the major hurdles that the implementers had to cross. But these were managed with a strong will to succeed and innovative grass root level publicity. However, some of the more difficult challenges were huge geography coverage and connectivity in remote areas. Shortage of electricity adds to the problems in implementing such a project.

The Implementation

The project began with an awareness camp about the benefits of NREGA, followed by data collection of genuine BPL recipients to prepare a demographic as well as biometric database of every NREGA recipient in Bihar. This database was further processed for de-duplication thereby removing redundancy. The recipients were then issued a tamper proof smartcard (a polycarbonate material with laser embossing). A zero balance bank account was also opened in the name of the beneficiary with an associate bank. The card holds the biometric, demographic, personal and banking details of the beneficiary. This card was used to authenticate the beneficiary at the work sites and for carrying out banking transactions.

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When the beneficiary reports at site for work, his attendance is captured through a hand held device and his smartcard. The handheld device is mapped with GIS co-ordinates which ensures that the attendance data is only captured at the work sites. The attendance data on the handheld device cannot be tampered and everyday it gets updated on the centralized server where it gets processed for wage calculations. The banking is being carried out through the business correspondent model which involves a person to travel with a handheld device and cash to remote areas and carry out banking operations. The device is used to authenticate the users and carry out their banking transactions; it also integrates with the bank’s internal systems and carries out the data upload and download.

The Result

e-Shakti has implemented NREGA sincerely by guaranteeing employment to poor and giving them banking facilities. Now even an illiterate poor person from a remote village in Bihar can get work and paid for under the NREGA scheme, in a very transparent manner. The TAT between the work done and the wage received has been significantly brought down from 6-7 weeks to 5 days. Real time MIS reports are possible across levels hence bringing in transparency within the system. People who earlier worked as migrant labour in other states now are working under the e-Shakti scheme in their own state.

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