Thursday, July 7, 2011

NREGS helps India Post make money

Dear Comrades,

India Post is sailing through a revival, all thanks to . The flood of post office accounts opened by those employed through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to receive their payments has led to a virtual revival of the department. Close to five crore workers have opened accounts with the post offices.

India Post revenues had declines sharply following the last decade’s boom in telecom and internet communication, but since 2008-09, things have changed for the better.

Budget figures show that the net revenue of the department of posts rose 42% from Rs 3,824 crore during 2008-09 to R5,463 crore during 2009-10. In 2010-11, the rise was 18%. The department’s net receipts were languishing at R1,373 crore in 2006-07.

Due to the rush for payment of NREGS wages, the department has been hiring temporary staff to help the existing workforce manage the large number of accounts.

Although a senior postal department official said that they do not earn ‘enough’ out of these ‘no-frills’ savings accounts, the finance ministry is reimbursing the postal department R130 per account annually for incurring costs in maintaining the accounts. This implies a net income of R650 crore annually to the postal department.

Close to one lakh post offices mostly in rural areas are handling 4.94 crore NREGS accounts for timely wage disbursements. The performance of post offices in managing so many accounts has been 'satisfactory, said the department official.

“We are slowly building the savings habit in a large section of rural poor families by including them in the formal banking system,” the top postal official told FE.

Since the launch of the mega job guarantee scheme in February 2006, the UPA government has been flooded with several complaints about non-payment or partial payment for NREGS workers, and there have even been several reports of ‘ghost’ workers siphoning off the wages of genuine workers.

The MGNREGA, 2005 was amended in February, 2009 to enable payment of wages through banks and post office saving accounts of the workers. A rural development ministry official said that more than 84% of the total wage payment under the employment guarantee scheme had been made every year through banks and post offices. Last fiscal, close to R25,000 crore of NREGS wages were paid through these saving accounts.
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