Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions given below it. Certain words have been printed in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
Delays of several months in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) wage payments and worksites where labourers have lost all hope of being paid at all have become the norm in many States. How are workers who exist on the margins of subsistence supposed to feed their families? Under the scheme, workers must be paid within 15 days, failing which they are entitled to compensation under the Payment of Wages Act-uptoRs. 3,000/- per aggrieved worker. In reality, compensation is received in only a few isolated instances.
It is often argued by officials that the main reason for the delay is the inability of banks and post offices to handle mass payments of NREGS wages. Though there is a grain of truth in this, as a diagnosis it is misleading. The ‘jam’ in the banking system has been the result of the hasty switch to bank payments imposed by the Central Government against the recommendation of the Central Employment Guarantee Council which advocated a gradual transition starting with villages relatively close to the nearest bank.
However delays are not confined solely to the banking system. Operational hurdles include implementing agencies taking more than fifteen days to issue payment orders, viewing of work measurement as a cumbersome process resulting in procrastination by the engineering staff and non-maintenance of muster rolls and job cards etc. But behind these delays lies a deeper and deliberate ‘backlash’ against the NREGS. With bank payments making it much harder to embezzle NREGS funds, the programme is seen as a headache by many government functionaries–the workload has remained without the ‘inducements’. Slowing down wage payments is a convenient way of sabotaging the scheme because workers will desert NREGS worksites.
The common sense solution advocated by the government is to adopt the business correspondent model wherein bank agents will go to villages to make cash payments and duly record them on handheld electronic devices. This solution is based on the wrong diagnosis that distance separating villages from banks is the main issue. In order to accelerate payments, clear timelines for every step of the payment process should be incorporated into the system as Programme Officers often have no data on delays and cannot exert due pressure to remedy the situation. Workers are both clueless and powerless with no provision for them to air their grievances and seek redress. In drought affected areas the system of piece rate work can be dispensed with, where work measurement is not completed within a week and wages may be paid on the basis of attendance. Buffer funds can be provided to gram panchayats and post offices to avoid bottlenecks in the flow of funds. Partial advances could also be considered provided wage payments are meticulously tracked. But failure to recognise problems and unwillingness to remedy them will remain major threats to the NREGS.
What solution has the author suggested to expedite NREGS wage payments?