The new revised wages for the central government’s flagship rural employment scheme has left many state governments bewildered with the they being raised by Rs 2 in West Bengal and maximum Rs 20 in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Critics say the revised wages will barely be able to attract labourers thereby defeating the objectives of the scheme.
Haryana has once again seen the maximum hike in wages, while the southern states have been given hikes of Rs 20 with the nort-eastern states experiencing a minimal increase.
Accoring to PTI report, remuneration under MGNREGA has been raised to Rs 240 in Kerala from Rs 229 last year. It has been hiked to Rs 224 in Karnataka from Rs 204, Rs 203 in Tamil Nadu from Rs 183 last, and Rs 194 in Andhra Pradesh from Rs 180.
While Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have got a hike of Rs 20, the wages in West Bengal and Assam have been raised by just Rs two and Rs three respectively. Odisha did not get any hike with the wage remaining stagnant at Rs 174. This despite Odisha government’s request to the Centre to raise it at least to Rs 200 per day.
With the state facing a drought, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had in November last year written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to increase the MGNREGA wages to Rs 200, which was the minimum wage in the state for unskilled labourers.
In Punjab, the wage has been fixed at Rs 218, a raise of Rs 18 over the previous year.
Punjab Chief Parkash Singh Badal had in September last year asked the Centre to increase the wages under the national rural job scheme to at least Rs 300 a day to attract workers.
In a letter to Rural Development Minister Birender Singh, Badal had said the scheme with its existing wage of Rs 210 was not being able to draw workers. The daily wage for unskilled workers in the state is around Rs 300.
Criticising the Centre on the new MGNREGA wages, social activist Nikhil Dey said not giving the workers even the minimum wage in a number of states is “immoral, illegal and unconstitutional” at a time when the salaries of MLAs have increased up to even four times and those of central government employees have gone up substantially following implementation of the 7th pay commission recommendations.
Citing the example of Rajasthan, he said while the MGNREGA wage has been fixed at Rs 181, raising it from earlier Rs 173, the minimum wage in the state is Rs 197.
He said a similar situation exists in a number of states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
When a dispute had arisen over the gap between remuneration under MGNREGA and the minimum wage fixed in Karnantaka, the Karnataka High Court had In July 2011 asked the Centre to pay the rural job scheme workers the state’s minimum wages, including the arrears since 2008.