Skip to main content

Increase in NREGA wages by Re 1 to Rs 17 Modi govt’s "surgical strike" on workers

Counterview Desk
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has, in a statement, taken strong exception to the Government of India decision to raise NREGA workers' wages by a mere Re 1 to Rs 17, calling it "anti-workers decision". The top civil rights network has demanded an increase in the NREGA wage rate to Rs 600 a day, which it says is in consonance with the Seventh Pay Commission recommendation of Rs 18,000 as the minimum monthly salary for Central government employees.

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha commentary:

The wage rates for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) workers for 2019-20, notified by the Government of India, have again exposed the Centre’s lack of commitment for NREGA workers’ rights. The hike ranges from a meagre Re 1 to a majestic Rs. 17 for various states and Union Territories (UTs).
And workers of 6 states and UTs will have to be content with no hike at all. Workers of poor states like Jharkhand and Bihar, who did not get a hike last year, are lucky that will get an increase of Rs. 3 and Rs. 2 respectively. The average increase in NREGA wage rate across the country is a measly 2.6%.
For 33 states and Union Territories the NREGA wage rate is less than the corresponding minimum wage for agriculture, condemning its employment guarantee act workers to another year of bonded labour. 
The difference is greatest in Goa, where the NREGA wage rate is only 62 per cent of the state minimum wage for agriculture. This ratio is in the range of 60-70 per cent for a number of poor states such as Telangana and Odisha.
At a time when the country is going through one of the worst employment crisis in decades, this meagre hike in NREGA wages is nothing less than a much-touted “surgical strike” on the poor. Unemployment is at a historical high. 
The poor are still recovering from 2016’s demonetisation that crippled the informal economy that led to job-loss for millions across the country. It is ironical that while the government tom-toms about the spectacular economic growth in the last five years, rural wages have remained stagnant in the same period.
Despite recommendations from government-appointed committees to link NREGA wages with state minimum wages (by Mahendra Dev Committee) and to index the wage rate to Consumer Price Index - Rural Labourers (CPI-RL) instead of Consumer Price Index – Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL) (by Nagesh Singh Committee), the government did not even implement these meagre recommendations.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld minimum wages as a fundamental right and equated payment of anything less as “forced labour”. 
Unremunerative NREGA wages, coupled with long delays in wage payments – even non-payment of wages in many cases – has turned many rural workers away from the employment guarantee programme.
In the last few years, workers took to streets several times to demand an increase in wage rate. Jharkhand’s workers even returned the meagre hike of Rs. 5 (in 2016-17) and Re. 1 (in 2017-18) to the Prime Minister to wake him up to their reality. 
Amidst the political brouhaha of Ashirwad Yojana and minimum income guarantee programme, it is nothing less than a joke that the government is not able to ensure even minimum wages to workers.

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.