Skip to main content

NREGA wages "abysmally low" at Rs 179 per day: Demand to increase them to Rs 600

Counterview Desk
In a letter Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha secretariat, representing a collective of civil society organizations and independent activists working on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) across the nation, has regretted that “NREGA wages have been abysmally low at a national average of Rs 179 per day”, violating the Minimum Wages Act (MWA), 1948.
Insisting that NREGA wages have been illegally delinked from MWA, the Morcha has said, alongside, one sees is “unpredictable delays in payments” forcing workers to turn away from this programme, “jeopardising growth and development in the country.” It demands, that the MGNREGA wage rates “in all states should be raised to Rs 600.”

Text of the letter:

NREGA has been a lifeline for the poor, with one in every three rural households working in it. About 5 crore households access some employment under this Act every year. Even though most households are able to access their full guarantee to employment under NREGA, the programme has played an important role in increasing rural incomes, women’s labour force participation and financial inclusion.
Notwithstanding several positives, the NREGA wages have been abysmally low at a national average of Rs 179 per day. In as many as 18 states, NREGA wage rates are lower than the corresponding state minimum wage rate This is a gross violation of the Minimum Wages Act (MWA) 1948.
The illegal delinking of NREGA wages from the MWA was reported by two committees -- the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC) in 2010 and the Mahendra Dev Committee (MDC) in 2013. Both these committees had representatives from the government, civil society groups and academics.
Moreover, as the MDC noted, NREGA wage rates, indexed using the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural labourers (CPI-AL) fails to accurately represent the current consumption basket of rural households. The wages need to be indexed with the CPI-R. In real terms, NREGA wages have been steadily stagnating making it an unfeasible option for those on the margins of subsistence.
The recommendations from both these committees have been ignored. Instead, the Ministry of Rural Development constituted the Nagesh Singh Committee that included only government representatives that suggested delinking NREGA wages from the Minimum Wages Act. However, it did recommend indexing NREGA wage rates to the Consumer Price Index for Rural Workers (CPI-R).
Former Additional Chief Secretary of Jharkhand, NN Sinha, a member of the Nagesh Singh Committee, wrote a dissent note in which he stated that “MGNREGA work is the last recourse while seeking work”, and that lower payment would push the worker and his family into “sub-human existence”.
This dissent note along with the recommendations of CEGC and the MDC are in line with the Supreme Court judgement of Sanjit Roy Vs State of Rajasthan (1983) case. The SC ruled that “if anything less than the minimum wage is paid to him, he can complain of violation of his fundamental right under Article 23 [Right against Exploitation] and ask the Court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him”.
Thus, the low NREGA wages and the Nagesh Singh Committee report are not just in contravention of the MWA but are also unconstitutional as per the above SC judgement.
On January 17, 2017, the Ministry of Labour and Employment set up an “Expert Committee on Determining the Methodology for Fixing the National Minimum Wage” under the chairmanship of Anoop Satpathy. Using a per head requirement of 2400 calories, 50 grams of protein and 30 grams of fats per day, the Expert Committee has recommended a national floor minimum wage at Rs 375 per day.
On the other hand, according to the 7th Pay Commission, "...recommendations of Dr. Wallace Aykroyd,the noted nutritionist, which stated that an average Indian adult engaged in moderate activity should, on a daily basis, consume 2700 calories comprising 65 grams of protein and around 45-60 grams of fat."
Using this approach, the daily minimum wages for an NREGA worker comes to Rs 600 per day. It must be kept in mind that NREGA work peaks in the pre-monsoon season when the work conditions are the most taxing. Thus nutrition intake must be commensurate to produce a more dignified and healthier work force. As a positive spillover effect, this will also lead to a more productive labour force.
Such low wages, coupled with long and unpredictable delays in payments have forced workers to turn away from this programme. Even a rapid survey would show that the NREGA wages are not commensurate with the quantity of work done thereby causing a blow to the asset building goals too.
Furthermore, the strategy to link NREGA to other asset creation programmes have further reduced the scope of additional availability of work in the villages. NREGA workers form the core of the rural labour force in the country which has tirelessly contributed towards nation building.
There is well documented evidence demonstrating the positive impact they have made towards making durable assets pertaining to water and soil conservation among several others. Their contribution to infrastructure building has led to higher growth of farmers in the country.
However, abysmal wage rates would deter them to take up NREGA work thereby jeopardising growth and development in the country. NREGA Sangharsh Morcha would therefore demand that the MGNREGA wage rates in all states should be raised to Rs 600. We also request that the Government of India should index NREGA wage to CPI-R to make an economically and morally sound country.

Comments

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.