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Paltry increase in NREGA wages, as tycoons get tax rebates, loan waiver: NGO network

By Our Representative 

Well-known civil rights network NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, protesting “extremely paltry” increase in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), has said that the so-called rise has been effected despite the fact that the country’s economy has “still not fully recovered from the disruptions caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns imposed by the government last year”, and those who had migrated to their villages are failing to get job in cities or rural areas.
It said in a statement, “The working conditions of continue to remain precarious in urban areas. Many workers who returned to their village last year are once again forced to migrate in search of work. Some of them had to go back to their village empty handed.”
Giving details of the NREGA wage rate for 2021-22 for all the states, the civil rights network said, “There is no increase in Kerala’s NREGA wage rate. Rajasthan’s wage rate has increased by just Re 1. In fact, for 24 states, the increase in the NREGA wage rate is less than 5 per cent.”
Pointing out that while many of those who were forced to migrate to the villages during the lockdown were “empty handed”, it said, “The negligible increase in NREGA wages for the coming financial year will only reinforce this trend. A well-functioning NREGA with adequate wages can provide a lifeline for rural workers and play an important role in reducing distress migration.”
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha regretted, “It is shocking that while even during an economic downturn the government helps businesses by giving them loan write-offs and tax concessions, it doesn’t have the will to provide a living wage for the poorest workers." 
Wages in selected states
It added, "Like the passage of the labour codes last year, the negligible increase in NREGA wages demonstrates the government’s willingness to sacrifice workers’ basic rights for the sake of corporate profits.”
Demanding that the Central government should increase NREGA wage rate at least to the level of the statutory minimum wage rate for agriculture, it insisted, “Over time, the government must also align the wage rates as per the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.”
It further said, “It must also increase the guarantee of work to 200 days. This will require a significant increase in the budget allocated for the programme. The central government has only allocated Rs 73,000 crore for NREGA for 2021-22; Rs 38,500 crore less than the amount allocated for 2020-21.”

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