At a time when the unemployment in India is at the highest in the last 45 years, the “meagre hike in MGNREGA wages is nothing less than a much-touted “surgical strike” on the poor”.
The demand for jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been rising in the last couple of years. Despite fulfilling the demand of jobs under MGNREGA, there has been lowest increase in wage since its inception.
The wages being paid under MGNREGA have fallen below the minimum wage in 34 of the 35 states and union territories. Data shows that this is the maximum recorded difference between the Centre-notified MGNREGA wages and the state-notified minimum wages since 2009, when both were brought on a par for the first time.
Last week, the Centre notified that an average annual MGNREGA wage hikes only 2.16% across the country for the financial year 2019-20, the lowest since the social security scheme was started in 2006. Only in Nagaland, the MGNREGA wage is higher than the state’s minimum wage.
The previous reports on MGNREGA wage shows that the MGNREGA wages were below the minimum agricultural wages in 28 out of 35 states and UTs, owing to marginal hikes. The scheme is not applicable for Delhi.
The NDA-led Modi government doesn’t have a clear picture on minimum wages as notified by individual states. The NREGA Sangharsh Samiti reported that the maximum divergence is in Goa, Gujarat, Tripura, Telangana, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The MGNREGA wage is less than 70% of the minimum wages in these states while Goa has a relatively higher MGNREGA wage of Rs 254 per day, its minimum wage is much higher at Rs 409 a day.
Jharkhand and Bihar has the lowest MGNREGA wage of Rs 171 daily, the states’ minimum wages are Rs 239 and Rs 246, respectively.
A panel, set up in 2015 by the Ministry of Rural Development, recommended that MGNREGA laborers should be given either the state’s minimum wage or the then existing MGNREGA wages, whichever was higher.
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“With the rationale that workers should be paid basic wages, the panel had recommended that at least for a period of five years, this parity should be maintained. We also held that the annual wage revision should be indexed to Consumer Price Index (Rural) instead of the outdated CPI (Agriculture Labour),” Dev, Director, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, told to The Indian Express.
Presently, five states have a daily minimum wage of Rs 375 or above while the highest MGNREGA wage is Rs 284 a day in Haryana.