Agriculture

MGNREGA Wages in 15 States Lower Than Minimum Agricultural Wages, Finds Committee

MGNREGA workers on the outskirts of Ajmer, Rajasthan. Credit: PTI

MGNREGA workers on the outskirts of Ajmer, Rajasthan. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: This year’s budget of Rs 48,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was the highest ever, but only on paper. This allocation was actually the lowest ever wage revision of 2.7%, or a per day wage hike of Re 1 for states like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and Rs 2 or Rs 3 in others included Tamil Nadu and Odisha, which were affected by droughts, reported the Indian Express.

In 2011, the minimum daily wage and the MGNREGA wage in Bihar was Rs 120, today the minimum daily wage has increased to Rs 232 per day but the MGREGA wage is Rs. 168. Jharkhand, with Rs. 168, has the lowest daily MGNREGA wage, while the minimum agricultural wage is Rs. 224.

The Indian Express today reported that a committee that is to revise the MGNREGA wages, has found that the minimum agricultural wages in 15 states is higher than the MGNREGA wages. These states include Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

“In the 15 states where MGNREGA wages are lower, we tried revising it to bring it on par with the minimum agricultural wages paid by the respective states. Where MGNREGA wages are on par or higher, we decided to protect it as it is. If a revision is done as per this formula, it is estimated that a Rs 4,500 crore addition to the existing MGNREGA budget would be needed,” a Ministry of Rural Development official told the Indian Express.

Earlier this month, some NGOs working for the enhancement of wages under the act, wrote to the Nagesh Singh, additional secretary of the Union ministry for rural development, reported the Times of India. Their letter stated: “MGNREGA wages are below the declared minimum wage for agriculture and construction work in many states. This is in direct violation of the fundamental right to equality given in Article 14. It also violates the fundamental right to life guaranteed by Article 21, forcing people to work at less than subsistence wages.”

The letter also said that MGNREGA wages were adjusted for inflation only once a year, while wages in other sectors were revised twice a year.