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Mainstream, VOL LV No 31 New Delhi July 22, 2017

MGNREGA Workers Need and Deserve Better Wages

Saturday 22 July 2017, by Bharat Dogra


The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was enacted to ensure economic security to those most deprived of it by providing them a guarantee of employment close to their home. However, the real life experience of many workers, who have toiled at these work sites, is that due to low wage rate as well as frequent delays in wage payment this security is often denied to them.

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha is a national level platform of people’s organisations, trade unions and others devoted to the proper implementation of the NREGA in keeping with its original aims and spirit. This Morcha has recently written in detail to the Rural Development Ministry of the Union Government regarding its concerns and demands relating to the NREGA.

This submission, made on June 26, has pointed out that at present the prevailing wage rates for the NREGA in some States are below the wage rates for agriculture and construction workers. The revision of wage—that has taken place in some States recently—is very low, that is, just Re One increase in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

This submission has demanded that the Government of India should declare a floor level minimum wage rate for the country based on the recommendations of the 15th Indian Labour Conference, the Akroyd Committee and the Supreme Court orders in the Raptakos Brett case. The Morcha has said that this should be the wage for the MGNREGA and all minimum wages declared by the States should be equal to or above this minimum floor. The Consumer Price Index (rural) should be used to revise the wages every year.

In addition another serious problem is that at times there are long delays in payments of the NREGA wage. While travelling to several remote villages it has been a very distressing experience to hear people speak about very long delays in the payment of wages. At times this has happened even in the middle of serious drought situations. This is even more unjust and timely payment of the NREGA wages must be ensured.

Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

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