Government's NREGA wages raise is lowest ever
The wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme have been raised by 2.7 per cent from this financial year, the lowest hike ever under the scheme. Last year saw the wages increased by slightly higher percentage of 5.7.
For states such as Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, such a low percentage increase would translate into an increase of just Re 1. While drought-hit states such as Odisha and Tamil Nadu would see an increase of Rs 2, and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana of Rs 3.
Jharkhand and Bihar will be the states with the lowest wages with the workers getting Rs 168 for a day's work. On the other end, Haryana tops with highest wages of Rs 277 after an increase of Rs 18.
A committee set up by the rural development ministry had earlier recommended to bring MNREGA wages on par with minimum wages paid to unskilled agriculture workers in India. But the finance ministry rejected these recommendations claiming such a change in base wage rate was not advisable at this stage.
On reasons behind such a move by the government, a finance ministry spokesperson has reported to have said that the implementation of the recommended hike would have had huge implications for the exchequer.
He added, "Moreover, nowhere does the MGNREGA legislation mandate that minimum wages have to be paid, the government can fix the wage rate. Also, if the MGNREGA wages are increased steeply, people will move towards MGNREGA and there won't be enough labourers willing to do agriculture work."