After poverty line, the government and the civil society may be converging on paying crores of workers enrolled under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) with the minimum wages law.
The government had earlier rejected the demand of civil society members including Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC) of paying wages to MGNREGA workers as per notified minimum wages of state governments. The reason, a view in the government, that states can arbitrarily hike minimum wages, thereby funding MGNREGA difficult.
But, the UPA government decided to index MGNREGA wages with inflation on yearly basis, meaning automatic wage revision once a year. It meant that only in 11 states MGNREGA wages was higher than state notified minimum wages.
The Karnataka high court this week held that denial of minimum wage to worker was breach of fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined under the Constitutional. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said he will not like to go in appeal against the high court's decision.
"We hope this decision will be used as an opportunity to conclusively resolve this issue and ensure that no worker is forced to work for less than minimum wages in the country," said NAC member Aruna Roy in a statement.
Roy also wrote to Gandhi saying that the concerns of the Central government on arbitrary increase in minimum wages can be dealt under the central schedule of the Minimum Wages Act. "Wage rates of each state can be fixed through tripartite consultative process to ensure that the state government did not arbitrarily raise the minimum wage rates," her letter said.
She also said not linking MGNREGA wages with minimum wages was "blatant instance of insensitivity to the rights of the poor" and its time to find a long term solution to the issue.