Aruna Roy, a key member of the National Advisory Council headed by UPA president Sonia Gandhi, has questioned government's petition in Supreme Court against payment of minimum wages for NREGA workers.
Roy in a letter on Saturday sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused the government of subverting its commitment to aam admi and appealed for withdrawal of the petition on the issue of minimum wages vs. a central price slated for hearing on Monday. Roy attacked the PMO warning against delinking NREGA from minimum wages, which she feels renders both acts weak and ineffective.
But earlier in January the PMO had sent a note to cabinet secretariat recommending inclusion of NREGA wages as a special category within the statutory protection of MWA (HT report on January 18). The amendments also avoid clash of provisions in both laws."The petition reflects gross insensitivity of the government towards rights of the country's poor. Non-payment of minimum wages is not only unconstitutional but amounts to forced labour," she said in the letter, quoting earlier verdicts on the issue.
Roy also mocked Singh's concern on malnutrition. "Just ten days ago, you yourself noted that despite 'impressive growth in GDP, level of under-nutrition in the country is unacceptably high' and that 'problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame.'
For government to assert its right to not pay the minimum wages …amounts to abdication of its duty to uphold the rule of law. It makes statements about concern for family income and malnutrition seem like mere lip service."
The NAC member who said the rural job plan provided poor with a bargaining power contended that the petition will be a case for private sector to exploit the poor.