Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said workers employed under the government's flagship rural jobs scheme, Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, would get higher wages to offset inflation.
"We have decided to hike the wages as per the rise in consumer price index. This will raise the wages by 17 to 30 %," Manmohan Singh said at a function to mark the fifth anniversary of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The gathering was also addressed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi who called for new direction.
The prime minister recalled that the daily minimum wages of a worker in the scheme was Rs.65 when it began in 2006. "Now it is Rs.100, which itself is a big rise," he pointed out.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said it was time to introspect on the shortfalls of the scheme and move forward in new directions.
"The scheme has been a big success in creating employment for rural people, especially those belonging to weaker sections and women," she said. "However, there have been complaints of irregularities and corruption too."
"It is an occasion to analyse the shortcomings in the implementation of the scheme, plan new directions and move forward," she said.
Manmohan Singh said a substantial section of the beneficiaries of the NREGA were Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women. The scheme has been able to boost rural economy, he added.
He said the scheme was a "major step by the UPA government to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi's dream of alleviating poverty".
Grassroots officials of NREGA and other rural development schemes were awarded prizes at the function. Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and ministers of state Pradeep Jain, Sisir Adhikari and Agatha Sangma were among those who attended the function.