The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has asked the government to ensure that over one crore workers enrolled under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should get wages as per minimum wages applicable in different states.
As of now, those enrolled in the world’s biggest job guarantee scheme in 19 states get wages less than what has been prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. In some states, minimum wages is as high as R200 per day.
The rural development ministry, which administers the scheme, prescribed R100 per day as wage for workers under NREGA but is not willing to pay as per the minimum wages, which vary in states.
The states governments are also not willing to pay minimum wages saying as per the MGNREGA the Centre has to pay for the wages. The Centre has refused to pay more than R 100 per person per day citing financial constraints.
However, Andhra Pradesh high court in 2009 struck down the Centre’s order saying it violated the minimum wages law. The NAC recommendation now allow the government to correct the legal discrepancy.
“I have not seen the NAC recommendations,” said BK Sinha, secretary Rural Development, when asked about his views. “It is a policy decision which will have to be examined in consultation with the minister.”
Government sources said the earlier efforts of rural development minister CP Joshi to link MGNREGA wages with minimum wages was not accepted by the financial ministry. In a bid to resolve the issues, the NAC has also decided to organise inter-ministerial meetings