The Gujarat government has always claimed that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) — the UPA government’s flagship job scheme — did not have many takers in the state. But a panel headed by a BJP leader has found that it’s not the scheme but the poor wages that have kept workers away.
A parliamentary standing committee on rural development headed by senior BJP leader Kalyan Singh has discovered that the Gujarat government pays the least wage anywhere in India under the scheme. The wage in Gujarat is Rs 50 per day, while Kerala pays the maximum rate of Rs 125 per day. “While some states have revised the wages, it is a matter of concern that Gujarat has so far not done that,” the committee report said.
The committee felt that low wages might be the reason for labourers preferring to work in private companies where wages are much higher. “Perhaps this may be the main reason for the difference between the job cards issued and the employment provided,” it said.
During 2007-08, the rural development ministry issued 5.98 crore job cards across the country. Out of these, employment was demanded by only 2.61 crore households and provided to 2.57 crore households.
During its study the panel found large-scale disparity in wages paid across the country. The panel reiterated that the Union Rural Development Ministry should ask state governments to enhance and bring parity to the wages offered.