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Double delight for labourers

With an eye on elections, state decides to double minimum wages for farm labourers and those working under rural job scheme

india Updated: Aug 21, 2009 01:31 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

With drought-like situation looming large in the state, the Maharashtra government has made another populist move to benefit the aam aadmi.

The government has decided to hike the minimum wages of farm labourers and of those employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

In fact, the government has almost doubled the existing wages of these labourers, making an amendment in the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

As per the amendments made, those receiving wages of Rs 66 per day will now get Rs 100 and those getting Rs 72 will get Rs 120.

“This hike was due for long. One of the recommendations of the NREGA was to have minimum wages of Rs 80, which we had not done. This change comes in light of that,” said Labour Minister Nawab Malik making the announcement.

The hike in wages ensures that a manual farm labour gets at least Rs 100 per day and a maximum of Rs 120 a day depending on the area he works in and the type of work.

Similarly, the scale of labour wages working on mechanised farming machines ranges from a minimum of Rs 145 to Rs 160 per day. So, a farmer earning Rs 1,716 per month for a certain job will get Rs 2,600 for the same. And for the officials or landlords who do not pay the wages, the fine amount is Rs 500 or six months imprisonment or both.

“If it doesn’t rain well soon, we are expecting substantial increase in the number of labourers turning to the employment guarantee scheme. In that case, the decision is much needed,” said Malik.

The government on Wednesday has already declared 161 of the 355 tehsils — almost half of the state — as scarcity hit.

For dealing with this situation, it has already chipped in Rs 650 crore from its own kitty and has sought Rs 500 crore from the Centre. Additionally, the government has also decided to reserve water in all its dams for drinking and farming purposes till July 2010.

Till date from the time NREGS has been implemented in Maharashtra, 3.12 lakh households have benefited from it and 15,939 works have been taken up under the scheme.