The Centre's flagship rural employment guarantee programme has helped push up minimum wages in Rajasthan to almost double the rate that prevailed earlier, ensuring better days for the rural poor in the state.
"Due to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, private labour rate has increased by at least 25 to 30 per cent," S S Pawa, the chief executive officer of Nagaur district rural development authority, said.
"The purchasing power of rural people who have got rid of money lenders has increased," Pawa said.
"While the official rate earlier was Rs 73 per day, labourers usually got around Rs 50 for a day's work in private employment," said R N Maruka, the Block Development Officer of Ahore in Jalore district.
But with the introduction of NREGA scheme, which provides 100-day work guarantee in a year to each family, in 2005, the rate has steadily gone up.
The rate under the NREGA scheme for specified work in eight hours is Rs 100 per day.
"With most of the rural people registering and taking work under the employment guarantee scheme, the rate for employing unskilled labourers in the state has risen sharply," he said.
"A private employer has to pay anything between Rs 125 to Rs 150 to a labourer per day now for work in fields or for construction work," Maruka said.
Pankaj Kumar, owner of farmland in Jalore rued that profits have fallen due the hike in labour rates. "It is the flipside of the NREGA scheme as we have to pay much more than the official rate to get labourers now."
But, labourer Mani Devi said the rise in minimum daily wages has meant a better life for them. "It may not seem much for you, but for us it means proper food for our children..."
The scheme has also meant a drastic reduction of migration of labourers to other states.