Activists disappointed with MGNREGA wage revision

‘Not paying minimum wages amounts to forced labour’

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Samalochana Association expressed their disappointment over the quantum of increase in the wage rate of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“The increase in wages by a meagre ₹8, from the existing ₹237 to ₹245 a day, is measly and amounts to mere eyewash. We are concerned about the gap between the minimum wages stipulated in the Minimum Wages Act and the MGNREGA wages,” said V.S. Krishna of HRF.

Not paying minimum wages in public works amounts to forced labour and it is deplorable that successive governments are unwilling to abide by Constitutional principles in the matter, said B. Chakradhar of Samalochana.

A well-functioning NREGA with justified wages can work as a lifeline for rural workers. However, the unremunerative levels of NREGA wages, together with chronic shortage of work and delay in payments, are proving to be detrimental to a key objective of the NREGA which is to arrest distress migration, observed HRF members.

It is well-known that the widespread disruption of economic activity caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to turn to MGNREGA in rural India. This insufficient increase in wage rate, that can only be termed as meagre and insensitive, does little to enhance relief or provide respite during the ongoing economic crisis, said Mr. Chakradhar.

It is disappointing to see that the Government of India has chosen to write off mammoth debts of corporate firms but does not see fit to pay minimum wages commensurate with the Minimum Wages Act and allocate sufficient funds for NREGA implementation, they said.

We demand enhancement of NREGA employment to 200 days to each household, payment of minimum wages under Minimum Wages Act and increase in the budgetary allocation to NREGA, the speakers said.

Delinking of coffee decried

HRF and Samalochana also took strong exception to the recent decision of the Union Government to disallow coffee plantation works under MGNREGA in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. This is unwarranted and would be extremely harmful to adivasi farmers as they would be losing out on around ₹15,000 per acre per year, said Mr. Chakradhar.

According to him, over a lakh adivasi farmers would be rendered without wage support and would find it difficult to sustain themselves because of this move.

After encouraging tribal farmers all these years to take up coffee plantation in a big way, this sudden decision to delink coffee from MGNREGA would mean most farmers will lose out on investments made so far, he said.

Mr. Krishna pointed out that there is a distinct possibility of this move resulting in distress migration. “We urge the Central government to reverse the decision and appeal to the State government to support tribal farmers in the interregnum,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article