The Act promises at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year to every rural citizen. This year’s revision will see wages go up in Rajasthan from Rs 133 per day to Rs 149 per day and in Kerala, from Rs 164 to Rs 180.
However in both these states, the wages will remain lower than the statutory minimum wages in force for unskilled workers, says Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Hence, even after the increase, the MGNREGS wages will be “illegal” as they are less than the minimum wages fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, says the activist. (SPIKE IN PAY)
The MKSS has also come up with data on the wages being paid in different districts in Rajasthan and have made shocking findings that wages as low as Rs 10 a day are paid to workers. “They give work to 100 workers and pay each of them Rs 10 or Rs 7 or anything below Rs 70,” said Aruna Roy of MKSS.
The payments are made by dividing the work into the number of people and paying on a piece rate, rather than pay all of them the MGNREGS wages prevailing in the state. “So how does the increase in wages help the workers?” asks Dey. “We have findings on payments that have been made, which are lower than Rs 70 all over the state.”
According to Roy, the worst part is that the workers get to know about their wages only a couple of months after they have put in all their hard work. The piece-rate payments, along with the denial of work, kill the scheme in most states, she said.
The shrinking of funds for MGNREGS is an indication of how the government regards the scheme, she alleged.