Meagre Increase In NREGA Wages Deplored

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Samalochana Association are deeply disappointed over the paltry quantum of revision in wages of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The increase of wage by a meagre Rs 8, from the existing Rs 237 to Rs 245, is measly and amounts to mere eyewash. We are concerned about the gap between the minimum wages stipulated in the Minimum Wages Act and NREGA wages. 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.    

A well-functioning NREGA with just 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.

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 MNREGA in rural India. This clearly insufficient increase in wage rate, that can only be termed stingy and insensitive, does little to enhance relief or provide respite in the ongoing economic crisis.

It is a shame 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.

We demand:

  • Enhancement of NREGA Employment to 200 days to each Household.
  • Payment of minimum wages under Minimum Wages Act
  • Increase in the budgetary allocation to NREGA

Coffee and NREGA

HRF and Samalochana also take 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 around Rs 15,000 per acre per year. Well over a lakh Adivasi farmers would be rendered without wage support and would find it difficult to sustain themselves because of this ill-advised move.

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

VS Krishna 
(HRF TS & AP Coordination Committee member)

Chakradhar Buddha
(Convenor, Samalochana Association)


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