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EAR TO THE Last week, NAC gave a wake-up call to the government on the need to pay minimum wages

under NREGA
GROUND

NREGA vs Minimum
Wages Act
SREELATHA MENON istry froze the minimum wage apply or the Centre revises the
for NREGS at `100 two years minimum NREGS wage.
an the government break ago and has not bothered to re- At present, there is no par-

C its own laws? That seems


to be the case when it
comes to minimum wages in
vise it annually by indexing
it to the consumer price index
for agricultural workers (CPI-
ity between the two rates. If the
NREGS wage is `100 in Ra-
jasthan, the minimum wage in
the National Rural Employment AL), as prescribed by its own the state is `135. In Kerala, the
Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), committee on wages, headed minimum wage is `175, while
which makes the government by Jean Dreze. NREGS pays `120.
the employer of the world’s Will NAC recommendation According to Additional So-
largest workforce of close to 35 wake up the government to the licitor General Indira Jaisingh, plementation to fix a NREGS specified by the Centre. This to practice. While recommend-
million job-card holders. violation it has overlooked any payment below the mini- minimum wage indexed to CPI- could mean violation of the ing food subsidies, it does not
In 19 states, the workers are so far? mum wage is forced labour. So, AL. Five months have passed Minimum Wages Act in many say how leakages can be plugged
getting less than the minimum The employment guaran- the government is violating its and the panel is yet to give a states, as is happening now. and food production can be
wages in their areas, with the tee Act is in conflict with the own law for its largest em- report. However, Section 6 (2) says increased. So with NREGS.
rural development ministry and Minimum Wages Act as ployment-generation scheme. The Dreze committee on agricultural wages should be It does not say if the em-
the labour ministry looking the NREGS wages are fixed by the The rural development min- wages had sought an amend- paid till a separate rate is fixed. ployment guarantee Act should
other way. Centre and minimum wages in istry now has the option of is- ment to the employment guar- As long as state wages are paid, be amended to ensure that min-
The National Advisory most states are much higher suing a notification saying the antee Act as there was a pos- there is no conflict. But after imum wages are paid or whether
Council, headed by Sonia than that. As the Centre has states can enforce their mini- sibility of it clashing with the the Centre fixed the rate, first the Centre should defreeze its
Gandhi, the president of the rul- fixed `100 as the NREGS wage, mum wages for NREGS or de- Minimum Wages Act. at `80 and then at `100, the gap wage and index it to CPI-AL
ing party, last week recom- the states, with the exception freeze the `100 wage it had pre- Section 6 (1) of the National with minimum wages has been or just let the Centre mandate
mended that minimum wages of Goa, are not feeling obliged scribed and link it to CPI-AL. Rural Employment Guarantee growing in the states. whatever the state rates are.
be paid to NREGS workers. to pay more. The ministry had asked a Act says the Centre can spec- NAC, as in the matter of food Anyway, the more impor-
This brings the government in The implementation of committee headed by Pronab ify wage rates for this Act. The security, stops with a broad rec- tant question is whether the
direct conflict with NAC. NAC’s recommendation could Sen under the Ministry of Sta- states can make variations but ommendation and does not sug- government of India wants
The rural development min- mean that either the states’ laws tistics and Programme Im- not go below the minimum rate gest the ways it can be put in- to follow its own laws.