NREGA v minimum farm wages: How jobs Act is losing out to funds crunch

Minimum Wages
The last time the union government brought MGNREGA wages at par with minimum agricultural wages was in 2009. Two years later, in 2011, only four states — Kerala, Goa, Haryana and Mizoram — had minimum agricultural wages higher than the notified MGNREGA wages of Rs 100 per day.
Since then, the gap between the two sets of wages has grown steadily. In 2016, NREGA wages were lower than minimum wages in half of India’s states. Following the last revision this month, the wages provided by the central government scheme was below the minimum agricultural wage in 28 out of 36 states and UTs. This situation has arisen after the Finance Ministry rejected the recommendations of the Mahendra Dev and Nagesh Singh Committees set up by the Rural Development Ministry.
The decision to not implement the Mahendra Dev Committee’s recommendations led to the lowest ever NREGA wage increase until 2017, with five states receiving an increase of only a rupee. A year later, the wages hit a new low after the Nagesh Singh Committee’s report was turned down. In a first, 10 states witnessed no increase in wages, The Indian Express reported on April 1. An average 2.9% increase across the country in April 2018 made no difference to the wages of workers in Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Mizoram. Five states including Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh saw a Rs 2 increase in daily wages.
Act versus Act
The NREGA was enacted in 2005 “for the enhancement of livelihood security of the households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work….”
According to the provisions of the Act, the central government bears the full cost of unskilled labour and 75% of the cost of material (the rest is borne by the states). On an average, five crore rural households rely on the scheme each year for their livelihood — this number increases in times of rural distress, as people living in villages use the scheme to make up for falling farm incomes. Nearly 40% of the beneficiaries of the scheme are estimated to have been SCs and STs.
Source: Indian Express

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