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Govt mulls hike in minimum wages

Bhubaneswar, April 10: The state government is considering a proposal to increase the minimum wage in a bid to arrest the seasonal migration of labourers from the state, which has already begun this year.

Official sources said that compared to neighbouring states, the minimum wage in Odisha was low and this had become the primary reason for thousands of workers, particularly from southern and western Odisha, to seek work outside the state.

Compared to Odisha’s Rs 92.50 per day, Chhattisgarh offers Rs 134.15 and Andhra Pradesh Rs 149 to unskilled labourers.

All the neighbouring states — Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh — offer higher wages.

Social activist Jagdish Pradhan said apart from daily wage earners going out of the state to work in brick kilns or other labour-intensive projects, even semi-educated youths were migrating to Delhi, Mumbai, Surat and other places in search of lucrative earnings.

“Poor wages in the state forces them to migrate to metros and other states,” said Pradhan, who has conducted an extensive study on migration.

The minimum wage rate fixed by the Odisha government for unskilled labourers is Rs 92.50 per day. The wage rate for semi-skilled labourers is Rs 105.50, for skilled labour it’s Rs 118.50 and for highly skilled labourers it’s Rs 131.50 per day.

The minimum wage rate for unskilled labourers in the state is even less than half the wage notified by the central government. The wage stipulated by the Union government for unskilled labourers is Rs 272 for B-class cities (Bhubaneswar and Cuttack) and Rs 171 for C-class cities and below. The central government has fixed Rs 240 as wage for semi-skilled labourers in B-class cities and Rs 199 for the rest of the state. The wage rate for skilled labourers is Rs 312 for B-class cities and Rs 240 for the rest of the state.

The central wage rate for highly skilled labourers is Rs 339 for B-class cities and Rs 283 for the rest of the state.

Till March last year, Delhi was paying wages to unskilled labourers at the rate of Rs 203 per day, Haryana Rs 167.23, Goa Rs 150, Punjab Rs 141.98, Madhya Pradesh Rs 138.16, Rajasthan Rs 135, Chhattisgarh Rs 134.15, Jharkhand Rs 127, while the wage rate in Bihar was Rs 109.12 for a day’s work.

“The poor wage rate in Odisha obviously forces its workforce to migrate to other states,” said CITU state president Lambodar Nayak.

General secretary of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) state committee Souribandhu Kar said migration takes places mostly from the backward Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi region, and also from coastal belt.

All the central trade unions in the state had jointly demanded a revision of minimum wage to Rs 326 per day, said Nayak. “However, the state government is not revising the wage,” he alleged.

Kar, a member in the State Level Minimum Wage Committee, said the committee had already recommended to the state government to revise the minimum wage to at least Rs 200 per day and pay variable dearness allowance (VDA) as per the central rate.

“The government has been sitting on the recommendations for more than four months. This indicates the callous attitude of the state government towards the working class, which spurs migration,” said the trade union leader.

State labour secretary C.T.M. Suguna said: “The recommendations of the committee are under the consideration of the government.”