New Delhi, Sept. 11: Civil society groups today slammed a government panel's report that had rejected suggestions of pay parity between the minimum wage fixed by states and the rate paid under the national rural job scheme, saying the committee's decision was "unacceptable" and "unreasonable".
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a countrywide coalition of organisations and individuals working for the rights of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, launched a five-day protesthere to demand parity in the wage rate.
"The recommendation of the panel against parity is unacceptable. Paying less than the minimum wage fixed by the state is unreasonable," social activist Nikhil Dey said.
The committee headed by Nagesh Singh, an additional secretary in the rural development ministry, had recently studied the issue of wage parity and rejected the recommendations of an earlier panel.
That panel, headed by economist Mahendra Dev, had in 2015 suggested that the wage paid under the job scheme should not be less than the minimum wage fixed by any state government for that state.
Wages under the MGNREGA job scheme, which guarantees up to 100 days of unskilled employment to every household in rural India, are less than the minimum wages in 17 states. The Dev panel had advised resetting the wages in line with the minimum wages in states.
The Nagesh Singh committee has argued that there is no need for such parity because some states tend to revise their minimum wage too often. The report is under the ministry's consideration but indications are it might be accepted.
The Union government has been revising the wage rate under the MGNREGA scheme according to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers, a measure of the retail inflation faced by farm workers. Since the price of many agricultural products is low because of food subsidy, the CPIAL is low too, leading to an insignificant increase in the wage rate.
This year, the per-day wage rate increased by Re 1 in some states.
The civil society organisations also highlighted the problem of delayed payment of wages and denial of compensation for the delay. A recent study found that the central government delays release of funds to states, resulting in delayed wages.