CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has accused the UPA government of going back on its commitment to increase the minimum wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Ms. Karat has taken umbrage at the deliberations of the Ministry of Rural Development of July 10 and has written a letter to Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi expressing her shock at denying the workers the promised hike in wages.
This action of the Ministry was inexplicable more particularly because the country was reeling under a severe drought and a hike in wages would have benefited the workers in a big way to cope with the rising prices, she said.
The CPI(M) leader expressed surprise at the Ministry’s interpretation of the Union Finance Ministers’ budget speech to sabotage the promised wage increase.
The MoRD official sought to make a case against implementing the decision on the ground that the Union Finance Minister had merely “committed to provide the rural wage of Rs.100 as an entitlement under the NREGA” and that he had not used the term “shall,” thereby, not implying an obligation on the Ministry to implement the announcement.
The department sought to differentiate between the two terms “committed” and “shall” to escape meeting the additional financial burden, Ms. Karat said.
The Department of Expenditure too supported the MoRD’s stand underscoring that an increase in wages “will have financial implications.”
Instead of ordering the implementation of a promise made in Parliament, the PMO had left it to the States to come forward and request the Centre for enhancement of their wage rate to Rs.100.
Ms. Karat said non-implementation of the announcement amounted to breach of privilege as the UPA government had made the promise in Parliament and that it was also misleading the people through statements made for political benefits.
She also accused the MoRD of not acceding to the demands of States such as Tripura, Karnataka, Punjab, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh for an upward revision in the wage rate on the ground that these requests had been made after the Centre had notified the minimum wage on January 1, 2009.
Ms. Karat demanded that the notification be withdrawn forthwith and enforce the new wage rate.