Wages depreciate with rise in prices, as there is no specific process to revise the wages

The working group on wages, constituted under the auspices of the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC) that governs the functioning of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), in a report, has expressed concern over what it described as a crisis of the wage policy.

The report, which will be taken up for consideration at a CEGC meeting on Friday, points to the depreciating wages of the MGNREGA workers, month after month, with rise in prices. It says there was no guarantee that they would earn the statutory minimum wage, let alone a living wage. The members, who include Jean Dreze, Nikhil Dey, Annie Raja, M. M. Rehman and officials like S. M. Vijayanand, Sanjiv Kumar, Sekhar Sengupta and Harcharan Singh, expressed their exasperation over the rampant and prolonged delays in payment of wages and the non-payment of compensation in the event of delay in payment.

The group has recommended that MGNREGA be immediately indexed to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers, with April 1, 2009 as the base year, so that the real value of the wage is at least 100 a day at the April 2009 prices. The report has suggested that wages be promptly revised every six months so long as these are set by the Union government.

The report demands that MGNREGA policy be made consistent with the Minimum Wages Act and that under no circumstances the Act be overridden and that the working hours be reduced from nine hours to seven hours. It also calls for adherence to clear timelines with regard to the wage payment process and fix responsibility, without tolerating any adjustments in the work dates or work payment dates.

For better financial inclusion of MGNREGA workers, the report has suggested paying a provisional commission of 0.5 percent to post offices to help them upgrade infrastructure. It also suggested that separate accounts be opened for men and women, and not joint accounts.