It reflected gross insensitivity towards rights of the poor
Expressing shock at the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's instruction to challenge the Karnataka High Court order for payment of minimum wages to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers, the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan has demanded that the government withdraw its SLP the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday.
MKSS leader and National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, in a letter to the Prime Minister, expressed her distress and dismay at his instruction to the Ministry of Rural Development to challenge the High Court order, charging that it reflected “gross insensitivity” towards the rights of the poor.
The insistence on delinking MGNREGA and the Minimum Wages Act (MWA) weakened both the legislation and deprived the expected basic protection to the poor, she emphasised.
Cautioning the Prime Minister that the violation of the MWA by the government would only give a free rope to exploitative industrialists, landlords and private sector employers to pay wilful wages with impunity, she said the government would have lost its moral authority to contest such gross oppression.
She described as lip service the Prime Minister's statement regarding the high incidence of malnutrition among children as a national shame, given his government's assertion of its right not to pay minimum wages to the poorest in the country. Denial of minimum wages is unconstitutional and, worst still, amounted to abdication of duty on the part of the government.
The government's fear of State governments increasing minimum wages arbitrarily was unfounded, she maintained, and argued that the issue could be resolved in several ways to safeguard the Centre's financial burden without undermining the rights of the unorganised worker who constituted 93 per cent of the country's workforce.
Ms. Roy urged the government to withdraw the SLP and honour the orders of the Karnataka High Court and Andhra Pradesh High Court.