That the Ministry of Rural Development issued a notification delinking the MGNREGS wages from minimum wages through a notification in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that the non-payment of minimum wages is “forced labour” is unfortunate (“The wages of discontent,” Oct. 23). The move has deprived the helpless workers in the villages of their minimum wages.
Those attached to trade unions know how much workers had to fight to get the Minimum Wages Act passed in order to reduce the exploitation of daily-wagers by unscrupulous contractors and factory owners. And even this is being denied to the MGNREGS workers.
The disclosure that the non-obstante clause “allows the government to ‘legally' justify the payment of Rs.1 a day to 99 workers in Tonk district” is startling. One wonders what work has been assigned to the workers for Rs.1 a day. When the MGNREGS was first introduced, it was argued that it would lead to increased volatility in labour markets due to the higher wages given to the beneficiaries. If the largest social security programme is reneging on its obligation to pay minimum wages, it is betraying the very objective it was intended to fulfil.
GurgaonThe subterfuges carried out by the privileged and the powerful to deprive the needy of their constitutionally mandated just claims are not shocking for the details but for the ease of their execution. Yet, and even in the face of such repeated exposés by people like the activist-authors of the piece, civil society sides with the neo-liberal paradigms. This is a conundrum sociologists would do well to ponder over.
The government needs to understand that putting a welfare policy on paper and creating a system of checks and balances to ensure that it achieves the desired objective must go hand in hand. The States have become landlords under whom the ‘beggar' system touched the heights of exploitation in the past. This is a reflection of the feudal and repressive nature of not only the social structure but also governance. Innumerable problems have cropped up at all levels in implementing the MGNREGS. The manner in which minimum wages have been delinked from the scheme shows just how hollow the objectives of providing employment and income to the poverty-struck labour are.
The delinking of the MGNREGS wages from minimum wages provided the scope for corruption which nullified the few success stories under the scheme in a few States. The proposed 100 minimum workdays to the poor cannot yield result unless the wages are paid without any disdain. How can the Centre make India an economic superpower when it cannot guarantee the payment of wages to the most deprived sections?