N.J. Nair

Centre urged to raise minimum wages under scheme

‘Present norms limiting State’s prospects’

State for inclusion of 28 sectors in scheme

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State government’s proposal to widen the base of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and raise the minimum wages from Rs.125 to Rs.200 to increase beneficiary participation has not yet elicited a positive response from the Centre.

As per the monthly implementation status report released by the Centre up to December, the cumulative job cards issued in Palakkad has been estimated at 2,19,517 and 1,28,604 in Wayanad district.

In spite of the notable performance in the two districts, there are complaints that the present guidelines are not conducive to the State and have been limiting its prospects.

In the wake of complaints that the guidelines have been framed without considering the regional characteristics of the State and cannot be effectively utilised to address serious issues such as food security and infrastructure development programmes taken up by various agencies, the Local Administration Department had submitted a set of proposals to the Centre seeking to bring more areas in the purview of the scheme.

The rigid guidelines are reportedly impeding optimum utilisation of the funds allocated by the Centre. The State government urged the Centre to expand the ambit of the scheme and suggested inclusion of 28 sectors where it could be effectively implemented.

Local Administration Department sources told The Hindu that it had suggested including urban sanitation, health, education, palliative and geriatric care, environment conservation, rainwater-harvesting and roof-water harvesting in houses, maintenance of public assets, refuse management, construction of schools, hospitals, libraries, anganwadis, dispensaries, houses for the poor and marginalised sectors, agriculture and wetland conservation, among others, in the scheme.

This would make the scheme more relevant in the current context and could be utilised to address various issues like increasing the acreage under paddy and vegetable cultivation. Also a renewed focus on the service sector would attract educated youngsters to the scheme, it was felt.

The proposal to enhance the minimum wages from Rs.125 to Rs.200 was also seen as a panacea for increasing public participation.

A manual labourer earns Rs.300 a day and workers are reluctant to take up similar jobs at a lesser wage rate.

All such problems have been brought to the notice of the Centre, but the response has been lukewarm, sources said.