The revised wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the current fiscal announced recently may not attract labourers, officials fear, as the wages have gone up only marginally. At Rs 201, the new rate is still lower compared to many other states and labourers would look for alternative jobs, officials believe.
The revised wages, which were put on the MGNREGA website a few days ago, will be effective from April 1. Following the notification issued by the central government fixing the wage rate, the state government announced the new rates while tabling its budget for 2017-18. The expenditure on MGNREGA wages in 2017-18 will cost the state government Rs 2,800 crore.
“The number of person days generated this year as against the projected labour budget has gone down compared to last year. This was due to a better drought situation in the state. Even though the wage has been increased by Rs 9, it is still lower than many other states. However, many workers prefer to take up alternative jobs that offer better pay than MGNREGA work,” said an official.
Against the projected labour budget of Rs 8.50 crore, the state managed to generate 6.57 person days in 2016-17. While presenting the budget on Saturday, the state government announced it was expecting to create 7.25 person days.
MGNREGA wage rates vary from state to state and are revised by indexing them to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers (CPIAL) for a particular state.
“In the first two years of the job scheme, the wage rates had been the same as the minimum agricultural wage rates of the states concerned. But since 2008, the Centre detached the scheme’s wages from the states’ minimum wages and linked them instead to the states’ CPIAL,” the official said.
When contacted, state MGNREGA commissioner Abhay Mahajan said, “This is a demand-based scheme and acts as a respite for people who are jobless and are out of work. People will look for greener pastures even if rates are hiked further. The revised wage rates are low, but the Centre works them out as per a uniform criteria. This can be challenged through the council of central employment guarantee scheme, but the final call is taken by the Union ministry.”
In other states
In Haryana, the wage rate has been revised to Rs 277 this year from Rs 259, which is the maximum MGNREGA wage in any state. Remuneration under MGNREGA has been raised to Rs 240 in Goa from Rs 229 last year. It has been hiked to Rs 258 in Kerala from Rs 240, to Rs 236 in Karnataka from Rs 224, Rs 205 in Tamil Nadu from Rs 203.