In April this year, the Centre revised the MGNREGA wage across states with some, such as West Bengal and Assam, receiving a hike of Rs 2 and Rs 3 respectively. In Jharkhand, the rate was hiked from Rs 162 to Rs 167.
A drought-hit state, workers have now decided to return the Rs 5 to Prime Minister Modi, as a sign of protest, this May Day.
“We feel that you need the extra five rupees more than we do, since your government has so many expenses,” the letter sent by a section of MGNREGA workers in Manika (Latehar, Jharkhand), reads.
“This action was initiated by Grameen Swaraj Mazdoor Sangh, a local organisation of rural workers. Among other activities, members of the Sangh are struggling to secure their rights under NREGA, including employment on demand and payment within 15 days. However, interest in NREGA work is waning in the area because wages are so low. The minimum wage in Jharkhand is Rs 212 per day,” a statement released, said.
Below is the full text of the letter
Dear Prime Minister,
This year your government has increased the wages of NREGA workers in Jharkhand by five rupees (from Rs 162 per day to Rs 167 per day). We feel very lucky, because in 17 states the increase was even less. It sounds like NREGA workers in Odisha are now considered very well-off because their wages have not increased at all.
Actually, we are very concerned. The government must be really short of money if it is unable to raise NREGA wages to the minimum wage, that too when one third of the rural population is affected by drought. (For your kind information, the minimum wage in Jharkhand is Rs 212 per day.)
We feel that you need the extra five rupees more than we do, since your government has so many expenses. To implement the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, you will have to spend an additional Rs 1 lakh crore at least on salaries and pensions of government employees. Defence expenditure is about Rs 2.5 lakh crore. You must also be spending a lot of money on tax concessions for big companies, aside from giving them cheap land and other resources.
Considering all this, we NREGA workers have made a collective decision to give up our extra wages for a day and return the extra five rupees to you. We hope that this will help you to keep your corporate friends and government employees happy.
Your faithful workers,
Job Card No:
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.