The labour ministry’s proposal to hike minimum wages to Rs 7,100 per month is based on a calculation that estimates prices of pulses at Rs 65 per kilogram, edible oil at Rs 80 per litre and non-vegetarian items at Rs 80 per kg. The calculations have also factored in a rent of Rs 13 per day and daily expenditure of Rs 26 on fuel and lighting.
But estimates from the Price Monitoring Cell of the ministry of consumer affairs reveal a significant variance in prices. For instance, price of 1 kg of toor dal ranges between Rs 74 in Panchkula to Rs 158 in Mangalore as on August 31, 2015. Similarly, milk prices range between Rs 28 and Rs 65 a litre while a litre of mustard oil costs anywhere between Rs 74 and Rs 143 and a kg of potatoes cost between Rs 6 and Rs 30 in different cities across the country.
“Per day minimum expenditure has been calculated on the basis of workers’ consumption pattern (on the basis of field studies) keeping in mind 2,700 kilo calorie minimum requirement for a worker in a class ‘C’ city for an unskilled worker and as per the guidelines of ILC 1957 and 1992 Supreme Court judgment,” said the draft proposal.
According to the formula, the per day expenditure of such workers is estimated at Rs 211 per day or Rs 6,330 per month. It has suggested a daily minimum wage of Rs 243, which worked out to Rs 6,318 per month for a month of 26 working days.
However, appealing to workers to withdraw the strike call, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya had on Tuesday announced the government’s intention to enhance the daily minimum wage to Rs 273 per day from the current Rs 160 (for unskilled workers in ‘C’ category city). A hike in the minimum wages to at least Rs 15,000 is one of the demands for which trade unions called a one-day strike on Wednesday. Labour leaders have contended that a minimum wage of Rs 7,100 per month would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of workers.
“The calculation is based on prices that are too outdated. It does not reflect current day realities,” said AK Padmanabhan, president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
However, labour ministry officials had insisted that the formula is a draft and would be finalised based on further discussions. The enhanced minimum wage is envisaged as part of the amendments to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, under which the Centre plans to make minimum wage mandatory for all workers across the country.