Bring wages under MGNREGS on par with minimum wages: SC

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to bring wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on par with minimum wages prevailing in different states.

A bench of justices S J Mukhopadhaya and SA Bobde directed the Centre that wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage fixed by the state government for agricultural labourers.

The Centre submitted that it has already issued notification in this regard to bring the wage on par with minimum wage fixed by the state government. The bench was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre against a Karnataka High Court order which had September 23, 2011 held the wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage. It also said the Centre should pay arrears to workers who had been paid less.
Senior advocate V K Biju, appearing for a labour union on whose plea the high court had passed the direction, had strongly opposed the Centre’s contention justifying differential wages.
Earlier, the apex court had questioned the Centre for paying less wages saying, ‘It is a beneficiary legislation so why there is contradiction between minimum wages and the wage paid under the NREGA Act.’
The wage rate under the central job scheme, which varied between Rs 118 and Rs 181 from state to state, was less than the notified minimum daily pay in six states. But in 14 states the wages under rural job scheme was higher than the minimum wage.
The MGNREGA promises 100 days of work a year to each rural household at a pre-determined minimum wage rate. A total of 690.42 lakh man days of work would be generated in the current fiscal year.
According the Centre’s notification, unskilled workers in Haryana would get the highest daily wage of Rs. 214, up from Rs. 191/day. Daily wage under the MGNREGA has been fixed at Rs. 210 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Rs. 209 per day in Chandigarh.
To eliminate funds pilferage under the job scheme and to ensure direct transfer of cash, the State government has rolled out the electronic fund management system (eFMS) in districts of Bangalore Rural, Tumkur, Hassan, Bagalkot, Dharwad, Bellary and Mysore.
Under the eFMS, details of work done by people under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are maintained in electronic form by using a particular software which would enable the authorities concerned to directly credit the wages into the account of the person concerned. Besides, direct transfer of wages in the bank account of persons concerned, eFMS also enables evaluation of the work undertaken under the MGNREGA.
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