Bihar government rolls back cut in MGNREGA minimum wage

The decision to reinstate Rs. 162 minimum daily wage follows protests and litigation

By Alok Gupta
Published: Thursday 11 July 2013

The Bihar government has rolled back its decision to curtail minimum wages for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) beneficiary labourers, even as Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have approached the court on the same issue.

The decision to reinstate a minimum daily wage of Rs 162 was taken at a cabinet meeting, officials said. The state government had earlier cited lack of funding from the Union government to slash the minimum wage to Rs 138 a day. The Bihar government will have to spend Rs 450 crore annually to pay the resultant wage difference of Rs 24.

Many social organisations had termed the Bihar government’s decision to curtail the minimum wage as anti-poor. Angered by the wage cut, social activist Kamayani Swami had filed a public interest litigation in the Patna High Court, which in turn put a stay on the government’s decision.

Social organisation and labour unions have welcomed the government’s latest decision. The Jan Jagran Shakti Samiti (JJS) and the National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) that were protesting against curtailment of the minimum wage are now demanding that other states should also follow the Bihar government’s decision.

Ashish Ranjan, JJS member, said the Bihar government’s decision was commendable. Members of the organisation argue minimum wages should actually increase in view of the soaring inflation.

Members are also praising the Bihar government for taking the decision on its own rather than waiting for a court order. “States like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have engaged in legal duel over the issue. These states should take a lesson from Bihar,” Ranjan said.

State rural development ministry officials have welcomed the cabinet decision. Ministry feels that reinstating the old wage will boost MGNREGA work in the state.






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