Pay MGNREGA workers wages commensurate with minimum wages fixed by State: SC asks Government
As per the direction of the Supreme Court, Government must implement its February 2014 notification fixing higher average daily wages to workers of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
The order came a day after the proposed Budget announcement by the Government, which while reviving the MGNREGS allocated Rs34,000 crore, a hike of Rs1,000 crore over year 2013. The Centre had, in its February 13, 2014 notification, announced higher wage scale for MGNREGA workers in the range of Rs118 to Rs181, varying from State to State. With the Court direction, the financial load on the Centre is likely to increase by more than Rs1,000 crore.
The direction from the apex court to the Centre comes after the SC was faced with an order from Karnataka High Court directing Centre to pay daily wages under MGNREGS commensurate with the minimum wage fixed by the State. The HC, in its order, noted that the workers were paid less than even the minimum wage of Rs119 prescribed under the Karnataka Minimum Wages Act.
As per the ruling of the Karnataka HC, Section 6(1) of the MGNREGA could not be invoked to fix wage rate lower than what was prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and scrapped the Government notification on wage rate of January 2009 and ordered payment of arrears to the workers in Karnataka.
The order was challenged by the Centre as there is substantial difference between MGNREGS wages and minimum wages in some States. Besides, it argued that as on date, the minimum wages under MGNREGA were linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of agricultural laborers.