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Higher Daily Average Wages for MGNREGA Workers
Jul 22, 2014

The Supreme Court has directed the Government to implement its February 2014 notification fixing higher average daily wages to workers of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).

The direction came after the proposed budget announcement, which while reviving the employment guarantee scheme allocated Rs. 34,000 crore, an increase of Rs. 1,000 crore over last year. 

The February 13, 2014 notification of the Centre had announced higher wage scale for MGNREGA workers in the range of Rs. 118 to Rs. 181, varying from State to State. With the Court order, the burden of the Centre is set to rise beyond Rs. 1,000 crore.

Bench gave the direction to the Centre after it was faced with an order from Karnataka High Court directing Centre to pay daily wages under MGNREGA commensurate with the minimum wage fixed by the State. The September 23, 2011 order of High Court noted that the workers were paid less than even the minimum wage of Rs.119 prescribed under the Karnataka Minimum Wages Act.

The Karnataka High Court ruled that 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 quashed the Government notification on wage rate of January 2009 and ordered payment of arrears to the workers in Karnataka.

The Centre objected to the order as the difference between MGNREGA wages and minimum wages in some States was substantial. Further, it argued that as on date, the minimum wages under MGNREGA were linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of agricultural labourers. No link was maintained with the Minimum Wages Act, as the State was at liberty to set this figure at its will.

But with the revision of wages on February 13, 2014, the bench felt that the issue paled into insignificance. However, the court kept open the question of applying minimum wages limit to MGNREGA wages, in order to make the scheme attractive.


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