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Kerala Agricultural Workers Condemn Low Daily Wage Hike in MGNREGA

Demand wages proportionate to daily wage in state; New daily wage announced by union rural development ministry Rs 333 less than half the minimum wage.
Kerala Nrega workers

Representational image. | Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The hike in the wages for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has failed to enthuse the workers in Kerala. The wages in the state have been increased by Rs 22 as per the notification of the department of rural development. The new wage will be implemented from April 1, 2023.

The wage has been hiked from Rs 311 to Rs 333 for Kerala, while the wage for Haryana has been increased to Rs 357. The minimum daily wage in Kerala is Rs 727 as compared to Rs 395 in Haryana and Rs 220 in Gujarat.

The Kerala Samsthana Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU) affiliated to the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) has condemned the meagre hike and demanded the union government fix the wages in proportion to the minimum daily wage prevailing in each state.

The notification of the union rural development ministry was published on March 24, revising the wages in each state for the MGNREGA scheme. The wages have been hiked from Rs 7 to Rs 26 for the year 2023-24. The hike ranges from 2% to 10% for different states. 

Though the wage has been increased by Rs 22, the KSKTU termed the hike as insufficient and very low. "This hike of daily wage to Rs 333 is very low considering the daily wages ensured in the state,” N Chandran, general secretary of KSKTU told NewsClick. 

The daily wages in Kerala are the highest in the country and the KSKTU has been demanding a proportionate wage hike for MGNREGA workers. 

“We have been demanding the union government to fix Rs 600 as the daily wage for MGNREGA workers. The present hike is not only nowhere close to the demand but is too low for the standards set by the government of Kerala in ensuring a minimum daily wage for workers,” Chandran said. 

The KSKTU has called foul play over the disproportionate increase in the wage, despite the state performing exceedingly well in implementing the MGNREGA program. With 9,49,12,735 person days generated, 61.37 employment days provided per household and 3,60,426 households completing 100 days of wage employment till March 29, 2023, the state ranks among one of the best-performing states in the country. 

“Such a state should be awarded better daily wages. This small revision for Kerala is another discriminatory approach of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre,” Chandran accused. 

A large number of women workers depend on the MGNREGA scheme. Of the person days generated, women workers account for 89.78% of days. 

The union budget for 2023-24 has allocated only Rs 60,000 crore for MGNREGA which has been condemned by the AIAWU as highly insufficient and a blow to the rural masses depending on the scheme for livelihood. 

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