Home >News >India >Odisha's Keonjhar announces higher wages under rural job scheme
In the wake of the lockdown, migrants workers returned to villages and have been seeking work under the MGNREGS. (Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint)
In the wake of the lockdown, migrants workers returned to villages and have been seeking work under the MGNREGS. (Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint)

Odisha's Keonjhar announces higher wages under rural job scheme

  • There has been demands for linking MGNREGA wage with consumer price index-rural (CPI-R) for an annual revision of wages based on contemporary changes in rural geography

NEW DELHI: Odisha’s Keonjhar district administration on Friday said it has become the first in the country to provide higher minimum wages to those taking up jobs under the national rural employment guarantee scheme.

In a post on Twitter, the Keonjhar district administration said those working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will draw 298 a day instead of the prescribed 207 under the scheme.

This represents a 44% increase in the daily wage rate, with rural households earning 29,800 a year, it said adding that 3.78 lakh workers across the district would benefit from higher wages. The programme is being implemented at a cost of RS 95 crores that is being drawn from the District Mineral Fund -- created in each mineral producing district under the provisions of the amended Mines and Minerals- Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, 2015.

The announcement of an increase in wages comes amid acute rural distress in the country. With businesses suspending operations and economic activity coming to a near standstill since the lockdown was imposed on 25 March, migrants workers returned to villages and have been seeking work under the MGNREGS – that promises 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer for unskilled jobs.

Wages under scheme, for the last couple of years, have been under the scanner for its varied compensation rates. There has been demands for linking MGNREGA wage with consumer price index-rural (CPI-R) for an annual revision of wages based on contemporary changes in rural geography.

According to former rural development secretary N.C. Saxena, the MGNREGA fixes a certain minimum wage that has to be paid to people seeking work under the act. “In most cases the MGNREGS wages are below the state’s minimum wage rate. The state government is free to give more money as wages if they wish."

Though welcoming the move, Saxena, however, said that it would be better if the state could give jobs to people seeking work at lower wages but for 100 days as mandated by the MGNREGA. "It has been observed that work is given to people only for 30 days or 35 days in a year whereas the act says 100 days in normal areas and 150 days in tribal areas. My view is that it would be useful if people are given work for more number of days at the MGNREGA wages than lesser number of days at higher wages," he said.

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