Increase in NREGA wages once again extremely paltry

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The increase in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) wage rates for 2021-22 is extremely paltry (see the table). There is no increase in Kerala’s NREGA wage rate. Rajasthan’s wage rate has increased by just Re 1. In fact, for 24 states, the increase in the NREGA wage rate is less than 5 per cent.

The country’s economy has still not fully recovered from the disruptions caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns imposed by the government last year. Even though working conditions continue to remain precarious in urban areas, many workers who returned to their village last year are once again forced to migrate in search of work. Some of them had to go back to their village empty handed. The negligible increase in NREGA wages for the coming financial year will only reinforce this trend. A well-functioning NREGA with adequate wages can provide a lifeline for rural workers and play an important role in reducing distress migration.

It is shocking that while, even during an economic downturn, the government helps businesses by giving them loan write-offs and tax concessions, it doesn’t have the will to provide a living wage for the poorest workers. Like the passage of the labor codes last year, the negligible increase in NREGA wages demonstrates the government’s willingness to sacrifice workers’ basic rights for the sake of corporate profits.

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha demands that the central government increases NREGA wage rate at least to the level of the statutory minimum wage rate for agriculture. Over time, the government must also align the wage rates as per the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. It must also increase the guarantee of work to 200 days. This will require a significant increase in the budget allocated for the programme. The central government has only allocated Rs 73,000 crore for NREGA for 2021-22; Rs 38,500 crore less than the amount allocated for 2020-21.

Table: State-wise comparison of NREGA wage rates for 2021-22 and 2020-21

State NREGA Wage Rate for 2021-22 (Rs) NREGA Wage Rate for 2020-21 (Rs) Increase in the NREGA Wage Rate (Rs)a
Andhra Pradesh 245 237 8 (3.4)
Arunachal Pradesh 212 205 7 (3.4)
Assam 224 213 11 (5.2)
Bihar 198 194 4 (2.1)
Chhattisgarh 193 190 3 (1.6)
Goa 294 280 14 (5.0)
Gujarat 229 224 5 (2.2)
Haryana 315 309 6 (1.9)
Himachal Pradesh b 254 248 6 (2.4)
Jammu and Kashmir 214 204 10 (4.9)
Ladakh 214 204 10 (4.9)
Jharkhand 198 194 4 (2.1)
Karnataka 289 275 14 (5.1)
Kerala 291 291 0 (0)
Madhya Pradesh 193 190 3 (1.6)
Maharashtra 248 238 10 (4.2)
Manipur 251 238 13 (5.5)
Meghalaya 226 203 23 (11.3)
Mizoram 233 225 8 (3.6)
Nagaland 212 205 7 (3.4)
Odisha 215 207 8 (3.9)
Punjab 269 263 6 (2.3)
Rajasthan 221 220 1 (0.5)
Sikkimc 212 205 7 (3.4)
Tamil Nadu 273 256 17 (6.6)
Telangana 245 237 8 (3.4)
Tripura 212 205 7 (3.4)
Uttar Pradesh 204 201 3 (1.5)
Uttarakhand 204 201 3 (1.5)
West Bengal 213 204 9 (4.4)

a Figures in brackets are the percentage increase in the NREGA wage rate between 2020-21 and 2021-22.

b Wage rate for non-scheduled areas is Rs 203 for 2021-22 and Rs 198 for 2020-21.

c Wage rate for Gnathang, Lachung and Lachen gram panchayats is Rs 318 for 2021-22 and Rs 308 for 2020-21.

For further information, please email at [email protected] 


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