NEW DELHI: A worker needs to dig as much as 80 feet in Bihar to earn a day’s wage under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, nearly thrice as much as another worker in a different state with similar soil conditions.
The government has found such large disparities in the schedule of rates for its flagship rural jobs programme which lead to a huge difference in the wage rates as well.
The schedule of rates refers to the amount of work a labourer has to do to earn a full day’s wage.
A committee comprising state secretaries formed to look into the revision of MGNREGS wages will hold a meeting next week to suggest a band of rates which the states should follow in order to have a more identical rate structure, officials said. Headed by Nagesh Singh, additional secretary in the rural development ministry, the committee had last month sent a group of engineers to examine the schedule of rates in different states.
“Some of the states have declared a separate schedule for MGNREGS wages. If we have to correct the wage rates in MGNREGS we first need to remove these disparities,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified. The government wants to define a range of wage rates for all the works identified under MGNREGS after getting the states on board.
The committee chaired by Singh was to examine the recommendations made last year by the Mahendra Dev Committee on the wage calculation methodology.
The average wages under the scheme were increased 2.7% for 2017-18 following the changes in Consumer Price Index for agricultural labour. For several states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand this translated to a mere Rs 1 hike in wages.
While the committee will consult states on switching from CPI for agricultural labour to CPI for rural areas and linking it to minimum wages for states, fixing the schedule of rates will help in wage correction to a far greater extent, the senior official said.
The committee is also studying the financial impact of switching the price index for wage calculation for the scheme and is likely to make a presentation to the finance ministry next month with its final recommendations, he said.
According to government data, 56 crore person days of work has been generated since the beginning of this financial year and 87% of wage payments have been made within 15 days of work done as mandated under the programme.