Supreme Court ordered Union government to bring wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on par with minimum wages existing under different States. The order was passed by the SC on 11 July 2014.
The decision was given by the SC bench of Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice S A Bobde. The bench directed that wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage fixed by the State government for agricultural labourers. The bench also asked the Union government to pay arrears to workers who had been paid less.
The bench issued the direction while hearing an appeal filed by the Union government against a Karnataka High Court order which on 23 September 2011 had held the wage under the scheme cannot be less than the minimum wage.
Earlier, the SC had questioned the Union government for paying fewer wages. It said that MGNREGS is a beneficiary legislation so there cannot be difference between minimum wages and the wage paid under the MGNREGS.
The wage rate under the MGNREGS, which varied between 118 rupees and 181 rupees from State to State, was less than the notified minimum daily pay in six States. But in 14 States the wages under rural job scheme was higher than the minimum wage.
About Minimum Wages Act, 1948
In India, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 provides for fixation and enforcement of minimum wages in respect of scheduled employments.
The Act also requires the appropriate government (both at Centre and States) to fix minimum rates of wages in respect of employments specified in the schedule and also review and revise the same at intervals not exceeding five years.
Since the respective state governments have been empowered to independently fix minimum wages, disparities between wages in neighboring states are common. In order to reduce this problem and bring comparability the Central government has set up 5 regional committees for harmonization of minimum wages.
5 Regional Committees in India:
Eastern Region: West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands
North Eastern Region: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim
Southern Region: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Lakshadweep
Northern Region: Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Delhi and Chandigarh
Western Region: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu
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Who: Supreme Court
When: 11 July 2014