A high-level panel constituted by the Centre has recommended that wages under MNREGA should be equal to or higher than the minimum wage in the state.
"The baseline for MNREGA wage indexation from 2014 may be the current minimum wage rate for unskilled agricultural labourers fixed by the states under the Minimum Wages Act or the 'current MGNREGA wage rate', whichever is higher," said the seven-member committee in its report submitted to the Rural Development Ministry.
The panel, headed by S Mahendra Dev, director of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, has also recommended revising of MGNREGA wage rates every year on the basis of Consumer Price Index for Rural (CPI-Rural) as the appropriate index.
"Consumer Price Index for Rural (CPI-Rural) may be considered as the appropriate index for protecting the wages against inflation and as such the CPI-Rural be adopted for revising wage rates every year under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act," the panel has said.
Currently, wages under MNREGA are linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the annual revision is based on the CPI-AL (agriculture labour).
The Committee was constituted to examine whether the Consumer Price Index for Agriculture Labour (CPIAL) is the appropriate index for protecting the wages against inflation and what would be the proper index for revising MGNREGA wage rates every year.
During her tenure in the erstwhile National Advisory Council headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Civil society activist Aruna Roy had demanded that beneficiaries be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act.
In a letter to the PMO during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, Roy had said Rural Development Ministry's notification indexing wages to CPIAL did not ensure payment of minimum wages in all states so the PMO must find a "permanent and immediate" resolution to this issue.
"If the government does not pay the statutory minimum wage even in a few states, how can it ensure implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in all forms of employment across the country? We strongly believe that the Minimum Wages Act is a bedrock for labour protection and cannot be violated," she had said.