Sunday, February 27, 2011

Envisioning India—The Potential of Aadhaar






Centre for Media Studies (CMS, http://www.cmsindia.org/) in collaboration with Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML, http://www.nehrumemorial.com/index.php) organized the National Lecture Series on ‘Analysing and Envisioning India’ on 25 February, 2011 at Auditorium, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House. In this occasion, a lecture titled Envisioning India—The Potential of Aadhaar was delivered by Information and Technology czar Nandan Nilekani, who is presently the Chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI, http://uidai.gov.in/). The programme was chaired by Dr. Rajesh Tandon, President, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA, http://www.pria.org/).

Dr. Mridula Mukherjee, Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library welcomed her guests and explained the reasons behind and the nature of collaboration between CMS and NMML. She informed that CMS is a premier and unique institution (non government organization) founded by N Bhaskar Rao. It has produced some of the best quality public work. PRIA is another unique organization, added Mukherjee. It has made policy intervention in the area of governance. While talking about the UID project, she said that Nandan Nilekani is trying to give the citizens an identity. There are criticisms regarding how the UID project could be used and misused. The main objective is how the technology can be used for the greater good. Nilekani who is coming from the private sector is trying to promote larger social good. She explained that NMML’s partnership with CMS is part of the effort to build linkages in the society. Exposure to the public is a vital objective. There is no gap in the perceptions of NMML and CMS. NMML has undertaken digitization of archives as well as news reports. Microfilms of newspaper reports are available. However, television reports have not been archived. CMS has analysed archived news and reports. Doordarshan and NDTV must think about archiving news reports. Finally, Mridula Mukherjee presented the souvenirs to the chief guests.

PN Vasanti, Director, CMS informed that CMS is fast becoming favorite among the elderly and the youth. It has started to think beyond history. CMS’ mission include: advocacy, planning, sensitization (on issues of national concern) etc. Multidisciplinary approach to research is followed and areas of research include both market and social research. CMS also organizes a film festival on biodiversity and environment titled ‘Vatavaran’. Understanding current issues is important. Nandan Nilekani is much spoken about, she said. He has written the book Imagining India. He is the Chairperson of UIDAI, which is going to cover 600 million population in the next 4 years. Security and reliability are major issues before Aadhaar. Nilekani was also the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Infosys (
http://www.infosys.com/). In the year 2009, Time magazine placed Nilekani in the Time 100 list of 'World's Most Influential People' (see: The 2009 TIME 100, http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1894410_1893837_1894177,00.html).

Dr. Rajesh Tandon congratulated CMS for organizing the lecture. He asked for independent public issue focused institutions who can provide leadership. He said that media accountability is important. He informed that the civil society is afraid of too much technology and intervention made by the State. When things get more organized, the civil society becomes suspicious. Data protection and privacy laws are important in the context of the Aadhaar project. Due to the Government providing escape routes, urban poor do not have birth or death certificates. Escape routes can be blocked by the National UID Bill. There are problems with the BPL list, Voter’s ID card, ration cards as they can be faked. In India, old age pensions are siphoned off by faking identity. We have multiple cards but we don’t have multiple identities. Aadhaar is one way to solve the problem. Other Government agencies have to act and all the duties cannot be performed by Aadhaar.

Nandan Nilekani congratulated CMS for completing its 20th anniversary. While discussing the UID project, he explained the 3 key challenges faced by India, which are as follows:

* There are a large number of residents whose existence the Indian State do not acknowledge. A major chunk of the population does not possess birth or death certificates. There are not enough birth records. The identity number can connect these people to the State. The purpose of the UID project is to make development more inclusive.
* The purpose behind the UID project is to address the problem of mobility and encourage mobility of the people. Rate of migration is quite high in India. Migration will go up in the coming years (20-30 years) due to urbanization and climate change. Demographic dividends can push up migration, which was explained earlier by Ashish Bose. Migration compounds identity problem. Those who reside in villages or remote rural areas do not have proper identity records. When they migrate, they will face the problem of portable identity.
* The UID project will address the problem of public service delivery. The government is facing the challenge of making public spending direct and transparent. The aim is to make the money reach to the actual beneficiary. Since social welfare spending is going up, so there is need for transparency in delivery mechanism. Diversion or duplication must be avoided. Public service delivery must be made efficient, effective and convenient. Public services can reach the beneficiaries in 3 modes: panchayats, post offices and banks. There exists low density of post offices and banks in rural areas. These are poorly equipped. Post offices generally have no computers and are single employee branches. There exists inadequate staff at the Gram Panchayat and Block-levels.

Nandan Nilekani explained how the UID project is going to address these issues, which are as follows:

* There will be one number for one person. A second number cannot be assigned for the same person. Duplication of ration cards is rampant in India. There should be a reliable and robust way. Advances in biometrics ensure unique fingerprints and iris scan. A massive computational task is there to be accomplished.
* What to do with the unique numbers? The numbers will be used for identification and authentication after which services will be delivered to the beneficiaries. The identification process will address the question ‘Who are you?’. A database which is online will provide the answer whether the person carrying the UID number is authentic or genuine. The UID number is portable nationally, which can be verified anywhere.
* How to solve the problem in the real world? The first problem is regarding the scale of the project as 1 billion people have to be covered. The other problems are: a. speed as there is a time limit; b. the quality of the data needs to be accurate; and c. cost of the project. Several states already have collected data on individuals when they rolled out NREGS and PDS. There is a need to make partnership with registrars, who already have their own databases. 60 registrars have been identified so far.
* How do you make sure that the data quality from different source remains the same? The enrolment technology applied in the UID project is standardized across the country. Enrolment of individuals is based on the same and standardized technology.
* When partnering is done by ecosystem of organizations, the data collection process speeds up. Rs. 50 is paid per enrolment to the registrar. Outcome based approach is followed in the enrolment. Rs. 100 is the enrolment cost of one individual. The backend activity includes parallel processing (cost Rs. 50 per enrolment) and frontend activity takes place in the enrolment stations (cost Rs. 50 per enrolment). Using this architecture, the scale is created. Almost 2 million persons have been enrolled so far. It is a scalable model where enrolment stations can be added.
* There is high level of instrumentation in the data analytics.
* Online authentication is a big deal. A lot of persons do not have bank accounts. Their savings is vulnerable. Moneylenders can exploit people if they have no access to banks. Verification process to own bank account is more onerous after 9/11 (because of the problem of money laundering and terror funding). KYC (know your customer) policy is adversely affecting the poor to open up bank accounts. The Aadhaar number will entitle one to open a bank account, thus helping in financial inclusion. Hence, the transaction cost to open the bank account will go down. Bank accounts can be opened up electronically. Out of the 2 million enrolments till now, 80 percent have said that they want to open bank account.
* How to make banking services more accessible? Business correspondents like village level shopkeepers will be provided micro-ATMs (handheld devices) through which they can offer the villagers having the UID no., the money needed by them (after verification). Decentralized banking via business correspondents can help in financial inclusion. Mobile inclusion is another example of financial inclusion. The Department of Telecommunications is saying that Aadhaar number is sufficient to get a mobile connection.
* The UID system can be used for giving direct subsidy on food, fuel (kerosene) and fertilizers. The Aadhaar system will electronically maintain the monetary transactions in the case of subsidy. The Government has set up an inter-ministerial task force under Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chairman Nandan Nilekani, which will work out a suitable mechanism to provide direct subsidies on kerosene, cooking gas (LPG) and fertilizers for the intended beneficiaries.
* The identity infrastructure is based on open programming interface. It is an open identity infrastructure. More applications can be built. More innovation is possible. Enrolling everybody is important. Those who have no identity at all, there is a need for an introducer. The introducer will introduce the person’s name, address, and possible date of birth.

Nandan Nilekani told that there is not much personal information collected/ available in the UID project, whose dissemination can affect privacy of the individual. There are enough checks and balances. There exists distributive database. Many organizations have to come together to share data. Legal infrastructure is planned for privacy and data protection.

Answering to the questions posed by the audience, Nilekani said that the Aadhaar scheme will provide welfare that far outweighs the risks anticipated. There is no obligation to enroll. Data sharing is protected. Software and enrolment process is standardized. So, the data quality remains good. The number provided under the UID project is not to prove one’s nationality but to provide one person a unique identity. Passports, voter’s ID card, PAN cards and bank accounts cannot be replaced by UID number as they are the responsibilities of various individual departments. The UID is a 12 digit number. If a person is not using the number for a long duration, then that person can be considered dead. UIDAI is an attached office of the Planning Commission. Physical presence is need for biometric data collection. Non-biometric information can be collected from other databases. The UIDAI is considering whether the databases of Election Commission, National Population Registrar and Telecom data (of customers) can be utilized. UIDAI is providing identity infrastructure. Its role is to enroll and provide authentication services. Aadhaar’s definition of residences is same that of the National Population Registrar. There is no card given under the UID project. Only a number is provided. Geographical identity is needed to send the numbers via post and not to expose somebody’s identity or to harass. The idea is to include and not to exclude. The database collected by the UIDAI is also there with the mobile companies. If one is not questioning the mobile companies, then how can one say that a rogue state will misuse individual information collected.

Finally, the ‘Role model Award’ was presented to Nandan Nilekani by Bhaskar Rao of CMS.

Key concerns regarding the UID project and the Aadhar number:

* More number of bank accounts got opened under NREGA as compared to the UID project. Hence, the claim that Aadhaar number will lead to financial inclusion of the poor is too much rhetorical.
* Proponents of UID project can use the system to stop illegal migration from Bangladesh (by abusing human rights) whereas the same won’t be done in case of Nepalese, Bhutanese, Tibetan and Burmese. This is because of the existing anti-Muslim feeling among the officials.
* Issues of privacy and data protection are still unanswered.
* The UID project has been mooted to undermine schemes like NREGS and PDS and to encourage direct cash transfers.

For a critique of the UID project read: A Campaign for No UID-Till Complete Transparency, Accountability and People’s Participation,
http://eindia2007.blogspot.com/2010/10/campaign-for-no-uid-till-complete.html


Further readings:

UID and Public Health: Specious Claims by Mohan Rao, Newsclick.in, 21 February, 2011,
http://www.newsclick.in/india/uid-and-public-health-specious-claims

One step forward, The Business Standard, 22 February, 2011,
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/one-step-forward/425981/

Bihar as model? UID rollout within 3 years by Mahendra Kumar Singh, The Times of India, 16 February, 2011,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Bihar-as-model-UID-rollout-within-3-years/articleshow/7503759.cms

Team Nilekani to shape model for direct susbidy transfer, The Economic Times, 15 February, 2011,
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/team-nilekani-to-shape-model-for-direct-susbidy-transfer/articleshow/7499069.cms

Nilekani to head task force on direct subsidies, The Hindu, 15 February, 2011,
http://www.hindu.com/2011/02/15/stories/2011021564441500.htm

UID to be Punjab’s ‘adhaar’ to take on oil, LPG mafia by Sukhdeep Kaur. The Indian Express, 7 February, 2011,
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/UID-to-be-Punjab-s--adhaar--to-take-on-oil--LPG-mafia/746914/

Tracking Nilekani by Latha Jishnu, Down to Earth, 15 February, 2011,
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/tracking-nilekani

UID boss Nilekani for pvt identity, public access, The Times of India, 4 February, 2011,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/-UID-boss-Nilekani-for-pvt-identity-public-access/articleshow/7427031.cms

Mohali to take lead in UID, The Times of India, 2 February, 2011,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Mohali-to-take-lead-in-UID/articleshow/7408126.cms

Fool-proof UID system for Indians? Blah!, Rediff.com, 1 February, 2011,
http://www.rediff.com/news/report/fool-proof-uid-system-for-indians-blah/20110201.htm

Census 2011 will begin on February 9 by Vinay Kumar, The Hindu, 3 February, 2011,
http://www.hindu.com/2011/02/03/stories/2011020366882400.htm

Kind to cash by Richard Mahapatra, Down to Earth, 15 February, 2011,
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/node/32976

A platter of blather by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Express, 21 January, 2011,
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-platter-of-blather/740417/0

Several questions on UID unanswered, say experts, The Hindu, 24 January, 2011,
http://www.hindu.com/2011/01/24/stories/2011012462321400.htm

UID launched in Gumla, The Times of India, 21 January, 2011,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/UID-launched-in-gumla-/articleshow/7336873.cms

Activists, researchers doubts security of UID data, DNA, 22 January, 2011,
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_activists-researchers-doubts-security-of-uid-data_1497922

UIDAI chairman leaves simple questions unanswered at lecture for students by Samir Kelekar, Moneylife.in, 10 January, 2011,
http://www.moneylife.in/article/78/13012.html

Master card: The UID faces opposition by Udit Misra, Money Control, 12 January, 2011,
http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/features/master-card-the-uid-faces-opposition_512450.html

Resolving the identity crisis by Malia Politzer, Live Mint, 10 January, 2011,
http://www.livemint.com/2011/01/10235903/Resolving-the-identity-crisis.html?h=A1

100 days on, development a non-starter in UID’s first stop by Santosh Andhale, DNA, 6 January, 2010,
http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_100-days-on-development-a-non-starter-in-uid-s-first-stop_1490851

UID set to replace PF account number, The Times of India, 4 January, 2011,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Unique-ID-set-to-replace-PF-account-number/articleshow/7214002.cms

UID can now be your official ID proof by Arunoday Mukharji, IBN, 2 January, 2011,
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/uid-can-now-be-your-official-id-proof/139167-3.html

Unique Identity, Leakages and Development by Jayati Ghosh, Macroscan.com, 16 December, 2010,
http://macroscan.com/cur/dec10/cur161210Unique_Identity.htm

MasterCard Develops Payment Solution for ‘Aadhaar’ in India, WebWire, 7 December, 2010,
http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=128158

Right to privacy or the right to do business with UID database?, SuchetaDalal.com, 3 December, 2010,
http://www.suchetadalal.com/?id=1fe90d9c-bb33-33e6-4cf8ba7e262c&base=sections&f

Panel proposes UID-linked direct subsidy by Utpal Bhaskar, Live Mint, 5 December, 2010,
http://www.livemint.com/2010/12/05233625/Panel-proposes-UIDlinked-dire.html

Govt urged not to link UID, NREGA by Jaideep Deogharia, The Times of India, 2 December, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Govt-urged-not-to-link-UID-NREGA/articleshow/7026090.cms

Each Unique ID number costs Rs.100: Nilekani, IANS, 2 December, 2010,
http://beta.in.news.yahoo.com/unique-id-number-costs-rs-100-nilekani.html

Will Unique Identity Number derail NREGA? by Alok Pandey and Tanima Biswas, NDTV, 2 December, 2010,
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/will-unique-identity-number-derail-nrega-70002

‘Keep UID out of MGNREGA', The Hindu, 1 December, 2010,
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article924451.ece

Aadhaar will plug leakages in welfare delivery mechanism by Surabhi Agarwal, Live Mint, 24 November, 2010,
http://www.livemint.com/2010/11/24224519/Aadhaar-will-plug-leakages-in.html?h=B

Unique facility, or recipe for trouble? by Jean Drèze, The Hindu, 25 November, 2010,
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article911931.ece

"Basic procedures not followed before project was launched”, The Hindu, 29 September, 2010,
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article801252.ece

Why the UID number project must be scrapped by Gopal Krishna, Rediff.com, 2 June, 2010,
http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/jun/02/why-the-uid-number-project-must-be-scrapped.htm

High-cost, high-risk by R Ramakumar, Frontline, Volume 26, Issue 16, 1-14 August, 2009,
http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2616/stories/20090814261604900.htm

Why Indians should fear the UID by Praful Bidwai, Rediff.com, 12 October, 2010,
http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/oct/12/column-why-indians-should-fear-the-uid.htm

The personal is the personal by Usha Ramanathan, 6 January, 2010, The Indian Express,
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-personal-is-the-personal/563920/0

Questionable link by Praful Bidwai, Frontline, Volume 27, Issue 12, 5-18 June, 2010,
http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2712/stories/20100618271209400.htm

Not all that unique by Reetika Khera, The Hindustan Times, 30 August, 2010,
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Not-all-that-unique/H1-Article1-593541.aspx

NREGA gets 'smart' by Arvind Mayaram, The Financial Express, 24 September, 2010,
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/nrega-gets-smart/686746/0

Unique ID pilot project in a week, The Telegraph, 30 July, 2010,
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100730/jsp/frontpage/story_12749213.jsp

Govt allocates Rs 10 cr to UIDAI, The Indian Express, 22 July, 2010,
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/govt-allocates-rs-10-cr-to-uidai/650321/

Plugging the leaks, The Business Standard, 15 July, 2010,
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/pluggingleaks/401414/

Govt slashes UIDAI budget by over 50 per cent, Yahoo.com, 11 July, 2010,
http://in.news.yahoo.com/48/20100711/1238/tbs-govt-slashes-uidai-budget-by-over-50.html

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is Indian agriculture performing really well?


There could not have been a better timing for the release of the Advance Estimates of National Income 2010-11 of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI) since everybody is eagerly waiting for UPA 2’s third budget. The newly released document show that GDP arising out of the agricultural sector registered a growth rate of 5.4 percent at factor cost at constant (2004-05) prices in 2010-11. The CSO document predicts that the ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’ sector would grow by 5.4 per cent in its GDP during 2010-11, as against the previous year’s growth rate of 0.4 per cent. In another estimate made by the Survey of Professional Forecasters: Results of the Fourteenth Round (Q3:2010-11), for the year 2010-11, the forecast for agriculture has been revised upwards from 4.6 per cent to 5.0 per cent (See the links below).

According to the information furnished by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) to the CSO, production of foodgrains and oilseeds are likely to expand by 6.5 per cent and 11.9 per cent, respectively, in 2010-11. The production of cotton and sugarcane are also expected to increase by 41.2 per cent and 15.2 per cent, respectively, in 2010-11. Production of fruits and vegetables are expected to increase by 4.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively, during the same period.

Despite positive claims being made about agricultural production by the Congress-led UPA 2, there are key areas of concern where Indian agriculture is still lagging behind.

The key challenges faced by Indian agriculture are as follows:

Rain-fed farming: It is beyond doubt that the fate of Indian agriculture is determined by the monsoons. The percentage coverage of irrigated area under rice, wheat, coarse cereals, pulses, foodgrains, total oilseeds and all crops during 2007-08 have been 56.9 percent, 90.9 percent, 14.2 percent, 16.2 percent, 46.8 percent, 27.1 percent and 44.6 percent, respectively. Hence, it can be inferred that production of coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds is highly rain-dependent and take place in arid and semi-arid areas of our country. Only, 44.6 of the area under principal crops is irrigated.

Inequality in land distribution and fragmentation of land: During 2000-01, 62.3 percent, 19.0 percent, 11.8 percent, 5.5 percent and 1.0 percent of the operational holdings were marginal (less than 1 hectare), small (1.0 to 2.0 hectares), semi-medium (4.0 to 10.0 hectares) and large (10.0 hectares and above), respectively. The average size of all operational holdings has reduced from 1.41 hectares in 1995-96 to 1.33 hectares, thus, pointing to increased fragmentation of land, which affects productivity. The area operated has reduced from 163357000 hectares in 1995-96 to 159436000 hectares in 2000-01.

Lack of productive investment in agriculture: The percentage share of Plan outlay on agriculture and allied activities in total Plan outlay during the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) was 4.9 percent, which came down to 3.9 percent in the Tenth Plan (2002-07). The percentage share of Plan outlay on agriculture and allied activities in total Plan outlay during 2007-08 was 3.5 percent, which came down to 3.1 percent in 2008-09 and further to 2.4 percent in 2009-10. Similarly, the percentage share of Actual expenditure on agriculture and allied activities in total Actual expenditure during the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) was 4.0 percent, which came down to 3.8 percent in the Tenth Plan (2002-07).

Growth rate of actual expenditure of the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation was 42.95 percent, 27.94 percent, 45.05 percent, -21.55 percent and 95.19 percent during 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 (over the previous years), respectively. Apart from a shortfall in monsoon rainfall during 2009-10, a negative 21.55 percent growth in the actual expenditure of the DAC during 2008-09 may have contributed for agricultural GDP growth of 0.4 percent (at constant 2004-05 prices) in 2009-10. However, as a result of favourable monsoons during 2010-11 and a positive 95.19 percent growth in the actual expenditure of the DAC during 2009-10, the agricultural GDP is expected to grow by 5.4 percent 2010-11.

The picture may not be as rosy as one can imagine. The percentage share of public investment in the total investment made on agriculture has declined from 21 percent in 2004-05 to 18 percent in 2008-09. According to the Economic Survey 2009-10, public investment in agriculture in real terms has witnessed steady decline from the Sixth Five Year Plan to the Tenth Plan. Trends in public investment in agriculture and allied sectors reveal that it has consistently declined in real terms (at 1999-2000 prices) from the Sixth Plan to the Ninth Plan (Sixth Plan [1980-85]—Rs 64,012 crore, Seventh Plan [1985-90]—Rs 52,108 crore, Eighth Plan [1992-97]—Rs 45,565 crore and Ninth Plan [1997-2002]—Rs 42,226 crore).

Agricultural Indebtedness: According to the Report No. 498(59/33/1), Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers: Indebtedness of Farmer Households, National Sample Survey 59th Round (January-December 2003), percentage of indebted farmer households was highest in the state of Andhra Pradesh (82%), to be followed by Tamil Nadu (74.5%), Punjab (65.4%), Kerala (64.4%), Karnataka (61.6%) and Maharastra (54.8%) (See the link below).

Stories of farmers committing suicides are frequently reported in media from states like: Andhra Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharastra (see the links below). According to the recently released National Crime Records Bureau's Accidental Death and Suicide (2009), the number of suicides committed by farmers in 2009 was 17,368, which was a rise by 1,172 as compared to 2008. Self-employed category accounted for 39.8% of suicide victims in 2009. It comprised 13.7% engaged in Farming/Agriculture activities, 6.1% engaged in Business and 2.9% Professionals. Despite a fall in number of suicides committed by farmers in 2009 as compared to 2008 in Maharastra (fallen by 930), the state continues to be number one in terms of farmers' suicides for the tenth year (2,872 suicides) as compared to the rest of the Indian states.

Revamping the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act: The State APMC Acts establish and regulate a large number of agricultural markets in India. The entire geographical area in a state is divided and declared as a market area wherein the markets are managed by the Market Committees constituted by the state Governments. No person or agency is allowed freely to carry on wholesale marketing activities, once a particular area is declared a market area and falls under the jurisdiction of a Market Committee. It is believed by a set of economists that the monopoly of Government regulated wholesale markets has hampered the development of a competitive marketing system in India, providing no help to farmers in direct marketing, organizing retailing, a smooth raw material supply to agro-processing industries and adoption of innovative marketing system and technologies. The Task Force on Agricultural Marketing Reforms set up by the Ministry of Agriculture has suggested promotion of new and competitive Agricultural Market in private and cooperative sectors to encourage direct marketing and contract farming programmes, facilitate industries and large trading companies to undertake procurement of agricultural commodities directly from the farmer’s fields and to establish effective linkages between the farm production and retail chains.

Presently, agricultural produce can be moved out of an area only by agents who own licenses issued under the APMC Act. However, the Central Government has envisaged a model APMC Act for the states to enable the smooth flow of produce from one place to another. Key proponents of the revamped APMC Act want to squeeze the interference by the intermediaries so that the fruits of rising prices can be enjoyed by the farmers. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail is also seen as a solution to combat inflation. According to the critics of the existing APMC Act, the cleaning, grading and packaging of agricultural produce before sale by the farmers have not been popularized by the market committees on a sufficient scale. There is demand for bringing more uniformity in powers and functions of Boards and demarcations of activities between the Directorate of Marketing and State Agricultural Marketing Boards. The number of regulated markets is relatively more in geographically larger states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

However, the Left parties are up in arms against the model APMC Act as they feel that it would lead to cartel formation by the traders and hoarding of essential commodities would accelerate, thus, adversely affecting the consumers. In the recent days, when India saw huge rise in prices of onion and other essential commodities, both the pro-and-anti APMC lobbies were seen on TV channels either advocating or critiquing the revamping of the same Act. The Left parties feel that FDI in retailing would greatly hamper food sovereignty.

Lack of storage facilities: Growth in food grain and agricultural production should be backed by sufficient and proper storage and distribution system. Recently, India has seen wastage of foodgrains in states like Punjab in the backdrop of high prevalence of malnutrition.

According to the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) documents, lower growth in productivity increase and profitability in agriculture is attributable to:

• Inadequate investment in rural infrastructure has hampered the growth of agriculture

• Illiteracy, socio-economic backwardness, slow progress in implementing land reforms and inadequate marketing and storage facilities are affecting Indian agriculture

• Smaller size of land-holdings and fragmentation, which is affecting productivity

• Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate. There has been inefficient use of available technology and inputs.

• Agriculture is mainly rain-fed. There has been low level of public investment in irrigation-related infrastructure

• There has been widening economic disparities between irrigated and rain-fed areas

• Increased vulnerability to world commodity price volatility following trade liberalization. This had an adverse effect on agricultural economies of regions growing crops such as cotton and oilseeds

• Uneven and slow development of technology

• Lack of adequate incentives and appropriate institutions

• Degradation of natural resource base

• Rapid and widespread decline in groundwater table, with particularly adverse impact on small and marginal farmers

• Terms of trade turned against agriculture from 1999–2000 to 2004–05 and reduced profitability of farming quite sharply

Probably, a lot needs to be done before one gets satisfied with the prospect of a good turnaround of the agricultural sector in 2010-11.

Further Readings:

Advance Estimates of National Income 2010-11, Centra;Statistics Office, MoSPI, GoI, Press Information Bureau

http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/adv_rel_pressnote_8feb11.pdf

Survey of Professional Forecasters : Results of the Fourteenth Round (Q3:2010-11), http://rbi.org.in/scripts/PublicationsView.aspx?id=13050

Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2010, http://dacnet.nic.in/eands/latest_2006.htm

Economic Survey 2009-10, http://www.im4change.org/docs/4743chapter08.pdf

http://mofpi.nic.in/images/File/FICCI%20Data/Indian%20Food%20Laws/Agricultural%20Produce%20Market%20Committees%20%28APMC%20Act%29.pdf

http://agmarknet.nic.in/amrscheme/modelact.htm#Background%C2%A0

Eleventh Five Year Plan 2007-12,

http://www.planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/fiveyr/welcome.html

In rain-battered Adilabad, death stalks farmers by S Harpal Singh, The Hindu, 2 February, 2011, http://www.hindu.com/2011/02/02/stories/2011020255352400.htm

3 farmers attempt suicide in Madhya Pradesh, Sify News, 31 January, 2011, http://www.sify.com/news/3-farmers-attempt-suicide-in-madhya-pradesh-news-national-lb5vkmgbbeb.html

Farmer suicides increase at an alarming rate by Rupashree Nanda, IBN, 18 January, 2011, http://ibnlive.in.com/news/farmer-suicides-increase-at-an-alarming-rate/140746-3.html

1326 Indians die due to accidents, suicide every day, The Times of India, 17 January, 2011, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/1326-Indians-die-due-to-accidents-suicide-every-day/articleshow/7300325.cms

National Crime Records Bureau's Accidental Death and Suicide (2009),

http://www.im4change.org/debt-suicides/farmers-suicides-14.html?pgno=2

Gowda's homeland is land of farmers' suicide too, The Times of India, 12 January, 2011, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/Gowdas-homeland-is-land-of-farmers-suicide-too/articleshow/7262739.cms

Vidarbha: 9 farmer suicide in 5 days as cold destroys crop, NDTV, 12 January, 2011, http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/vidarbha-9-farmer-suicide-in-5-days-as-cold-destroys-crop-78760?pfrom=home-India

Modernisation of agri marketing needed: Montek, The Business Standard, 5 February, 2011, http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/modernisationagri-marketing-needed-montek/424123/

Diluting the Right to Food by CP Chandrasekhar, Macroscan.com, 2 February, 2011, http://macroscan.com/cur/feb11/cur020211Food.htm

BJP lashes out at UPA govt on rotting food grains issue, IBN, 10 October, 2010, http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/bjp-lashes-out-at-upa-govt-on-rotting-food-grains-issue/399129.html

Rotting grain & judicial transgression by Ashok Khemka, The Economic Times, 7 October, 2010, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/editorial/Rotting-grain--judicial-transgression/articleshow/6703577.cms

How right you are, Dr. Singh by P Sainath, The Hindu, 14 September, 2010, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/article634136.ece

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mazdoor Haq Satyagraha


The Suchna Evum Rozgar ka Adhikar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan) began a Mazdoor Haq Satyagraha (indefinite dharna) from the 2nd of October, 2010 near the Statue Circle in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which witnessed participation of nearly 1500 NREGA workers and farmers on the very first day.

The SR Abhiyan organized a Mazdoor Haq Yatra, in which there were 5 groups - one each in Ajmer, Jodhpur, Kota, Rajsamand and Udaipur. The yatras started on the 15th of September, 2010 so as to mobilize mazdoors and farmers on the issues of non-payment of minimum wages under NREGA, increase in minimum wages, work done by workers not being measured properly by junior engineers and widespread corruption and leakages in the existing employment guaranty scheme. The 5 groups converged near the Statue Circle in Jaipur on October 2nd, 2010-the day Gandhi Jayanti was celebrated.

A delegation comprising of 99 NREGA labourers from Tonk district who were paid Rs 1 per day as wage rate went to meet the Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister of Rajasthan Government Shri Bharat Singh, and handed over to him a cheque of Rs. 1037/- to be deposited under Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

The NREGA workers at the dharna site were demanding for their just labour rights through the following slogans:

Nyuntam Mazdoori ko, Mahangai se jodo

(Link the Minimum wages to Price Inflation)

Nyuntam Mazdoori Badhani Hogi, Do sau Rupya Karni Hogi

(Make an increase in Minimum Wages to Rs. 200 per day)

Hum Hamara Haq Jante, Nahi Kisi se Bheek Mangte

(We are demanding for our Rights, We are not begging)

Mazdoor Haq Yatra Zindabad

(Long Live Mazdoor Haq Yatra)

Shri Bhanwar Singh Chadana from Aastha, Udaipur during a short interview to the Inclusive Media for Change (www.im4change.org) team informed that the following issues would be raised during the indefinite dharna:

Violation of Minimum Wage Law, 1948

Minimum wages has remained the same since 2008 and it has not been linked to the Consumer Price Index

The Government of Rajasthan is not ready to increase the minimum wages so as to avoid fiscal burden. Even if wages are increased, it wants the Central Government to pay the extra amount

The salaries of the Government employees have been increased according to the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission. Moreover, the salaries of the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) have been hiked. However, there has been no improvement in the wages offered to the NREGA workers

Minimum wages should be increased from Rs. 100 per day to Rs. 200 per day.

Through simple tables and figures, the Mazdoor Haq Yatra displayed to the gathering that how the wages and salaries of the collectors, junior engineers, teachers, patwaris and sarpanches witnessed a huge rise between 2008 and 2010. Except the NREGA workers, every other Government official’s salary has risen between 2008 and 2010. Please see the table provided above.

Again, through simple tables and figures, the Mazdoor Haq Yatra displayed that how the prices of essential commodities have increased between 2008 and 2010. Though the Government provides dearness allowance (DA) to its employees by revising the basic salaries twice in a year so as to protect them from rising prices, there has been no effort on the part of the Government to link the minimum wages of the NREGA workers to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Please see the table provided above.

Ms. Aruna Roy from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) spoke about the life and struggles of Mahatma Gandhi. She explained the meaning of the following popular Bhajan:

raghupati raaghav raajaaraam,

patit paavan sitaram

siitaaraam, sitaram,

bhaj pyaare tu sitaram

iishvar Allah tero naam,

sab ko sanmati de bhagavaan

She informed that Mahatma Gandhi was not killed by a Muslim but by a Hindu fanatic Brahmin named Nathuram Vinayak Godse. She asked that everyone should follow Gandhi ji’s Talisman, which says:

"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melt away."

She also praised Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar who wrote the secular Constitution of India. She said that credit facilities for buying cars have become easier, while it has become costlier to get loans for farming. She criticized the present structure of the National Food Security Bill and said that the public distribution system (PDS) should be made universal.

MKSS activist Nikhil Dey asked that a People’s Commission on Wages should be constituted to discuss the issue of payment of minimum wages and increasing minimum wages to Rs. 200 per day. He said that dearness allowance is given to the Government employees and not to the workers under NREGA. If there is monitoring of work done by NREGA workers, then why the same should not be applied for the government officials. He informed that efficiency of the Government can be judged from the fact that Rs. 19,000 crore has been the annual revenue collection by the Government of Rajasthan from various sources, whereas Rs. 22,000 crore is spent annually for payment of salaries and pensions of Government employees. Government employees constitute only 1 percent of the population and a huge expenditure is made on their salaries and pensions. He explained that a worker who earns less than his/ her minimum wage is nothing but a slave.

Shri Bhanwar Singh Chadana from Aastha said that the indefinite dharna has been called to demand for the fulfillment of workers’ rights under NREGA. The sarpanches must allow conducting of social audits by outsiders.

Ms. Richa spoke at length about the role of gram panchayat in conducting social audits. She said that ward panchayat must also be included along with the gram panchayat. Farmers’ issues must be raised so that they get the right prices for their produce. Despite India having enough foodgrains in its buffer stock, people are dying due to starvation and hunger.

MKSS activist Shankar Singh said that Government employees get 183 days of holidays in a year that comprises of 365 days. For 6 months’ work, Government employees get 12 months’ salaries. Government employees get pensions, which the NREGA workers do not receive. He demanded that the days of employment under NREGA must be raised from 100 to 200 days a year.

Ms. Renuka Pamecha said that higher officials are not accountable to the public They do not provide services to the public efficiently. MPs and MLAs have increased their salaries. But NREGA workers’ salaries have remained stagnant. There is a need to fight against the new ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ i.e. the babudom. There are many crorepatis among Indian MPs but they still ask for higher salaries.

Ms. Arundhuti Roy informed that a massive war is taking place against the poor in states like Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. In states like Chattisgarh, the police is engaged in extortion and rape. The Government has waged a war against its own people so as to give mining rights and right to exploit natural resources available in forests to the corporate sector and the multinational corporations (MNCs). Nearly 25 percent of the national asset is owned by the richest 100 persons of India. India is much poorer than Africa in absolute terms. Nearly, 77 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of Rs. 20 per day. During the 1970s, Naxalism came into being to protest against the growing income disparity between the rich and the poor. In the name of tackling Maoism and Naxalism, the Government is presently engaged in human rights abuse. Tribal people are victimized by the police and the army. The Government wants to end small-scale agriculture done by poor cultivators and marginal farmers. The Government is working in favour of corporate and commercial agriculture. In Rajasthan, a movement is taking place to give NREGA workers the minimum wage. She questioned whether India can be called a super power since its labourers are paid Rs 1/ day. Whatever is happening in J&K, would replicate in other states of the country if the current scenario of exploiting the poor continues. She said that in Chattisgarh, one can be jailed for 7 years without any reason.

References:

www.srabhiyan.wordpress.com

Sonia's NAC favours statutory minimum wages under MNREGS by Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu, 30 October, 2010, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article858538.ece

Centre and states labour over NREGA wage fineprint by Seema Chishti, The Financial Express, 25 October, 2010, http://www.financialexpress.com/news/centre-and-states-labour-over-nrega-wage-fineprint/701952/0

Minimum Wages Act for MGNREGA too: NAC by Anindo Dey, The Times of India, 25 October, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Minimum-Wages-Act-for-NGNREGA-too-NAC/articleshow/6806040.cms

The Wages of Discontent by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, The Hindu, 22 October, 2010, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article843173.ece?homepage=true

Centre to step in Rajasthan Mnregs wage row by K Balchand, The Hindu, 10 October, 2010, http://www.hindu.com/2010/10/10/stories/2010101063261100.htm

Mazdoor Satyagrah demands accountability panel, The Times of India, 9 October, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Mazdoor-Satyagrah-demands-accountability-panel/articleshow/6716117.cms

Activists to send low wage feat' to Guinness, The Times of India, 7 October, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Activists-to-send-low-wage-feat-to-Guinness/articleshow/6702689.cms

NREGS: Activists demand action on anomalies, The Times of India, 6 October, 2010, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIJ/2010/10/06&PageLabel=2&EntityId=Ar00201&ViewMode

Less than min wages for NREGA workers unconstitutional: Govt by Anindo Dey, The Times of India, 5 October, 2010,

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIJ/2010/10/05&PageLabel=2&EntityId=Ar00200&ViewMode

Ensure minimum wages to NREGA workers: Activists by Anindo Dey, The Times of India, 4 October, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Ensure-minimum-wages-to-NREGA-workers-Activists/articleshow/6680762.cms

No guarantees anymore by Sowmya Sivakumar, The Hindu, 3 October, 2010,

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2010/10/03/stories/2010100350010100.htm

Labourers go on indefinite strike, press for demands, The Times of India, 3 October, 2010,

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Labourers-go-on-indefinite-strike-press-for-demands/articleshow/6674845.cms

The mass job guarantee by Aruna Roy & Nachiket Udupa, Himal Magazine, October, 2010,

http://www.himalmag.com/The-mass-job-guarantee_nw4749.html

Cong, activists at loggerheads over NREGA by Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 23 September, 2010, http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/cong-activists-at-loggerheads-over-nrega/408892

'Systemic reform to root out corruption still needed' by Bharat Dogra, The Times of India, 13 September, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Systemic-reform-to-root-out-corruption-still-needed/articleshow/6541296.cms

NAC members blast execution of NREGA, call it 'anti-labour', The Financial Express, 28 September, 2010,

http://www.financialexpress.com/news/NAC-members-blast-execution-of-NREGA--call-it---anti-labour--/689178/

MNREGA workers peeved at being paid Re. 1 by K Balchand, The Hindu, 28 September, 2010, http://www.hindu.com/2010/09/28/stories/2010092862850800.htm

States fail on dole for jobless-Unemployment allowance to handful, The Telegraph, 28 September, 2010,

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100928/jsp/nation/story_12990989.jsp

Rajasthan refuses to recognise NREGA workers' union by Sreelatha Menon, Sify News, 30 September, 2010, http://sify.com/finance/rajasthan-refuses-to-recognise-nrega-workers-union-news-news-kj4bOWhfahh.html

Let’s build on the positives, The Hindustan Times, 29 September, 2010,

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Let-s-build-on-the-positives/Article1-606195.aspx

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Report: Rational Minimum Wage Policy (for the Unorganized Sector)



Backgrounder

As per the Constitution (Article 43), “The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organization or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life […..]”

The Minimum Wage Act, 1948 (Section 12.1) states “Where in respect of any scheduled employment a notification under Section 5 is in force the employer shall pay to every employee engaged in a scheduled employment under him wages at a rate not less than the minimum rate of wages fixed by such notification for that class of employees in that employment without in deductions […..]”

As per Section 4(1), the minimum rates of wages fixed or revised by the appropriate authority (Central or State Government) for the scheduled employments shall take into account the following:

1. a basic rate of wages and a special allowance at a rate to be adjusted at intervals with the variation in the cost of living index number applicable to such workers; or,
2. a basic rate of wages with or without the cost of living allowance, and the cash value of the concessions in respect of supplies of essential commodities at concessional rates, where so authorized; or
3. an all inclusive rate allowing for the basic rate, the cost of living allowance and the cash value of the concessions, if any.

The 15th Indian Labour Conference (1957) defined the following norms to calculate minimum wage:

1. 3 consumption units for one earner.
2. Minimum food requirements of 2700 K calories per average Indian adult.
3. Clothing requirements of 72 yards per annum per family.
4. Rent corresponding to the minimum area provided for under Government’s Industrial Housing Scheme.
5. Fuel, lighting and other miscellaneous items of expenditure to constitute 20% of the total minimum wages.

These norms were further enhanced by the Supreme Court in its judgment in the case of Reptakos Brett and Co. versus its workmen (1991) by an additional 25% of the total minimum wage for education, medical requirement, minimum recreation including festivals/ ceremonies and provision for old age, marriage etc.

Fixing a minimum wage below the norms prescribed by the 15th ILC is not an oversight but a calculated exercise. The Second national Commission on Labour Report notes, “Wage Boards after the Second Pay Commission (1957-59) have not found it possible to fix the need-based minimum wages recommended by the Indian Labour Conference (1957). The Report of the Committee, set up by the first National Commission on Labour, on the Functioning of the System of Wage Boards (cited in the Report of NCL, 1969) found it infeasible because the need-based minimum would be beyond the capacity of the industry to pay and might result in the transference of the burden to the consumer”. Subsequently, the Sub-committee ‘D’ of the Standing Committee of Labour Ministers (1981) diluted the norms prescribed in the 15th ILC recommending, “the level of minimum wage should not be below the poverty line”, and further diluted by the Report of the Committee of Secretaries’ of States (1981), which reduced per day calorie requirements to 2400 K calories in rural areas and 2100 K calories in urban areas.

However, even these statutory wages are not being paid. As per simulation from household data in the ILO report, “Extending the Coverage of Minimum Wages in India”, at least 73 million workers (out of 173 million waged workers) received wages below the national minimum wage floor of Rs. 66 per day in 2004-05. This includes more than half of all casual workers (58.6 million earners) and another one-fourth of all salaried workers (or 14.5 million workers). Unsurprisingly, female workers and those residing in rural areas are more likely to earn below minimum wages.

In January 2009, the Government of India issued a notification under Section 6(1) of the MGNREGA, which delinked MGNREGA wages from the Minimum Wage Act freezing MGNREGA wages at the prevailing state minimum wage or upto Rs. 100 per day. Today, MGNREGA wages in at least 19 states are less than the prevailing state minimum wage, thus hitting the worker not just in real economic terms, but de facto capping market wages to below minimum wage.The Minimum Wages Act does not mandate inflation indexation. Indexation was recommended only in Labour Ministers’ Conference (1988) and the variable dearness allowance (VDA) linked to CPI. Only 26 states/ UTs incorporate VDA as a component of minimum wage.


The Seminar

After the holding of 47 days long dharna (following Mazdoor Haq Yatra) by various organizations like National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), SR Abhiyan and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) at the Statue Circle in Jaipur (Rajasthan) since 2 October, 2010, a letter was shot from Sonia Gandhi on 11 November, 2010 to the Prime Minister of India asking for raising the minimum wages under NREGA. (Please check the links:
http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/media-invited-to-witness-the-real-dance-of-democracy-3622.html

http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/nrega-2010-politics-in-slow-motion-4763.html

http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/what-is-wrong-with-mg-nrega-4237.html)

Although the Government of India agreed to indexing the wages paid under NREGA to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourer (CPIAL), it shied away from paying statutory minimum wages under NREGA in various states of India. The reason behind this argument was: Who will bear the financial burden of paying the minimum wages—the Centre or the states? A letter from the Prime Minister of India to the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi (who is also the Chairperson of National Advisory Council) dated 31 December, 2010 communicated that Government does not see the need to pay statutory minimum wages to MGNREGA workers.

In was in this context that a very relevant seminar titled Rational Minimum Wage Policy (for the Unorganized Sector) was held at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) on 18-19 January, 2011 by Bandhua Mukti Morcha, NMML and Planning Commission so as to further the movement for ensuring payment of statutory minimum wages in the unorganized sector and also to the manual labourers employed under NREGA. The main message of the two day-long seminar was that payment of wages below the statutory minimum wages was tantamount to bonded labour system, where the labourer is forced to work in subhuman conditions. This was the point made by Swami Agnivesh (from Bandhua Mukti Morcha) during the seminar. He argued that the existing minimum wage policy of the Government is irrational. Hence, this seminar has been organized to demand for rational minimum wages. The 6th Pay Commission has raised the salaries of the 4th grade government employees but it has failed to address the improvement in wages of the unorganized sector workers. Swami Agnivesh opposed Kaushik Basu’s idea that rise in minimum wages can lead to labour displacement and hence cash transfer is a better option. He mentioned about the Sanjit Roy versus State of Rajasthan case that was held in 1983 (see the link:
http://www.barefootcollege.org/Sanjit%20Roy%20vs%20State%20of%20Rajasthan.pdf) in which the apex court ruled in favour of Sanjit Roy and the women in a public work received full wages that was due to them.

Swami Agnivesh informed that during the 1960s he was teaching business management at St. Xavier’s college in Kolkata and he studied law too. During the days of Naxalism, he saw leaders calling for revolution via the use of guns. He left his career and came to Haryana. He started with Vedic socialism ideology. Then he read Gandhi and came to know that Gandhi was talking about the poorest of the poor (Gandhiji’s talisman). He resigned from the post of Education Minister in Haryana and started working for the bonded labourers. He opined that Directive Principles of State Policy and the Constitution prepared by Ambedkar can empower the poor and the dalits. If the Constitution is implemented properly, there will be no Maoism in the country.

Naurti Ben who was one of women demanding for minimum wages in the Sanjit Roy versus State of Rajasthan case was also present during the above-mentioned seminar. She said that getting less than minimum wages tantamount to bonded/ forced labour.

Justice AP Shah (Retired Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi) mentioned that the Constitution of India has two parts: a. Fundamental Rights and b. Directive Principles of State Policy. Part IV of the Indian Constitution talks about hopes and aspirations of the poor. He noted that if minimum wages are not paid then it could lead to violation of Article 14 and Article 39 (d), which ensures equal remuneration for equal work. Employers cannot deny paying minimum wages if one considers Article 21, which ensures right to live with dignity. He criticized the Government’s decision of not paying statutory minimum wages to the NREGA workers.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission) expressed that it is upto to the courts to decide whether minimum wages should be paid. He, however, agreed that wage rates in the rural areas got upward push thanks to the NREGA. Constitutional rights must be enjoyed by the citizens.

Aruna Roy (MKSS, Rajasthan) demanded for payment of minimum wages under NREGA. Indexing will be helpful when statutory minimum wages are paid. Indira Jaising too has demanded for payment of minimum wages, she informed. Rs. 1270 crore would be the extra cost for paying minimum wages in 11 states. She alleged that the Ministry of Rural Development was unable to ensure minimum wages to the NREGA workers. Minimum Wage Act is essential to end bonded labour system. The market on its own can’t help the workers unlike the Government. Long before the Minimum Wages Act came into being, Jawaharlal Nehru talked about minimum wages.

Comrade D Raja from the Communist Party of India (CPI) informed that the Left in the UPA 1 wanted that NREGA should provide 180 days of work. However, on the basis of consensus it was agreed that the scheme may start with 100 days of employment guaranty. The present government has frozen the wages under NREGA. NREGA has actually led to making right to work as a fundamental right. Since the Parliament has legislated the NREGA, hence the Government must pay minimum wages under it. Neither the judiciary nor the Government can violate the minimum wage payment under NREGA.

Harsh Mander pointed out that the current discourse on rise in the rural wages due to NREGA, leading to conflict between farmers’ interest and workers’ interest, is a wrong notion. He objected to the notion of exploitation of labourers by farmers.

Prof. Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) disagreed to Montek S Ahluwalia’s suggestion that the issue of payment of minimum wages under NREGA should be fought in the courts. The Minimum Wage Act is in existence since 1948. NREGA has reduced the wage gap between men and women. She spoke against the allegation that increased NREGA wages has pushed up rural and agricultural wages which has adversely affected farmers’ profit. She argued that labour cost is only 20-35 percent of the entire cost borne by the farmers. Farmers also rely on family labour. In fact, the higher cost of inputs (like seed, fertilizers, pesticide, electricity) is worrying the farmers as their prices have shot up more as compared to cost of labour. Rise in labour cost is lesser than the rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The development paradigm envisaged by the Government relies on corporate initiatives and more foreign direct investment (FDI). The wage led growth (via multiplier effect) under NREGA must replace profit led growth. .

Senior Supreme Court Advocate Prashant Bhusan expressed his unhappiness over Montek S Ahluwalia’s remark that the issue of payment of minimum wages under NREGA must be sorted out in the courts. He agreed to Jayati Ghosh’s point that increase in rural labour wages is not affecting the farmers and moreover the increase in labour wages has been lower than the growth in GDP. If the Government is so much worried about the farmers, why it is then encouraging corporate farming, Bhusan asked. Privatization of the natural resources is quite rampant in India. Mining companies are earning huge profits in Karnataka by paying minimal royalties to the Exchequer. Tax havens like Mauritius are helping the corporate to increase investment by avoiding taxes. Land acquisition is taking place by displacing the farmers for example the case of Taj Express. The corporate mafia is getting powerful by each day. The Government is only concerned about economic growth. The NAC has recommended for universal right to food, which the Government is refusing to accept.

Comrade Sitaram Yechury from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) informed that the NREGA came into being after a long political struggle in which the Left parties and the civil society played a crucial role. It was earlier thought that NREGA would lead to wastage of money and instead the money spent on NREGA must be used for investment. It was a struggle to ensure minimum wages for NREGA workers under UPA 1. Like the dearness allowance, the NREGA wages must be indexed to CPIAL. The Government’s denial to pay minimum wages is actually violation of law and is tantamount to contempt of court. In the backdrop of 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam and spurious spending made during Commonwealth Games 2010, the logic of the Government that it has got no money is unacceptable. It was Montek Singh Ahluwalia who said that Rs. 88,000 crore is needed to enact the Right to Food Act, Yechury alleged. There are two Bharats: IPL Bharat and BPL Bharat and the laws enacted during the period of economic liberalization actually looted the people. The nationalization of banks in 1969 made by the Indira Gandhi led Government under the pressure of Left parties has helped India to avoid the financial crisis of 2008, Yechury argued. If the UPA 2 listens to the Left, the Congress will gain.

Trilochan Sastry from IIM Bangalore and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) informed that the hike in salaries of the bureaucrats under the 6th Pay Commission took place after consulting them. However, the labourers were never consulted for hike in their wages. He asked for people’s pay commission, which will include representatives from the labourers. He cautioned that the ideology at IIM Bangalore is similar to that of the people in Dalal Street, Wall Street and even people in the Government. Their ideology is to infuse FDI for economic growth. Montek S Ahluwalia wants direct cash transfers instead of minimum wages, he alleged. There is no respect for poor people who have the right to live with dignity. That is why we have a scheme like UID. We should go for Bharat India jodo abhiyan so that we arrive at a meeting point of ideologies. The capitalists are quite powerful as they can influence the academicians, politicians and bureaucrats.

BD Sharma (retired bureaucrat) said that mostly the SCs and the STs are employed in the unorganized sectors. The recent development paradigm which the country is witnessing is based on neo-liberalism and imperialism. Disparity in wage structure within the Government in 1970s was less as compared to the present times. Mukesh Ambani earns Rs. 1,000 per second. India made progress without foreign capital after Independence. Capital derives from labour exploitation. Farmers are not unskilled. He quoted the Article 23 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

Harish Rawat, Labour Minister, appreciated the agenda prepared by Swami Agnivesh. He said that the planners have planned as per the MGNREGA without taking into account Minimum Wage Act (1948). The debate that has generated from NREGA is good for a healthy democracy. The National Social Security Act that came in 2008 has helped in creating a fund of Rs. 1,000 crore. He also mentioned about the Domestic workers (Registration social security and welfare) Act 2008. He congratulated the Ministry of Rural Development for indexing the wage under NREGA to CPIAL. He welcomed support from the Left parties and the civil society for progressive amendment of the Minimum Wage Act so as to ensure minimum wages for the NREGA workers. Critical analysis is needed to find whether there is any contradiction between MG-NREGA Section 1 and the Minimum Wage Act.

Shankar Singh from MKSS, Rajasthan said that despite inflation in food prices and hike in the salaries of the Government officials, there has been no revision in the wages of the NREGA workers.

Kaushik Basu, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance informed about his forthcoming book where he has asked how to manage so as to reach much needed equality. The notion of minimum wage exists in every country. If one acts through minimum wages, then entrepreneurs can cut down labour and bring more machinery. So there is need for cash transfers to the poor. Unemployed persons need money in terms of direct transfers. There is need for a feasibility study for bringing policy changes.

Nikhil Dey, activist from MKSS, criticized Kaushik Basu for his suggestion of cash transfers instead of minimum wages. He informed that 99 labourers from Tonk district received Rs. 11/- each for 11 days of hard labour under NREGA i.e. they were paid at the rate of Re. 1/- per day. Their hard labour was not paid justly.

Subhash Bhatnagar informed that the minimum wage for construction worker is Rs. 205 per day but in reality they receive Rs. 110. The construction workers who were employed during and prior to the CWG 2010 did not receive minimum wages. There is need for fast track and mobile courts to address their grievances.

Senior journalist Ramsharan Joshi asked why the government is cutting back on subsidies. He said that profit led growth must be replaced by wage led growth. Life with dignity must be the motto.

Pankaj Pushkar, research scholar on education, asked that there should not be any dichotomy between skilled and unskilled labour as it would undermine creativity of human beings.

Prof. Sheotaj Singh informed that 92 percent of the labour force is employed in the unorganized sector. The principle employer should pay the minimum wages, in case the contractors are not paying the same. Migration of labour is happening from West Bengal, Odisha and eastern UP to Punjab and Haryana.

Ashok Khandelwal, ex-faculty VV Giri National Labour Institute told that there is need for changes in the Minimum Wage Act regarding the principles of wage fixation. Revision of minimum wages is not mandatory. The Government may revise minimum wages in every five years. This period can be reduced to 3 years. There are certain sectors (types of employment), which are exempted from minimum wages. Minimum wage should be applicable to all the sectors including domestic worker. In only 8 states, Minimum Wage Act is applicable to the domestic workers. Linking of minimum wage to inflation is not mandatory. Criteria for wage fixation should be there in the Minimum Wage Act. He asked for referring to the NCEUS documents regarding minimum wages. He said that the Ministry of Labour is responsible for the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act and Minimum Wages Act.

Dr. Chandan Srivastava from Inclusive Media for Change, CSDS said that if farmers are self-employed and they are committing suicides due to debt, then they must be provided minimum wages. He criticized Kaushik Basu for his remark that if minimum wages rise, then unemployment will increase. He questioned Montek S Ahluwalia’s suggestion that the case of minimum wage must be resolved in the courts. He said that living wage is a better concept than minimum wage after listening to Prof. Gopal Mohan.

Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court JS Verma informed that non-payment of minimum wage is nothing but violation of human rights. Wages can’t be paid below minimum wage. He then quoted Article 21 which talks about right to life with dignity, Article 38 which talks about reduction of inequality and Article 39 which talks about providing livelihood. There is plenty of resource available with the Government. The Government must stop leakages and corruption. Resource crunch cannot be an excuse. India is becoming more feudal than the (erstwhile) princes and more colonial than the Britishers. If the Government can’t provide support to its people, it has no right to remain in power. Filing public interest litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court regarding the minimum wage payment can be helpful. It is unconstitutional on the part of Government and law to exempt certain types of employment from minimum wage payment. He said that Article 43 mentions about living wages and not minimum wages. The Government will spend a lot on lawyers so as to stop payment of minimum wages under NREGA. The Supreme Court’s decision on minimum wages came way back in 1983. Suo moto cognizance can be taken into consideration. Civil society is important as all institutions are getting devalued. Public anger can be translated into proactive role and not violence. Minimum means nothing below it, he clarified.

Prof. Mohan Gopal from National Judicial Academy made 3 points: a. Minimum wages are a fundamental right, which cannot be violated by law or the executive; b. The Supreme Court says that no wage structure can be revised to bring it below minimum wages; and c. Time has come for enforcement of Directive Principles of State Policy which talks about living wage. He informed that in the earlier days the State was true to the Directive Principles of State Policy, which is not the case today. The State is nothing but a set of values. These values are derived from the Indian freedom movement. There are 5 values: Satya (Honesty), Ahimsa (Non-violence), Swaraj (Sovereignty), Antyodaya (working for the poor) and Sarvodaya (Progress of all). Antyodaya is the basic tenet of the Constitution. One has to look at the Indian freedom struggle and not the market where exchanges take place. Market driven forces cannot determine values. State upholds the values that constitute the Republic. There are a number of provisions in the Constitution: Living wage, Equal remuneration and Collective bargaining power. The concept of living wage is much broader than the concept of minimum wage as it talks about frugal comfort and expenses to be made on health, education and risk aversion. In 1948, the definition of living wage was formed. Living wage is more than fair wage, which in turn is more than minimum wage. In 1950, the Constituent Assembly opted for living wage and not minimum wage. The notion of living wage has been diluted in the last 60 years. It would be a death sentence to people if the Government says it can’t pay minimum wage. The International Labour Organization (ILO) says that minimum wage provide floor to the wage structure. But presently the Government wants to go below the floor wage. It was actually a Living Wage Act (1948) and not Minimum Wage Act (1948). Minimum wages are a fundamental right under Article 21. One has to also consider Article 23 which has provisions against forced labour. He mentioned about the Sanjit Roy versus State of Rajasthan case. Prison labour in China is also forced labour. It is done to reduce the cost of development in China. Non-payment of minimum wages means violation of Article 14, which talks of equal remuneration for equal work. It was Justice Gajendra Gatkar in 1958 and in 1966 who said that revision of wage structure cannot be done to bring it below minimum wage. In 1992, the Supreme Court said that no revision in wages is permissible, not even on the ground of financial stringency. Section 6 of MGNREGA must be read subject to these provisions. According to Ambedkar, political democracy means one man, one vote, while economic democracy means one man, one value.

Prof. Jean Dreze appreciated Prof. Mohan Gopal’s argument. Growth in the NREGA wages was lower than the growth in GDP. Overriding of Minimum Wage Act is unacceptable. MGNREGA cannot override Minimum Wage Act. There is no protection from downward revision of wages below minimum wages for the NREGA workers. A credible tripartite process to determine minimum wages has to be there. There are economic arguments which have been invoked in the business media against hike in minimum wages. (please refer to Rural job scheme minimum wage revised, risking inflation spiral by Ruhi Tewari & Asit Ranjan Mishra, Livemint, 7 January, 2011
http://www.livemint.com/2011/01/07001315/Rural-job-scheme-minimum-wage.html). Some media houses are telling that NREGA will lead to the biggest trade union in the world. The multiplier effect can be observed thanks to the hike in minimum wages.

Annie Raja from National Federation of Indian Women said that NREGA has generated awareness about minimum wages. Mahatma Gandhi’s name was added before NREGA to insult him. 56 percent of women employed in NREGA are women. Majority of the workers under NREGA are SCs and STs. For empowering the SCs and STs, the Government must provide minimum wages. Cash transfer should be opposed. The Government must be criticized for giving financial support to the multinational corporations (MNCs). She found the Supreme Court judgment upholding the Kerala High Court order banning public meetings and rallies on roadsides as unfortunate. She critiqued both the Prime Minister and Montek Singh Ahluwalia for their stand vis-à-vis payment of minimum wages.

Amarjeet Kaur from All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) agreed and endorsed what was discussed in the seminar. She asked for minimum wage, equal remuneration and collective bargaining. She alleged that regression from the Constitution is happening. Earlier the corporate sector was doing this and now it is being done by the Government. The Government is not ready to accept NREGA workers as workers. Trade unions of NREGA workers could not be formed in Rajasthan. However, some unions could be registered at certain districts of Punjab thanks to a few good people at the Labour Department. She criticized payment of honorarium to ICDS workers, ASHA workers under NRHM and Aanganwadi workers. The Government considers these workers as volunteers and not workers. They are paid a meager sum on a monthly basis. Minimum Wage Act is applicable to workers and not volunteers. She informed that all trade unions are going to the Parliament on 23 February, 2011 for raising the issues related to inflation, dilution of labour laws, job losses and disinvestment of profit making PSUs. She said that there are 43 crore unorganized workers in India and there is no budgetary allocation for social security.

KB Saxena (IAS) agreed that people are getting wages far below the minimum wages. As a result, migration is rising. Economic reforms have affected laws pertaining to bonded labour and migrant labour. Class polarization is happening between elite/ middle level workers and contract labourers. If Montek S Ahluwalia has asked Court’s intervention for payment of minimum wages, it means that the courts are in favour of the Government.

Sushila Ben, a grassroot level worker commented that even after 30 years, we are still demanding for minimum wages, by referring to the Sanjit Roy versus State of Rajasthan case. If minimum wages are not being paid, then siphoning off of fund is taking place. The Government is not taking any action against corrupt babus and politicians. She asked why the Government is reluctant in unionization of NREGA workers. The Government is afraid of the labourers. Unions can be formed in the organized sector and not in the unorganized sector.

Medha Patkar from NAPM and NBA announced that she has been battling against Adarsh and Lavasa. She said that Minimum Wage Act is related to the right to livelihood. It is important to talk about values and not market forces. NREGA has supported the poor. But the World Bank’s World Development Report 2009 mentions that NREGA is artificially stopping rural-urban migration. (please check the links:
World Bank sees NREGA as a barrier to economic development, The Economic Times, 15 March, 2009,
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/world-bank-sees-nrega-as-a-barrier-to-economic-development/articleshow/4266622.cms

http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/EXTWDRS/EXTWDR2009/0,,menuPK:4231145~pagePK:64167702~piPK:64167676~theSitePK:4231059,00.html). It is not just about indexation of wages to CPIAL, it is also about ensuring social justice. There has been a deliberate effort to divide labour into organized and unorganized. Unorganized workers are insecured and unprotected. Terms like formal-informal, organized-unorganized should be discarded, said Patkar. Natural capital does not get quantified before it falls into the hands of capitalist. Land acquisition is quite rampant now. Value of labour has been undermined in today’s world. Corporate-contractors-builders nexus want to exploit the agricultural labourers. Right to access natural resources is yet to be materialized for the poor and the tribal. Local situation should be taken into account while implementing schemes in forest and tribal areas. Think about the profit made by the Ambanis, when they pay so much in royalities, asked Patkar. Wage disparity has increased presently. In the case of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs), tax sops are given by the Government to the corporates. Small and marginal farmers have benefitted from NREGA. Productivity of crop fields can be improved via NREGA. The empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) is wary of National Advisory Council (NAC). People’s pay commission is quite useful. Government’s Labour Commissioner Office is useless in giving information on migration. Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 has not been implemented properly.

Finally, the following resolutions were passed unanimously:

1. We decry the incarceration of human rights activist Binayak Sen on charges of sedition, and demand that he be released immediately. Further there is no place for sedition laws in a democratic country, and such laws must be repealed

2. Government must recognize the right of people to organize and such organizations must be legally competent to dialog and negotiate with the government

3. Minimum wage is a constitutional and non-negotiable fundamental right, and must be respected at all times.

4. There must be a rational basis for determining minimum wage. Minimum wage must be decided through a tripartite board, which must include worker representatives

5. In a democracy, there must be a consultative process to determine and change policy. The GoI decision to violate minimum wages runs counter to overwhelming political and legal consensus, including three Chief Ministers, 15 legal luminaries (including 3 ex-CJIs), grassroots opinion and even the Chairperson, NAC

6. Cash transfers are not a substitute for a rational and just minimum wage. In fact cash transfers are anti-democratic in that it is an attempt to substitute a inviolable right to work with a government dole.

7. The Minimum Wage Act as it stands is ultra vires of the Constitution in that it has reduced the Constitutional standard of a living wage to that of a minimum wage. The Act must be amended to delete the Exemption Clause (Section 26), the principles to determine minimum wage must be defined to ensure a legal basis for calculation, indexation and revision of wages must be made mandatory, and time period for revision must be reduced from five years to one year.

8. Every individual, including children in the family should be counted as a whole unit. The average size of the Indian family is five members and this must be the basis of minimum wage calculation.

---------

The following statement was passed during the seminar regarding payment of statutory minimum wages which was signed by eminent personalities from all walks of life:

Open Statement for immediate release to the press January 18th, 2011

Government of India Must Immediately Stop Perpetuating Forced/Bonded Labour


We the undersigned are deeply distressed at the recent decision by the Prime Minister (in a letter dated 31st December 2010) to delink MGNREGA wages from the Minimum Wages Act even while indexing the wage rate under NREGA to Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour. The Government of India had already undermined the wages under NREGA through a January 2009 notification, when it imposed an unjust freeze at an arbitrary rate of Rs 100 per day on its wages. The Government of India’s use of Section 6(1) to delink NREGA wages from the Minimum Wage Act is not just bad in law but is also immoral in so far as it seeks to remove the basis of Constitutional and legal protection of the lowest end of workers in the wage hierarchy. With a consistent near double digit inflation rate, touching 9.7% and even higher food price inflation the frozen NREGA wage, over the last 24 months has been significantly eroded in real terms. In fact even after the recent indexing of wages, the MGNREGS wage, in at least 11 states, is lower than the prevailing state minimum wage-- a situation that the Supreme Court of India has declared to be forced labour, prohibited under Article 23 of the Constitution.

As it is even State minimum wages have also been artificially depressed, without any rationale, and ignore the minimum need-based norms proposed in 1957 by the 15th Indian Labour Conference. These norms were not only endorsed by the Supreme Court but further enhanced by additional 20% in the Unichoy Vs State of Kerala in 1961 and 25% in the Reptakos Brett vs their workmen in 1991. If these norms are followed, given current rural prices, the minimum wage would be at least Rs. 250 per day. But the Government of India has not only blatantly disregarded these minimum wage setting norms, but is continuing to pay a meagre real wage of just Rs. 100 per day since January 2009 under NREGA.

There is overwhelming legal and political consensus on the need to pay minimum wage in MGNREGS works:

• The Andhra Pradesh High Court in WP No. 11848/2009 suspended the January 2009 notification on freezing the minimum wage for NREGA. The High Court stated that Government being the agency for implementing minimum wages cannot itself violate the minimum wages. In addition, governments of Tripura, Karnataka, Punjab, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh had also requested an amendment of the January 2009 notification as their state minimum wages were above the notified wage rate. Both the Government of India and the state Government of Andhra Pradesh are facing contempt proceedings since.

• GoI’s own law officer, the Additional Solicitor General, Ms. Indira Jaising referring to the PUDR Vs Union of India case and Article 23 of the Constitution of India has said that payment of less than minimum wage in NREGA works will amount to forced labour. She also cited the Kamani Metals and Alloys vs their workmen case in which the Supreme Court observed that minimum wage must be paid ‘irrespective of the extent of profit, the financial condition of the establishment or the availability of workmen on lower wages.’

• Chief Ministers of the states of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have written to the Prime Minister requesting MoRD’s compliance with the Minimum Wage Act

• The Chairperson of UPA, Mrs Sonia Gandhi too has written to the Prime Minister calling his attention to find urgent resolution of this matter.

• The Labour Ministry has reiterated its “fundamental objection” to Section 6(1), warning that using 6(1) to allow payment of less than prevailing state minimum wage will not stand legal scrutiny.

• The National Advisory Council, headed by Mrs. Gandhi, also recommended that minimum wages be paid to NREGS workers.

• 15 eminent jurists and lawyers including M N Venkatachaliah and J S Verma (both former Chief Justice of India), V R Krishna Iyer, P B Sawant, K Ramaswamy, Santosh Hegde (all former judges of the Supreme Court), A P Shah (former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court) and Dr. Upendra Baxi, Dr. Mohan Gopal, Fali S Nariman, Prashant Bhushan, Brinda Grover and others have urged the Government of India to immediately revoke its unconstitutional notification and along with state governments ensure that minimum wages are paid to all workers in India.

The Ministry of Finance in its letters dated December 1 and December 6, 2010 has stated that the Government will index the Rs 100 with inflation using wages as of April 1, 2009 as base for notification on January 1, 2011. While indexing wages with inflation recognises the fall in real wages, it will not resolve the core issue.

The Prime Minister has asked the rural development ministry to develop an index for fixing and revising wages under rural job scheme NREGA. Till the new index is worked out, wages under the scheme will be tied to inflation as measured by the consumer price index for agricultural labourers. The order will be effective from January 1, 2011. A committee under the chairmanship of Pronab Sen has been formed to devise an NREGA wage index. This is in itself worrisome as it will create yet another category of categorising workers and thereby institutionalizing the discrimination.

The government’s refusal to pay even minimum wage on public works at a time when food prices keep shooting up lays bare the Prime Minister’s promise that “no citizen of our country must sleep hungry”. Moreover it is shocking that a government battling trust deficit as scam after scam privileging powerful corporations become public, will let (comparatively minor) fiscal considerations override a constitutional and humanitarian mandate.

We demand the Government of India:

1. Immediately implements Section 6(2) of the NREGA indexed to inflation in all states thereby upholding the fundamental right to live of its poorest workers.

2. Immediately declares a national floor level need based wage based on the 15th ILC norms and subsequent Supreme Court judgements on minimum wage fixation, below which no state minimum wage can go.

1. Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
2. Biraj Patnaik (Principal Adviser, Supreme Court Commissioners)
3. Kavita Srivastava (People’s Union for Civil Liberties)
4. Arundhati Dhuru (National Alliance of People’s Movements)
5. Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan
6. Anuradha Talwar (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity)
7. Dunu Roy (Hazards Centre)
8. Gautam Mody (New Trade Union Initiative)
9. Roma (National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers)
10. Sandeep Pandey (Asha Pariwar)
11. Pradeep Baisakh (Journalist)
12. Yogendra Yadav (Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies)
13. Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women)
14. Mythri Prasad- Aleyamma (Centre for Development Studies)
15. Sunil Kaul (The Ant)
16. Kamal Chenoy (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
17. Anuradha Chenoy (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
18. Ambarish Rai (Lok Sangharsh Morcha)
19. Dr. Rukmini Rao (Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad)
20. Anurag Modi and Shamim Modi (Samajwadi Jan Parsihad, Jan Sangharsh Morcha and Shramik Adivasi Sanghthan)
21. Sachin Kumar Jain (Vikas Samwad)
22. Dr. Yogesh Kumar (Samarthan, Bhopal)
23. Kaveri Gill (Independent Development Economist and Researcher)
24. Madhuri (Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan)
25. Noor Zaheer (Writer and Social Activist)
26. Ashish Ranjan and Kamayani Swami (Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar)
27. Dipa Sinha (Reseach Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
28. Nandlal Prasad (Lok Samiti, Varanasi)Ajay Patel (Mazdoor Manch/AASRA)
29. Ankita Aggarwal (Right to Food Campaign Secretariat)
30. Jawahar Mehta (Jharkhand Gramin Mazdoor Sangh)
31. Abhay Kumar (Grameen Coolie Karmikara Sangathane)
32. Richa Singh (Sangtin Kisan Majdoor Sangthan Sitapur)
33. Reetika Khera (Visitor, Centre for Development Economics)
34. Karuna Muthiah (Right to Food Campaign, Tamil Nadu)
35. K.B.Singh (Social Worker, Madhya Pradesh)
36. Arun Tyagi (Jan Pahal, Madhya Pradesh)
37. Ishtiyaque Ahmad (Amam Trust)
38. Rupesh (Lok Parishad, Bihar)
39. Prof Om P Damani (IIT Bombay)
40. Anirban Kar (Economics Department, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University)
41. Sowmya Kidambi (Director, SSAAT, Government of Andhra Pradesh)
42. Kundan Kumar (Senior Project Manager, Igate Global Solutions)
43. Guru (AID Bangalore)
44. Anindita (NREGA Researcher)
45. Anand Sivaraman (Entrepreneur)
46. Nandini Nayak (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London)
47. Mohan Bhagat (Professor, Department of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park)
48. Arshad Ajmal (Sahulat Microfinance Society)
49. Jayant Thakur (Lawyer)
50. Arudra Burra (Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Law, University of California at Los Angeles
51. Sharukh Alam (The Patna Collective)
52. Vikalp Mishra (University of Alabama, Huntsville)
53. Anuj Grover (AID Delhi)
54. Anjani Kumar
55. R. Selva Ganapathy (AID Delhi)
56. Pritish Bose (Shramajibee Samanvay Committee, West Bengal)
57. Dr. Shakeel Rahman (CHARM, Patna)
58. Ranjan (Nidan, Bihar)
59. Albert Joseph, Executive Director, FVTRS
60. L.S Ghonoidoss, Sucwlworn, West Bengal
61. Fr. Anthony Karik, President, FVTRS, West Bengal
62. Pradeep Mahapatra, Udyama, Orissa
63. PAHAD
64. Dillip Verma Bal, SRUJAN, Orissa
65. Fr. Corlls Gonsalves, Don Bosco, Maharastra
66. Levkish Viaka, Amar Shaheed Chitra Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh
67. K. Mahasa Sundra, Pondicherry
68. Nandkumar Dhande, Priyadasshum, Maharastra
69. Darade Sunil, Maharashtra Jantik Shishan Ahmadnagar
70. P Kampe, Byancun Sena
71. Dragpal Singh, HVSS
72. Anna John, SRWD, West Bengal
73. Khairuinsa N Shan, KDDC, Karnataka
74. R Y Swamy Naik, HELP Hirigur, Karnataka
75. Sr. Cecil, Christ Raja Ashram, Rajasthan
76. Angumahato, Lokhit Sen, Jharkhand
77. Sachi Kumari, CSS , Jharkhand
78. H F Akki, NEEDS
79. M H Angakri, Sarvodya, Karnataka
80. D G Chibbori, I W S Karnataka
81. G Chabradhururao, Y C D Andhra Pradesh
82. Karamat Ali Khan, NIPDIT, Orissa
83. Sr. Annie Davis, Uttar Pradesh
84. Henry Sach, St. Joseph’s Convent College, Jharkand
85. A. Isac Singh, SWAN, Tamil Nadu
86. Sr. Ann Maria, Kristi Jyoti
87. Mohinuddin Shah, West Bengal
88. Fr. Sir P Job, ADCI S W Society, Kerela
89. Hardkishore Prasad, Rajasthan
90. Sohrab, GRASS
91. Sukhbal Singh, GRASS
92. Fr. Sukumar, KECYKS (West Bengal)
93. Ancul, GRASS
94. Gouulananda Ojha India Development Project, Orissa
95. Nasim Ansari, Tarun Cletra, Uttar Pradesh
96. Sr. Mabul Pinto, Karnataka
97. Anpama, Jharkand
98. Sr. Sadhana, Uttar Pradesh
99. Hari Shankar Rant, Kandhamal, Orissa
100. Suraj Singh, Uttar Pradesh
101. Fr. K. D Joseph, KDSSS, Andhra Pradesh
102. Arun Kumawat, Rajasthan
103. Udaiveer VishwaKumar, Sahas Sewa Sansthan, Uttar Pradesh
104. Senastian K, Jeevana, Kerela
105. Fr. Regimon Cyriac, SVS, Jharkhand
106. C. P Nicholas, FVTRS, Bangalore
107. Dr. P . Basak, FVTRS, Karnataka
108. B.K Panda, FVTRS, Karnataka
109. H.R Sunny, FVTRS, Uttar Pradesh
110. Prem Kumar Sinha, The Vigil, Bihar
111. S. Paranjhotay, CNI-SS, Nagpur
112. S Nageshwar, FVTRS
113. Subodh Kumar Pandey, AGYVS, Bihar
114. Fr. Veeresh, SMSSS, Karnataka
115. Francis Anthony, Institute of Social Research and Development, Madhya Pradesh
116. Shinoj PC, COD, Calicut
117. Sasikumar PB, Shvoyas, Kerela
118. Rosara Mohanti, Kalahandi Orissa
119. Pramila Patna, Kalahandi Orissa
120. Amrendra Kumar, SVWST, Jharkhand
121. Akokla Insorg, FVTRS
122. Prashanth, FVTRS, Bangalore
123. Arpana Bharti, FVTRS, Bangalore
124. Ankur Kachhwana, FVTRS, Jodhpur
125. Raju Teron, FVTRS
126. K Vijaya, VMMIL, Tamil Nadu
127. Sr. Sumitha, Krupalaya, Tamil Nadu
128. Biswaji Padhi, SRUSTI, Orissa
129. S Charides, WEEDS, Tamil Nadu
130. Rishi Riddhi Anhata, Shamayiti, West Bengal
131. Prajnamita, Shamayiti, West Bengal
132. Akhilesh Mishra, FVTRS, Rajasthan
133. L Pankajakshan, Santhigram, Kerela
134. A Isac Sinwalt, SWAN, Kanyakumari
135. Ram Shram Verma, LJSS, Uttar Pradesh
136. Pramod Kumar, Samchit Vikas Sansthan Basti, Uttar Pradesh
137. Raghuveer Acharta, FVTRS, Andhra Pradesh
138. Diviana Nayagi G, FVTRS, Karnataka
139. Usha R, FVTRS, Karnataka
140. Pawan k, Gurgaon
141. Trilochan Shastry, Dean, IIMB
142. Prof. Jean Dreze, Allahabad University
143. ICAN
144. Gabriele, D.
145. Madhulika Swami, Delhi
146. Nalini Nayak, Reader, PGDAV College, University of Delhi
147. Prof Pulin B. Nayak, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
148. Ashutosh Swami, General Manager (Retd)Indian Railways
149. Dr. Urvi, Medical Professional, USA
150. Gautam Desai, USA
151. Dr. Rahul Thakur, Medical Professional, USA

Contact Persons:

Ruchi Gupta 9910206490
Shreya Bhattacharya 9811108328
Kamayani Swami 09771950248


For further information, please check the links below:

http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/media-invited-to-witness-the-real-dance-of-democracy-3622.html

http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/nrega-2010-politics-in-slow-motion-4763.html

http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/what-is-wrong-with-mg-nrega-4237.html

Minimum Wages Act, 1948, http://labour.nic.in/annrep/files2k1/lab5.pdf

http://www.barefootcollege.org/Sanjit%20Roy%20vs%20State%20of%20Rajasthan.pdf

Rural job scheme minimum wage revised, risking inflation spiral by Ruhi Tewari & Asit Ranjan Mishra, Livemint, 7 January, 2011,
http://www.livemint.com/2011/01/07001315/Rural-job-scheme-minimum-wage.html

World Bank sees NREGA as a barrier to economic development, The Economic Times, 15 March, 2009,
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/world-bank-sees-nrega-as-a-barrier-to-economic-development/articleshow/4266622.cms

http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/EXTWDRS/EXTWDR2009/0,,menuPK:4231145~pagePK:64167702~piPK:64167676~theSitePK:4231059,00.html

Minimum Wages under MGNREGA demanded, SamayLive, 19 January, 2011,
http://english.samaylive.com/nation-news/676481042/mgnrega-minimum-wages-nmml-sitaram-yechury-montek-singh-ahluwali.html

NREGA is flawed: Rawat by Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 19 January, 2011,
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/nrega-is-flawed-rawat/422254/

Abhijeet Sen, Member, Planning Commission interviewed by Rupashree Nanda,
http://www.im4change.org/interviews/abhijeet-sen-member-planning-commission-interviewed-by-rupashree-nanda-4744.html

Increasing cases of irregularities in MGNREGS, The Hindu, 7 December, 2010,
http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=68186

States must pay minimum wages to workers under nrega: Pronab Sen by Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 7 December, 2010,
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/states-must-pay-minimum-wages-to-workers-under-nrega-pronab-sen/417394/

Will Unique Identity Number derail nrega? by Alok Pandey and Tanima Biswas, NDTV, 2 December, 2010,
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/will-unique-identity-number-derail-nrega-70002

Rajasthan govt to impose penalty for delaying MGNREGA payment, The Hindustan Times, 30 November, 2010,
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Raj-govt-to-impose-penalty-for-delaying-MGNREGA-payment/Article1-632811.aspx

‘Keep UID out of MGNREGA', The Hindu, 1 December, 2010,
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article924451.ece

The biggest NREGA scam in Rajasthan
http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/the-biggest-mnrega-scam-in-rajasthan-1911.html

Social audit of NREGS in Araria reveals corruption
http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/social-audit-of-nregs-in-araria-reveals-corruption-870.html

Poor people unite against corrupt sarpanches
http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/poor-people-unite-against-corrupt-sarpanches-777.html

Is NREGA II a product of a complacent UPA II?
http://www.im4change.org/news-alert/debate-is-nregs-ii-a-product-of-a-complacent-upa-ii-114.html

www.srabhiyan.wordpress.com

http://www.scribd.com/doc/40990562/Annexure-4-Open-Letter-From-Eminent-Jurists-and-Lawyers

Centre to step in Rajasthan Mnregs wage row by K Balchand, The Hindu, 10 October, 2010,
http://www.hindu.com/2010/10/10/stories/2010101063261100.htm

Mazdoor Satyagrah demands accountability panel, The Times of India, 9 October, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Mazdoor-Satyagrah-demands-accountability-panel/articleshow/6716117.cms

Activists to send low wage feat' to Guinness, The Times of India, 7 October, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Activists-to-send-low-wage-feat-to-Guinness/articleshow/6702689.cms

NREGS: Activists demand action on anomalies, The Times of India, 6 October, 2010,
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIJ/2010/10/06&PageLabel=2&EntityId=Ar00201&ViewMode

Less than min wages for NREGA workers unconstitutional: Govt by Anindo Dey, The Times of India, 5 October, 2010,
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIJ/2010/10/05&PageLabel=2&EntityId=Ar00200&ViewMode

Ensure minimum wages to NREGA workers: Activists by Anindo Dey, The Times of India, 4 October, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Ensure-minimum-wages-to-NREGA-workers-Activists/articleshow/6680762.cms

No guarantees anymore by Sowmya Sivakumar, The Hindu, 3 October, 2010,
http://www.hindu.com/mag/2010/10/03/stories/2010100350010100.htm

Labourers go on indefinite strike, press for demands, The Times of India, 3 October, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Labourers-go-on-indefinite-strike-press-for-demands/articleshow/6674845.cms

The mass job guarantee by Aruna Roy & Nachiket Udupa, Himal Magazine, October, 2010,
http://www.himalmag.com/The-mass-job-guarantee_nw4749.html

Cong, activists at loggerheads over NREGA by Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 23 September, 2010,
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/cong-activists-at-loggerheads-over-nrega/408892

'Systemic reform to root out corruption still needed' by Bharat Dogra, The Times of India, 13 September, 2010,
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Systemic-reform-to-root-out-corruption-still-needed/articleshow/6541296.cms

NAC members blast execution of NREGA, call it 'anti-labour', The Financial Express, 28 September, 2010,
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/NAC-members-blast-execution-of-NREGA--call-it---anti-labour--/689178/

MNREGA workers peeved at being paid Re. 1 by K Balchand, The Hindu, 28 September, 2010,
http://www.hindu.com/2010/09/28/stories/2010092862850800.htm

States fail on dole for jobless-Unemployment allowance to handful, The Telegraph, 28 September, 2010,
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100928/jsp/nation/story_12990989.jsp

Rajasthan refuses to recognise NREGA workers' union by Sreelatha Menon, Sify News, 30 September, 2010,
http://sify.com/finance/rajasthan-refuses-to-recognise-nrega-workers-union-news-news-kj4bOWhfahh.html

Let’s build on the positives, The Hindustan Times, 29 September, 2010,
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Let-s-build-on-the-positives/Article1-606195.aspx

Fear of Freedom by Ruchi Gupta, Hard News, 11 January, 2011,
http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2011/01/3799