MGNREGA wages less than minimum farm wages in 15 states: Panel

As per data being examined by the committee, the minimum wages paid to agricultural workers are significantly higher than MGNREGA wages in Karnataka, Punjab, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Mizoram, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.

THE COMMITTEE for revision of wages paid under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MGNREGA) has found that minimum agricultural wages are higher than MGNREGA wages in 15 states. An upward revision in MGNREGA wages is estimated to require a Rs 4,500 crore increase in its budget.

Based on these findings, the panel, under Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development Nagesh Singh, is expected to make its recommendations in another month.

As per data being examined by the committee, the minimum wages paid to agricultural workers are significantly higher than MGNREGA wages in Karnataka, Punjab, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Mizoram, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The other states where MGNREGA wages fail to match up are Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. In Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, the minimum wages are marginally higher than MGNREGA wages.

“In the 15 states where MGNREGA wages are lower, we tried revising it to bring it on par with the minimum agricultural wages paid by the respective states. Where MGNREGA wages are on par or higher, we decided to protect it as it is. If a revision is done as per this formula, it is estimated that a Rs 4,500 crore addition to the existing MGNREGA budget would be needed,” said an official from the Ministry of Rural Development.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that despite official claims of this year’s MGNREGA budget of Rs 48,000 crore being the highest ever, the wage revision, at 2.7 per cent, was the lowest ever. It meant a per day, per person wage hike of merely Re 1 in some states like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and Rs 2-Rs 3 in several others.

This was because the finance ministry, on account of financial implications, rejected the recommendations of the S Mahendra Dev committee, which had proposed to bring MGNREGA wages on par with minimum wages paid to unskilled agricultural workers in the states. The expert panel had said that the Consumer Price Index for Rural (CPI-R), which reflects the current consumption pattern of rural households, should be the basis for revising MGNREGA wage rates, and not CPI for Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL), which is based on the consumption pattern of 1983.

“The basket of goods for calculating CPI-AL comprises mainly food items. With the implementation of the National Food Security Act, rice and wheat is available for as cheap as Rs 2-3 per kg. CPI(Rural) gives lower weightage to food items, and hence, is found to be a better indicator of wage increase,” said a ministry official.

The Nagesh Singh panel has found that based on the second recommendation of the Mahendra Dev committee, if the existing MGNREGA wages are revised as per CPI(Rural), it would mean another Rs 600 crore increase in the budget.

“CPI(R) should be used to revise the wages every year instead of CPI(AL), as the former is more representative of the current rural consumption basket. Also, wage revision should take place every six months, in keeping with the practice for other trades and occupation,” said Ankita Aggarwal from the people’s organisation, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha. Aggarwal said that with such low wages and delays in payments, MGNREGA fails to provide the livelihood security for which it was enacted.

Jharkhand Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma had recently written a strongly-worded letter to the Ministry of Rural Development protesting against the growing divergence between the state’s minimum wage, which is currently Rs 224 per day, and MGNREGA wages of just Rs 168 per day after the wage hike.

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Government admits it is not doing enough to fight water crisis in rural India

NEW DELHI:  Only 20.7% rural population is getting enough and safe pipe water supply to quench their thirst. But, a government, poised to chalk out a historic achievement of covering 80% population by 2022, is facing an uphill task. The funds to provide drinking water to the rural population is shrinking and expenditure for reviving existing yet impoverished water sources is fast drying up. Ministry of Drinking Water of NDA government has candidly admitted that it may not achieve the target at this pace. The Ministry was hoping to receive minimum Rs.16, 900 Crore per annum, instead it received just Rs.6050 Crore for 2017-18 – a whopping Rs.10, 000 Crore less than it was aspiring for.  A 24-page draft note prepared by the Ministry reveals a messy tale that deprives a majority of population of their basic right. Ministry of Drinking Water has put the blame on the Finance Ministry.

“Budget estimate of 2017-18 is Rs.6050 Crore. Such level of funding by government of India is meager compared to the overall requirement to achieve Sustainable Development Goals- 2030. If Government is to have pivotal role, we must continue National Rural Drinking Water Programme and must have annual funding as high as possible but at least to the tune of around Rs.16,900 annually (i.e. 10% incremental increase over Rs.10,500 provided during 2012-13. However, Ministry of Finance is suggesting to restrict the requirement at the present BE level for 2017-18 and 10% annual increase for the subsequent 2 years,” the draft  EFC note stated.

The note dated July 3 2017 although highlighted that reduction is due to 14th finance commission recommendation that enhanced devolution of grants to the states by 10%, the central government will have to pitch in if it wants to achieve the target and reap the benefit at a faster pace.

“The present status clearly shows that the achievement towards pipe water supply coverage -55 litres Per Capita Per Day (LPED) including stand posts is only 20.70% -in terms of population and 15.62% in terms of habitations. Hence, there is a long way to go.”

“It is pertinent to mention here that during 12th five year plan (2012-2017) there was a plan outlay of Rs. 68,760 Crore whereas allocation was only Rs.39,820 Crore. Thus there was a shortfall of about Rs.30,000 Crores in this period itself ,” the Ministry note said.

The Ministry pointed out that as on March 31 2017, over 3.85 Lakh habitations are not covered with 40 LPED. Amidst the substantial reduction of budget, the Centre has launched a new piped water supply strategy known as ‘Har Ghar Jal ( Water in every household) to ensure that all rural households have access to clean piped water supply in adequate quantity. The Ministry estimates that it would require at least Rs. 6 Lakh Crore to meet the target. The funding ratio of drinking water programme between Centre-State is 50-50 except North East and 3 Himalayan States-Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where funding pattern in 90% Centre-10% funds to be released by the states.

Interestingly, the NDA’s ministry has admitted that many states are investing much more funds than requisite matching central share in projects as the government funding is meager compared to the overall requirements of the states. Ministry said that with the present rate of funding, Individual household tap connections which at present are 15.57% may go up to only 27% in 2020.

Dirty Water Is Huge Problem

Besides tackling the financial crisis, the Ministry said there is more worry regarding availability of main resource- source of water itself.

“Assets of this sector is not like assets of railways, which once created will last very long. Assets of rural water supply schemes get dysfunctional mainly because of availability of raw water resources which is beyond the control of executing agencies. Water (underground) is getting depleted because of excessive extraction by competitive sectors (Agriculture/Industrial) and successive droughts. Water (Surface) getting reduced because of silting of water bodies, successive droughts, pollution (agriculture/Industrial) release of untreated waste water, deforestation and encroachment of water bodies,” the Ministry’s note further added.

The Ministry working under tremendous financial pressure is aiming to mitigate arsenic and fluoride affected habitation under the national water quality sub-mission programme. As per the information provided by the states to the Ministry in August last year, 27,544 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations have been freezed under the scheme. Out of these, schemes are ongoing in 3,894 habitations and the rest 23,650 habitations are remained to be tackled in the affected habitations.

30,000 women pushed into sex slavery every year, conference in Mumbai to find ways to tackle it

Around 100 delegates from more than 20 countries are expected to participate in Mumbai

More than 30,000 women are pushed into sex slavery through trafficking every year in the country. To fight the menace, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) plans to form an international forum and hold a two-day conference in Mumbai on July 27 and 28.

Around 100 delegates from more than 20 countries are expected to participate.

MSCW chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar said, “We will form an international forum to create more awareness.”

The topics of discussion include women trafficking, its impact, victims and their rehabilitation, how to deal with the issue, best practices worldwide and need of stringent laws, among others.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari, Goa governor Mridula Sinha, Maharashtra DGP Satish Mathur, Goa DGP Muktesh Chander, Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar are expected to attend the event.

100 Applications Received: For transgenders, IGNOU fee waiver gives new hope

Almost a month ago, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) decided to waive off tuition fees of transgender students, in an attempt to make higher education more accessible to them. Since then, the university has received at least 100 applications from transgender students — several for the Bachelor Preparatory Programme (BPP). The course is designed to help students who haven’t completed their 10+2 and want to do their graduation from IGNOU. The Indian Express spoke to three transgender students who have taken admission in various courses in IGNOU about their lives before this historic change in admission procedure and how they think their lives will change.

Course: MA in Gender and Development Studies

Riya was in Class X when her sexuality started becoming a problem for her family. Born as Rahul Sharma in Raghubir Nagar, her “feminine” mannerisms were fast becoming unacceptable for her father, a carpenter.

“My younger brother would tease me about the way I walked and my father tortured me a lot. When I completed Class XII, he threw me out of the house, calling me ‘Hijra’ and ‘chhakka’,” she says.

For a brief period, she stayed at the office of Mitr Trust — an NGO she’s still working with but when, in 2013, her father vandalised the office blaming them for making her a “Hijra”, she ran away to Mewat in Haryana to join a Hijra troupe for “toil badhai” – collecting money by giving blessings to newlyweds and newborns. However, her interest in education led her to enroll for BA Programme from the School of Open Learning (SOL) in DU, but as a man.

Studying about Gender, says Riya, is natural for her. “Had it not been for the fee waiver (Rs 9,000) I couldn’t have studied. I don’t make enough and my father wouldn’t give me a rupee. I want to become a teacher at a government school or college, and sensitise children about gender issues,” she says.

Course: MA, Political Science

Bebo, as she is known among friends, has not told her parents about her sexuality yet. “My parents don’t know about my sexuality, although they have problems with my feminine behavior. I want to become a makeup artist, but they want me to be “manly” and join the Army. I can’t tell them, because I’m scared,” says the Kareena Kapoor fan from Rohini. At home, she dresses in ‘men’s’ clothes, and even refrains from watching soaps on TV for fear of being tagged ‘gay’. But with her friends around, she feels comfortable and dresses in women’s clothes, dances and celebrates her real self.

“I studied in a government school, where not only students called me names, but even the teachers troubled me. They would ask me to explain homosexuality and everyone laughed. I had no friends,” she says. Similar experiences plagued her when she was doing her BA Programme from SOL, and frustrated, she stopped attending classes. She also worked at a call centre for Bikano, but regular taunts forced her to quit. IGNOU, she says, has given her a new lease of life. “I want to be a makeup artist, but I think it’s very important to be educated. I’m interested in doing an MPhil and PhD after this. The fee waiver really helps. I hope my identity card doesn’t mention my gender,” says Bebo.

Course: BA, Tourism Studies

Born as Nitesh Kumar in Janakpuri to parents who are government servants, Neetu works as a counsellor in Mitr Trust and has helped many parents, including her own, to accept and understand their child’s sexuality. But the road has not been easy — she had to leave her education and was put under house arrest. “I was in a co-ed private school till Class V but my father thought my ‘girly’ mannerisms were because I was hanging out with girls, so they shifted me to a government school. It was hell. “I had enrolled for BCom Programme in SOL, but during my second year, when I came out to my parents, they put me under house arrest,” she says. As time passed, her parents accepted her and even encouraged her to study. “When I got this opportunity from IGNOU, I grabbed it. I want to set an example for others from my community; I want them to know it’s important to be educated,” says Neetu.

Reality Check Of Madhya Pradesh Schools, At Top Of National Shame List

Bhopal: The Internet can’t agree if it was Irish poet WB Yeats who said education was lighting a fire and not filling a bucket. But for lakhs of students in Madhya Pradesh, this conundrum is thoroughly worthless.

These students go to schools where there is literally no light. In a reply to the Madhya Pradesh assembly last year, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government admitted that 70 years after independence, while the central government brags about electrifying more villages than any previous regime, there are still more than one lakh schools in the BJP-ruled state that do not have power.

Despicable scenes welcomed an NDTV team that visited the government schools in Madhya Pradesh’s Shajapur, Aagar-Malwa, Shyopur districts. Dilapidated buildings, leaky roofs and dingy rooms see dozens of eager students huddled on mats in front a patchy chalkboard flanked by a single teacher. Computer rooms and laboratories lie locked up and gathering dust.

There are more than 17,000 schools in Madhya Pradesh that have only one teacher. Accounting for one-sixth of “single-teacher” schools in India, the state tops a disgraceful list, showed a report tabled in the parliament last year. More than 50,000 teaching positions are still lying vacant across the state.

Amna Sultan, a primary teacher from Ukawata village, said, “I am posted here as Urdu teacher. But since we don’t have as many teachers, I have to teach English and Hindi also. We don’t have anyone for maths and science. We don’t have electricity, so we can’t operate computers.”

Manoj Sagar, an assistant teacher at the Bijanagri Secondary School, said, “We don’t have electricity for the past four-five years. We have written letters to authorities but nothing has been done so far.”

The students said they cannot study properly. Most have never seen computers in school. Despite the state government advertising its ‘Headstart’ programme launched in 2003 to prioritise computer education, students are yet to learn the basics of computers because of the lack of electricity.

To counter the dearth of regular teachers, the state government used to fill the gap by recruiting guest teachers but in this academic session even that system has been put on hold.

Madhya Pradesh education minister Vijay Shah said the state government will take a decision regarding the recruitment of guest teachers by October – six months into the ongoing academic year. “There are around 1.5 lakh schools, we have limited resources,” he said.