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Caste-based NREGS Wages Payment System

  Apr 30, 2022

Caste-based NREGS Wages Payment System

Q What is the context  ?

A Parliament’s Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has asked the government to roll back the system of caste-based wages, under which NREGS workers are paid based on whether they belong to a Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, or Others.

Q What is the caste-based payment system?

  • Last year, the Rural Development Ministry sent an advisory to states asking them to take necessary action for payment of wages to NREGS workers according to their categories — SC, ST, and Others.
  • Under the new system, if 20 individuals (say, six SCs, four STs and 10 others) work together at a site under MG-NREGA, a single muster roll would be issued.
  • But payment would be done by issuing three separate Fund Transfer Orders (FTOs), one for each of the three categories.
  • Due to this, some beneficiaries started complaining that despite working at the same site and registering on the same muster roll, they were getting their wages at different times depending on their categories.
  • Beneficiaries in the ‘Others’ category, which includes the ‘General’ and Other Backward Classes (OBC) categories, especially complained of delays.

Q What was the earlier system of payment?

  • The Rural Development Ministry notifies wage rates for states and Union Territories under Section 6(1) of The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005.
  • Until 2020-21, the wages were being paid to NREGS beneficiaries through a single funds transfer order.
  • In other words, if 20 beneficiaries, including SCs, STs and Others work at a site under MGNREGA, all received their wages at the same time, through a single muster roll and a single funds transfer order.

Q Why was the system of caste-based wage payment introduced?

  • According to the Ministry, the system of category-wise payment of wages was introduced to “accurately reflect on the ground flow of funds to various population groups”.
  • Last year, a process of “streamlining” of the new system was taken up.

Q What is MGNREGA?

  • The MGNREGA stands for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005.
  • This is labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘Right to Work’.
  • The act was first proposed in 1991 by P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Q What are features of the scheme ?

  • MGNREGA is unique in not only ensuring at least 100 days of employment to the willing unskilled workers, but also in ensuring an enforceable commitment on the implementing machinery i.e., the State Governments, and providing a bargaining power to the labourers.
  • The failure of provision for employment within 15 days of the receipt of job application from a prospective household will result in the payment of unemployment allowance to the job seekers.
  • Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence, and minimum wages are to be paid.
  • Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.