07 January 2013

Court Orders Payment Of Dues

Reprimanding the State Government for not paying minimum wages to workers in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Kolkata High Court passed its final order in WP 16913(W) of 2009 filed by Paschim Banga Khet Majur Samity (PBKMS) on 7th January 2013. It ordered the State Government to not make such a mistake in the future. The State Government has also not disputed that it has not paid minimum wages and has thus admitted its mistake. The court has asked the State Government to pay the balance amount to all workers who apply for the same.

According to the petitioner, the Government of West Bengal did not pay statutory minimum wages to MGNREGS workers in 2009. Workers were paid Rs.81 per day when the declared legal agricultural minimum wage was Rs.87.50 in West Bengal. Section 6(2) of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, states that until wage rate for the purpose of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is specified by the Central Government, the minimum wage fixed by the State Government under Section 3 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 for agricultural labourers, shall be considered as the wage rate applicable for NREGS works. PBKMS therefore contended that each NREGS worker in West Bengal has been paid Rs.6.50 less than his/her legal entitlement from January to December 2009, and had claimed that the State Government must pay Rs. 71.82 crores for 1105.02 lakhs of person days of employment to NREGS workers.
The PBKMS has declared that all its members and all other NREGS workers will apply for the remaining amount from the State Government and if they meet with refusal, the union will again move for contempt of court against the State Government.