The Central Government’s decision to hike national floor level minimum wages from rupees 137 to rupees 160 per day is nothing but a farcical exercise. It is highly misleading as most of the people do not know the difference between national minimum wage and national floor level minimum wage. While the worker is concerned with what minimum wage he gets, government is making news on something called ‘floor level minimum wage’ which is less than the statutorily fixed Minimum Wage. Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 1976 and two landmark Supreme Court Judgements 3 SCC 1984 have clearly established that it tentamounts to forced labour and therefore Bonded labour. The government thus owes it to the people to clarify what exactly is this extra legal floor level minimum wage. Trade Unions say that a floor level of Rs. 160 works out to rupees 4500/- per month This is borne out from the recent Governments SECC survey which puts 13.6 crore families or nearly 72 Crore people at monthly income level of Rs 5000 or less . If that is so, does it not amount to perpetuating Bonded labour system ?
Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front) has been demanding that the National Minimum Wage for the country’s 93% workers (approx 45 Crore) in the unorganized sector should be equal to the wages of a Class IV employee in the Central government as recommended by the 6th Pay Commission. In other words, minimum wages of a worker in the unorganized sector on the basis of a Class IV employee’s wages should be Rs. 500.00 per day. Govt. should also set up a National Minimum Wage Commission as they have been setting up Pay Commissions for its employees.
Therefore it is high time the government shifts its focus to a National Living Wage as mandated in Article 43 of Indian Constitution without wasting time on National minimum wage and much less on national floor level minimum wage.
-By Swami Agnivesh
Chairperson –Bonded Labour Liberation Front