West Bengal ranks below national average in rural wages


Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has occasionally said that the state government is committed to stand beside the farmers, agricultural workers and rural labourers, a recent report published by the Reserve Bank of India shows that the daily wage of the rural workers in West Bengal is below the national average.

The report — Handbook of Statistics on Indian States 2020-21 — reveals that the daily wage of labourers in the state is the worst among the major states of the country. The Handbook divides the rural workers into four categories — agricultural workers, non-agricultural workers, construction workers and horticulture workers. Among the four types of workers the wage pattern among the first three types of workers is very low.

As far as the agricultural workers are concerned, in 2020-21 under the general agriculture workers parameter, the daily wage rate for the rural population in West Bengal is only Rs 288.60, which is below the national average of Rs 309.90 during the same period. In the financial year 2019-20 the daily wage of agricultural labour was even less at Rs 267.50 per day. Among all the states the daily wage of the agricultural labourers is the highest with Rs 706.50 per day. The daily wage in some of the major states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha is worse than West Bengal.

When it comes to construction workers, where the average national daily wage is Rs 340.70, West Bengal has a daily wage of Rs 300.20. It has slightly improved from the previous fiscal year when the daily wage of the construction workers of the state was only Rs 290.50. Interestingly enough the daily wage of the construction workers is Rs 829.70 – the highest in the country. The daily wage of the construction workers in four states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Tripura — is less than West Bengal.

In the non-agricultural fields also the daily wage of the labourers of West Bengal is bad. The labourers are paid Rs 305.70 when the national average is Rs 309.1. The non-agricultural labourers in Kerala earn Rs 677.6 which is the highest in the country. Several states including Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya have a lesser daily wage structure for the non-agricultural workers than West Bengal.

“As per the land holding pattern in West Bengal, each owner of farmland has a very small area of land under his or her ownership. So naturally, this farmland does not give the land owner enough reserve to offer a decent wage to the agriculture workers, thus the rural economy in the state is not flourishing. The rural wage rates in the non-farm sectors are lower compared to the national average. This is an alarming signal for the state of the rural economy in West Bengal,” a senior economist who did not want to be named told IANS.

“The state government had not taken enough initiatives to ensure the minimum wages for the agricultural workers. The state government will have to ensure that an initiative should be taken from today so that its positive impact can be felt after some years,” he added.

State labour minister Becharam Manna was not available for comment.



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