Tuesday February 20, 2018
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Increase in minimum wage – A case of deceptive numbers

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By Harshmeet Singh

Last week saw a significant announcement by the Delhi Government that went unnoticed; probably because it was significant only for the most neglected section of the society. The government raised the minimum monthly wage for unskilled workers like peons in the national capital from Rs 9,048 to Rs 9,174, which comes down to a daily wage of Rs. 390 per day. Similarly, the minimum monthly wage for semi skilled workers saw an increment from Rs 10,010 to Rs 10,136 (Rs 429 daily) while the minimum monthly wage for skilled workers will now be Rs 11,154 (Rs 467 daily) as compared to Rs 10,998 earlier. The wages for graduate workers were also revised marginally.

Comparatively, under MGNREGS, the highest ‘minimum daily wage’ for unskilled manual workers is Rs 251 which is offered by Haryana. The disparity between the minimum pay slabs in the national capital and that in the other states explains the heavy influx of unskilled workers in Delhi from all parts of the country.

Over populated slums, a fractured social infrastructure, dismal living conditions and absence of any social security are few of the outcomes arising from such migration. Though comparisons such as these paint Delhi in great light, they fail to acknowledge the high cost of living in the capital which forces these outstation workers to live in despicable conditions if they intend to save any amount to send it back home.

In most cases, the migrant workers choose to bring their families with them and find a place to live in a slum. Extremely high population density and ever deteriorating living conditions make these slums an ideal breeding ground for deadly diseases such as Dengue and swine flu.

While rise in minimum wage surely increases the purchasing power of these workers, it is hard to conclude if such revisions or programs like MGNREGS have had any commendable impact on the standard of living of the people belonging to the lowest rung of the society.

There can be 2 major reasons for such failure. First, the increase in purchasing power would only translate into growth if the overall production also grows in the same ratio. High demand and low supply would rather create a situation of inflation, resulting in rising prices, thus neutralizing the impact of higher purchasing power.

Secondly, higher wage is often deceptive. A person’s worth must be measured by his savings and not his earnings. This means that even if the unskilled workers in Delhi earn more than double the minimum wage when compared to Maharashtra’s MGNREGS numbers, it doesn’t mean that they would be living a much better life.

Numbers have a habit of presenting an incomplete and in most cases, incorrect picture. It is only once we look beyond the numbers and make an endeavor to understand the ground situation that things can change for the better.

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)