Starvation Wages in Karnataka

September 7, 2013

By. S. Balan

Government of Karnataka fixed starvation wages for a period between 1.4.2013 to 31.03.2014 in the guise of minimum wages as per Minimum Wages Act, 1948

Government of Karnataka has fixed minimum wages payable in 77 Scheduled employments for the year 1.04.2013 to 31.03.2013 covering the life of 3 crore workers working in Karnataka in the formal and informal sectors (otherwise called as unorganised workers), without taking into consideration that the actual purchasing power of money has gone down due to high rate of inflation and sky rocketing of prices and held no discussion with the workers as a part of collective bargaining, data sharing, data analysis and negotiation. The full list of minimum wages is given at the end of this article.

Unprotected labourer and family
Unprotected labourers are dalits, tribes, backward classes and backward minorities who have no lands and no properties, except their status of being poor Indians who can sell their labour (both skilled and unskilled) for a far less wage in Indian labour market available in the public sector, private sector (Both local and foreign corporates).

A labourer is not a commodity or machine but a human being who needs food, clothing, medicine, housing, education, sports, transportation and a social, political and cultural life. Indeed, food means agricultural, horticultural, poultry, meat, fishery, dairy, beverages etc. Housing means some sort of roof over their head either their own or on rent with water, sanitation and electricity. Clothing means some sort of fabric to cover bodies that is acceptable to the society. Education means the state and central regulated and recognised. Health and medicine means state of art hospital facility provided by the state and private. Social, cultural and political life means a state of living observing festivals, ceremonies which are under practice and participating in political process. The human being shall have modern consumable products like TV, computer, mobiles etc. Transportation means some vehicle and accessible transport system.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended the following food items for an individual to keep the body fit. As on 1.04.2013

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The food specified and recommended by ICMR indicates that each member of the family needs at least Rs. 71.50 /- per day, multiplied by 4 members is at Rs. 286/- per day, and cooking fuel and other necessary ingredients for cooking requires additional Rs. 40/-. Workers who are referred as extremely poor, poor, marginal and vulnerable are residing in one or the other slums in the cities under sub-human conditions. Housing without any basic conditions in any city like Bangalore, the average rent per month is not available for a rent less than Rs. 2000/-. Each worker requires at least Rs. 66 per day. Today’s education system prevalent in any city with bare minimum requirement is at least Rs. 33/- per day per child. For two children in a worker family would be rate of Rs. 66/- per day. The present day trend is “PAY AND USE”. No more free health or free hospital. On an average a family requires Rs. 33/- per day. A Worker is also a human being need to celebrate ceremonies, festivals and functions, he requires at least on an average Rs. 66/- per day. Four members in a family requires on an average at least Rs. 33/- per day to cover their bodies with some acceptable fabric. Due to steep rises of rent, the labourer in unorganised sector reside in one or the other places in the outskirts of the city. Workers are made to spend at least 20% of his earning for transportation, hence each family need to spend atleast Rs. 66/- per day. A human being in the present day need to have mobile, TV, washing machine, Iron Box, and other basic necessities, to maintain these items a family requires at least Rs. 66/- per day. The data are as follows:

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Cost in Rupees Per day per person
1. FOOD Rs. 71.50
2. COOKING Rs. 10.00
3. HOUSING Rs. 16.5
4. EDUCATION Rs. 16.5



A decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure, social and cultural opportunities a person requires Rs. 172 per day and for 4 persons the requirement is Rs. 688/- per day, the simple data analysis points that the minimum wages shall be at least Rs. 20,640/- per worker per month.

The above referred notification pertains to 77 schedule employments fixed by Government of Karnataka for the year 2013 to 2014 shows that the unorganised workforce both in the organised and unorganised sector situated in Karnataka are being paid wages at the rate of minimum of Rs. 170/- and maximum of Rs. 226/- per day per family (on an average 4 members) for 26 days in a month to avail above referred 9 components.

Government of India appointed a commission in the name of Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector under the Chairmanship of Arjun Sen Gupta to make study and submit report on the life and living of hapless, helpless underprivileged Indians. The report was submitted during September 2007 as under:

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The above table notes that 76.8% or over 84 Crores of Indians earning less than Rs. 20/- per day for their sustenance, how they are living is a miracle, but living! In Karnataka, the statistics available with the Labour Department indicates that there are over 3 Crores unprotected workforce toiling in both organised and unorganised sector

The minimum wages fixed by the Government of Karnataka as referred above goes to show that they have categorised the people of Karnataka as extremely poor, poor, marginal and vulnerable to keep their individual earning less than Rs. 20/- per day for food, clothing and medicine.

In the present context, it is also pertinent to mention that divergence in the wage/salary levels prevailing in both the organised and unorganised sector. The minimum wages of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers are determined by market forces. A comparison of lowest salary of the last grade worker in the government service, public sector, private sector (Both Private and Local company) who supposed to be unskilled, would help in examining the difference in salary levels. The minimum wage levels of unskilled workers in Karnataka comprising of 8 components with gross emoluments at the rate of Rs. 16,000/- per month, in the public sector it is more than Rs. 20,000/- plus other perks per month. In private, corporate (Both TNC and MNC) the last grade worker gets 10 to 14 components of salary at the rate of Rs. 20,000/- plus perks per month. In this context, it needs to be mentioned that the 2013 salary levels for the minimum salary drawn by a lower grade government employee (Class IV) is three times higher than that of an skilled worker who is guised as contract or unprotected worker. Needless to mention, the government employees and organised employees in the organised sector also enjoy other benefits including the job security, adjusted DA (Capital DA), bonus and even encashable leave.

Both Central and State Governments appointed pay revision commissions to upgrade the salaries of its employees, the PRC’s have taken into account not only the cost of living aspects but also other relevant aspects such as public policy and levels of responsibilities, the salaries of corporate employees also indeed fixed based on paying capacity of the employers and also inflation in the market enabling the workers to have better purchasing power.

In Bangalore we have public sector, MNC/TNC and Pvt industrial establishment/ enterprises. ITC is an England corporate company, its net worth in the year 2001 was at Rs. 20,000 Crore/- in the year 2011 its networth reached at Rs. 1.56 Lakhs Crores. It is to be noted that the gross profit for the year 2011 – 2012 is Rs. 4000 Crores in which a sum of Rs. 1000 Crores is from its Bangalore unit, whereas its wage bill is Rs. 36 Crore. Bangalore unit employs 1059 workers on permanent basis and about 600 workers guised as contract workers who are paid a sum of Rs. 6000/- per month, therefore its wage bill for its 600 workers per annum is Rs. 4 Crore 32 Lakhs. The data indicates that a worker works for himself just 10 minutes, and he works for the management for 7 hours and 50 minutes. So also MICO – a German Company, Kennametal – an American Company, Toyata/ Innova – a Japan Company. The irony is Government of Karnataka directs them to pay starvation wages as referred above to its workers who are doing permanent, perennial nature of jobs in the peripheral activities, indeed the foreign corporates, their counterparts Indian corporates are paying wages at the rate of Rs. 170/- to Rs. 226/- per day.

We do have documents on population policy, education policy, even tourism policy, but there is no clear enunciation of what our labour policy is. In the Constitution of India, more than 62 years ago affirms in Article 39 that “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy securing:
a. The Citizen, men and women equally have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
b. That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub serve the common good.
c. Concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.
d. That there is equal pay for equal work.

Article 43 of the Constitution stipulates that “ The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organisation or any other work, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life.

There is a legal duty to pay at least a subsistence wage. The Supreme Court in 1958 has held that the former wage is a rate, which has got to be paid to the worker irrespective of the capacity of the industry to pay. It was observed that if the employer cannot pay this bare subsistence wage he / she would have no right to conduct his /her enterprise on such terms.

The 15th Indian Labour Conference adopted this concept in 1957. A resolution was adopted, the gist of which was that a minimum wage should be “need based” ensuring the minimum human needs of the industrial worker. Certain norms were laid down by the conference to determine what this minimum wage should be, which, they said should guide all wage fixing authorities in fixing the Minimum wage. Perhaps for the first time, in India, the needs, which the minimum wage should satisfy, were laid down in precise quantitative terms. These norms have been accepted and also further expanded by the Indian Supreme Court.

Cheap Labour and Toothless labour legislations in India in the era of Globalisation
India has abundance of labour which the governments including Govt. of Karnataka made it cheaply available to corporate both local and foreign whenever and wherever they require to create wealth for them with almost toothless labour legislations and regulations. The disparity in wages between imperialist west and India could be well understood on the following analysis. Whom do the corporates employ one German Worker, two Americans, five Taiwanese, eight Brazilian or 128 Indians? According to the information a German manufacturing worker costs his employer $32 an hour their counterpart in Japan costs $24 an hour, while an American worker costs $17.

The minimum wages notified by the Govt. of Karnataka is taken into consideration, unprotected manufacturing workers in Bangalore can be hired for Rs. 25 (Less than half a dollar) an hour, while the workers on permanent rolls are paid Rs. 96 (Close to One and a Half Dollar) an hour compared to $32 an hour in Germany. The rate of wages in the west enables its worker to buy a car in a month’s salary, whereas the same worker on permanent rolls cannot affordable in his lifetime. The abysmal condition of the worker who are paid the Govt. of Karnataka notified wages points out that these workers are not affordable for a two square meal for himself and his family members made to go to bed empty stomach.

As the main attraction to corporates (TNC/MNC) is cheap labour, the intention of the Govt. of Karnataka by notifying above referred minimum wages is to make available cheap labour to corporates. Otherwise, TNC/MNC’s will move out to other states or other countries which are offering labour at relatively cheaper rates. Thus, the Govt. of Karnataka indeed take harsh and anti – labour measures like fixing poverty/ starvation wages to its available workforce of over 3 Crores.

Instead of advocating improvements in the living conditions of the workforce and effective implementation of existing labour laws and schemes there have been consistent attempts on the part of Govt. of Karnataka in collusion with corporates in dilusion of labour laws. There have been pressures on Indian Government (including Govt. of Karnataka) from multilateral financial institutions (World Bank, IMF and WTO) corporates and big business houses to amend existing labour legislations and fixing of lowest wages in the guise of minimum wages to make cities like Bangalore more “investment friendly and labour flexibility”.

The Government of India ( including Govt of Karnataka) that gives billions of rupees as concession to local and foreign corporate mafia’s and loses billions of rupees in corruption, is unashamedly fixing starvation/poverty wages (Minimum Wages) to 48 Crores workers in India ( 3 Crore workers in Karnataka) violating the constitutional provisions. These workers remain always underpaid in the labour market. The minimum wages fixed shows that our democratically elected Government of Karnataka fixed a minimum wage ranging from Rs. 170 to Rs. 226/- per day. Workers are paid wages for 26 days in a month after deducting 12%PF and 1.5% ESI, and hence on an average these workers earn Rs. 140 to 180/- per day to keep their body and soul together (including their family members consisting of 1+3 = 4) to create wealth for the corporates.

Looking into the proceedings of the Vidhana Soudha for the last several decades and not on a single occasion neither the problems of fixing minimum wages to the hapless, helpless, unprotected/unorganised workers have been taken up in the house nor any member of the house ever raised regarding the plight of these workers.

The working class as whole and every progressive right thinking people shall get united against the present rulers who push 3 Crores population in Karnataka into the trap of poverty, and to get them the minimum wages at the rate of at least Rs. 20,000/- per month.

Minimum wages fixed by Govt of Karnataka between 1.4.2013 to 31.3.2014, for over 3 crore workers indicates
a. corporate-super profit and heavy (extreme) surplus and heaven
b. for workers poverty – starvation and hell.

Full list of wages:

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