Minimum wage and our feudal lords

Friday, May 07, 2010

The ruling party has again raised the minimum wage by another thousand rupees. Workers (particularly those who're fortunate enough to work in cities) will theoretically get Rs7,000 (equivalent to about $85) a month. So far, so good. But will this happen all around? Not if you know what happened the last time they raised the minimum salary (which was last year). All the landlords I know insisted that this minimum wage announcement was not applicable to their workers (who were being paid about a thousand to two thousand rupees a month). In fact, even the supervisors in their fields had salaries of only Rs3,000-4,000 last year, and the minimum wage being increased by two thousand rupees last year did not apply to them. Most people in Karachi, however, followed the rule, although I did notice some violations by shop-owners.

As for myself, the next day, my peon and housemaid (both of whom were drawing four thousand at the time) instantly demanded to be paid the new minimum wage. This time of course the same scenario will be repeated. But I wonder how much feudals like the president and prime minister pay to the peasants who till their fields. Knowing these guys, I'd bet that their 'employees' are not paid anything at all. Maybe they are given enough food for two meals a day, but I don't think they get more than that. Someone in the media should investigate and inform us how much these 'worker-friendly' politicians pay their employees.

Shakir Lakhani
The News, May 07, 2010