Presently, there are around 40 state and central laws regulating different aspects of labour, such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions in factories, and wage and bonus payments.  Over the years, some experts have recommended that these laws should be consolidated for easier compliance.[1]  Since the current laws vary in their applicability, consolidation would also allow for greater coverage.

Following these recommendations, the Code on Wages was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2017.  The Code consolidates four laws related to minimum wages, payment of wages and bonus, and a law prohibiting discrimination between men and women during recruitment promotion and wage payment.

The Code was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Labour for examination.  The Committee has met some experts and stakeholders to hear their views.  In this context, we explain the current laws, key provisions of the Code, and some issues to consider.

Who will be entitled to minimum wages?

Currently, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 lists the employments where employers are required to pay minimum wages to workers.  The Act applies to the organised sector as well as certain workers in the unorganised sector such as agricultural workers.  The centre and states may add more employments to this list and mandate that minimum wages be paid for those jobs as well.[2]  At present, there are more than 1700 employments notified by the central and state governments.[3]

The Code proposes to do away with the concept of bringing specific jobs under the Act, and mandates that minimum wages be paid for all types of employment – irrespective of whether they are in the organised or the unorganised sector.

The unorganised sector comprises 92% of the total workforce in the country.1  A large proportion of these workers are currently not covered by the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.  Experts have noted that over 90% of the workers in the unorganised sector do not have a written contract, which hampers the enforcement of various labour laws.[4]   

Will minimum wages be uniform across the country?

No, different states will set their respective minimum wages.  In addition, the Code introduces a national minimum wage which will be set by the central government.  This will act as a floor for state governments to set their respective minimum wages.  The central government may set different national minimum wages for different states or regions.  For example, the centre can set a national minimum wage of Rs 10,000 for Uttar Pradesh and Rs 12,000 for Tamil Nadu.  Both of these states would then have to set their minimum wages either equal to or more than the national minimum wage applicable in that state.

The manner in which the Code proposes to implement the national minimum wage is different from how it has been thought about in the past.  Earlier, experts had suggested that a single national minimum wage should be introduced for the entire country.1,[5]  This would help in bringing uniformity in minimum wages across states and industries.  In addition, it would ensure that workers receive a minimum income regardless of the region or sector in which they are employed.

The concept of setting a national minimum wage exists in various countries across the world.  For instance, in the United Kingdom one wage rate is set by the central government for the entire country.[6]  On the other hand, in the United States of America, the central government sets a single minimum wage and states are free to set a minimum wage equal to or above this floor.[7]

On what basis will the minimum wages be calculated and fixed?

Currently, the central government sets the minimum wage for certain employments, such as mines, railways or ports among others.  The state governments set the minimum wage for all other employments.  These minimum wages can be fixed based on the basis of different criteria such as type of industry or skill level of the worker.  For example, Kerala mandates that workers in oil mills be paid minimum wages at the rate of Rs 370 per day if they are unskilled, Rs 400 if they are semi-skilled and Rs 430 if they are skilled.[8]

The Code also specifies that the centre or states will fix minimum wages taking into account factors such as skills required and difficulty of work.  In addition, they will also consider price variations while determining the appropriate minimum wage.  This process of fixing minimum wages is similar to the current law.

Will workers be entitled to an overtime for working beyond regular hours?

Currently, the central or state government define the number of hours that constitute a normal working day.  In case an employee works beyond these hours, he is entitled to an overtime rate which is fixed by the government.  As of today, the central government has fixed the overtime rate at 1.5 times normal wages in agriculture and double the normal wages for other employments.[9]

The Code proposes to fix this overtime rate at twice the prevailing wage rate.  International organisations have recommended that overtime should be 1.25 times the regular wage.[10]

Does the Code prohibit gender discrimination between workers?

Currently, the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of workers on the basis of gender.  The Code subsumes the 1976 Act, and contains specific provisions which prohibit gender discrimination in matters related to wages.  However, unlike in the 1976 Act, the Code does not explicitly prohibit gender discrimination at the stage of recruitment.

How is the Code going to be enforced?

The four Acts being subsumed under the Code specify that inspectors will be appointed to ensure that the laws are being enforced properly.  These inspectors may carry out surprise checks, examine persons, and require them to give information.

The Code introduces the concept of a ‘facilitator’ who will carry out inspections and also provide employers and workers with information on how to improve their compliance with the law.  Inspections will be carried out on the basis of a web-based inspection schedule that will be decided by the central or state government.


[1]. Report of the National Commission on Labour, Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2002,

[2]. Entries 22, 23 and 24, List III, Seventh Schedule, Constitution of India.

[3]. Report on the Working of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2013,

[4]. Report on Conditions of Work and Promotions of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, 2007,

[5]. Report of the Working Group on Labour Laws and other regulations for the Twelfth five-year plan, Ministry of Labour and Employment, 2011,

[6]. Section 1(3), National Minimum Wage Act, 1998,

[7]. Section 206(a)(1), The Fair Labour Standards Act, 1938,

[8]. G.O. (P) No.36/2017/LBR, Labour and Skills Department, Government of Kerala, 2017,

[9]. Section 25(1), Minimum Wages (Central) Rules, 1950

[10]. C030-Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention (No. 30), 1930,

On October 2, 2021, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) celebrates its seventh anniversary.  It was launched on October 2, 2014 to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019.  The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management.  In this blog post, we discuss the sanitation coverage leading up to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the progress made under this scheme.

Nation-wide sanitation programmes in past

According to the Census, the rural sanitation coverage in India was only 1% in 1981.  

The first nationwide programme with a focus on sanitation was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was started in 1986 to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas.  Later, in 1999, CRSP was restructured and launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC).  While CRSP was a supply-driven infrastructure-oriented programme based on subsidy, TSC was a demand-driven, community-led, project-based programme organised around the district as the unit.

By 2001, only 22% of the rural families had access to toilets.  It increased further to 32.7% by 2011.  In 2012, TSC was revamped as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to accelerate the sanitation coverage in rural areas through saturation approach and by enhancing incentives for Individual Household Latrines (IHHL).

In comparison to rural sanitation, fewer programmes were enacted to tackle deficiencies in urban sanitation.  In the 1980s, the Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme provided subsidies for households to build low-cost toilets.  Additionally, the National Slum Development Project and its replacement programme, the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana launched in 2001, were programmes that aimed to construct community toilets for slum populations.  In 2008, the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) was announced to manage human excreta and associated public health and environmental impacts.

On October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched with two components: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), to focus on rural and urban sanitation, respectively.  While the rural component of the Mission is implemented under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the urban one is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.  In 2015, the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan under NITI Aayog had observed that the key difference between SBM and previous programmes was in the efforts to attract more partners to supplement public sector investment towards sanitation.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-Gramin)

The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers (2015) had noted that more than half of India’s 25 crore households do not have access to toilets close to places where they live.  Notably, during the 2015-19 period, a major portion of expenditure under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation was towards SBM-Gramin (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin during 2014-22

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates.  Expenditure before 2019-20 were from the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. 
Sources: Union Budgets 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The expenditure towards Swachh Bharat – Gramin saw a steady increase from 2014-15 (Rs 2,841 crore) to 2017-18 (Rs 16,888 crore) and a decrease in the subsequent years.  Moreover, during 2015-18, the expenditure of the scheme exceeded the budgeted amount by more than 10%.  However, every year since 2018-19, there has been some under-utilisation of the allocated amount. 

As per the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, 43.8% of the rural households had access to toilets in 2014-15, which increased to 100% in 2019-20 (see Figure 2).  However, the 15th Finance Commission (2020) noted that the practice of open defecation is still prevalent, despite access to toilets and highlighted that there is a need to sustain the behavioural change of people for using toilets. The Standing Committee on Rural Development raised a similar concern in 2018, noting that “even a village with 100% household toilets cannot be declared open defecation-free (ODF) till all the inhabitants start using them”.  The Standing Committee also raised questions over the construction quality of toilets and observed that the government is counting non-functional toilets, leading to inflated data.

Figure 2: Toilet coverage for rural households

Sources: Dashboard of SBM (Gramin), Ministry of Jal Shakti; PRS.

The 15th Finance Commission also noted that the scheme only provides financial incentives to construct latrines to households below the poverty line (BPL) and selected households above the poverty line.  It highlighted that there are considerable exclusion errors in finding BPL households and recommended the universalisation of the scheme to achieve 100% ODF status.

In March 2020, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Phase II of SBM-Gramin which will focus on ODF Plus, and will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore.  ODF Plus includes sustaining the ODF status, and solid and liquid waste management.  Specifically, it will ensure that effective solid and liquid waste management is instituted in every Gram Panchayat of the country.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-Urban)

SBM-Urban aims at making urban India free from open defecation and achieving 100% scientific management of municipal solid waste in 4,000+ towns in the country.  One of its targets was the construction of 66 lakh individual household toilets (IHHLs) by October 2, 2019.  However, this target was then lowered to 59 lakh IHHLS by 2019.  This target was achieved by 2020 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Toilet construction under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (as of December 30, 2020)


Original Target

Revised Target  
(revised in 2019)

Actual Constructed

Individual Household Latrines




Community and Public Toilets




Sources: Swachh Bharat Mission Urban - Dashboard; PRS.

Figure 3: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban during 2014-22 (in Rs crore)

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates. 
Sources: Union Budget 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The Standing Committee on Urban Development noted in early 2020 that toilets built under the scheme in areas including East Delhi are of very poor quality, and do not have adequate maintenance.  Further, only 1,276 of the 4,320 cities declared to be open defecation free have toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene.  Additionally, it also highlighted in September 2020 that uneven release of funds for solid waste management across states/UTs needs to be corrected to ensure fair implementation of the programme. 

The Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021) also expressed concern about the slow pace in achieving targets for source segregation and waste processing.  The completion of their targets stood at 78% and 68% respectively of the goal set under SBM-Urban during 2020-21.  In addition, other targets related to the door-to-door collection of waste also remained unfulfilled (see Table 2).

Table 2: Waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (progress as of December 30, 2020)



as of March 2020

as of December 2020

Door to Door Waste Collection (Wards)


81,535 (96%)

83,435 (97%)

Source Segregation (Wards)


64,730 (75%)

67,367 (78%)

Waste Processing (in %)




Sources: Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021); PRS.

In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced in her budget speech that the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be launched.  Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will focus on: (i) sludge management, (ii) waste-water treatment, (iii) source segregation of garbage, (iv) reduction in single-use plastics and (v) control of air pollution caused by construction, demolition, and bio-remediation of dumpsites.  On October 1, 2021, the Prime Minister launched SBM-Urban 2.0 with the mission to make all our cities ‘Garbage Free’.