#India- There is a credibility crisis at all levels of government- Aruna Roy


, TNN | Jun 2, 2013, 05.58 AM IST

This week activist Aruna Roy walked out of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), complaining about this government’s ideological bias and obsession with growth. She talks to Padmaparna Ghosh about the dilution of the social sector focus.This is the second time that you have resigned from the NAC. What brought you back in 2010?

My decisions to join or leave the NAC have been taken collectively by the organization I work with – the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). I left in 2008 because at that time the NAC didn’t have a chairperson and was not playing the role it was supposed to. I returned in 2010 because there were many issues (such as the demand for a Right to Food bill) that needed a stronger policy framework and I felt it would be useful to channel the input that comes from many campaigns. The NAC has sent many important recommendations to the government. The recent NAC recommendations on the pre-legislative process if implemented immediately will provide all citizens an opportunity to participate in the making of laws. The need is to ensure that at least some of these recommendations are enacted and implemented.

How tough was it to find common ground between civil society and the government?

The agenda of the NAC is set by the government’s political commitments. Within that pre-deter mined agenda, the NAC has worked to incorporate civil society opinion to advise the government on how to take its agenda forward. NAC II has evolved detailed procedures such as the formation of working groups, which has allowed a broader consultative process. The NAC has maintained a focus on issues of significance to the poor and the social sector such as the MGNREGA and the Right to Food, and has taken up specific issues such as nomadic tribals and bonded labourers. One of the NAC’s important contributions has been to build the understanding that delivery systems and democratic governance are crucial to the effective implementation of any social sector initiative. Therefore, the RTI, and other transparency and accountability initiatives such as the social audit and recommendations for a pre-legislative process have been taken up.

How do you respond to those that call MGNREGA “demand-driven distress employment” and, therefore, ineligible for minimum wage?

The Minimum Wage Act came into effect in 1948 and has remained the bedrock for workers’ rights. Therefore the importance of payment of minimum wages to MGNREGA workers extends beyond the MGNREGA itself. If the Government refuses to pay minimum wages to workers on its own programme, it can never enforce the law for the millions of unorganised workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no one can even opt to work for less than the minimum wage, no employer can use a lack of resources as an excuse and any labour that is paid less should be considered forced.

The argument that the government does not have to pay minimum wages to people in distress only proves the SC’s point. In fact this issue goes straight to the core of the battle around MGNREGA. People who have been profiting from exploitation through payment of distress wages are now reacting because the MGNREGA has given workers the capacity to fight for minimum wages even outside the programme. By violating the Minimum Wages Act, the government is threatening to destroy the most significant labour protection measure in India.

How do you intend to press for its implementation from outside NAC?

The NAC is an advisory body. That is why I feel it necessary to concentrate on advocating in the public domain for the acceptance and implementation of these recommendations. I do not believe that a democratic government can keep refusing to respect the constitutional entitlement of a minimum wage. Public pressure needs to be built up around this issue, as we close in on elections.

What do you believe you have accomplished during your tenure at the NAC?

The NAC gave me an opportunity to raise multiple issues of concern to people’s movements and campaigns. It played a very important role in the passage of landmark legislations such as the RTI and MGNREGA. It was because of the NAC that experience from people’s campaigns was processed into powerful and effective draft laws. Even though this was often whittled down by the bureaucracy it served as a standard. My association with the NAC helped strengthen causes of the poor and marginalized I have been associated with over the last few years.

UPA-2’s credibility has been damaged in the recent past. Would you vote them back in 2014?

The crisis in credibility today is at all levels of government. Effective implementation is as important as the legislations themselves. Our solutions do not lie in thoughts between one election and another but in addressing the lack of transparency and accountability in governance structures. My politics has always been to enhance the participation of people within the democratic frameworks so that their voices are heard not just once in five years but every day

 

Aruna Roy leaves National Advisory Council


May 29, 2013

New DelhiNoted social rights activist Aruna Roy has decided to leave the National Advisory Council (NAC). Her letter of resignation has been accepted by NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who also heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The task of the NAC is to provide inputs in the formulation of policy by the government, and to provide support to the government in legislative business.

In her letter to Sonia Gandhi, Roy listed differences with the government, specially over the refusal to give minimum wages to beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The noted social activist said that despite its contribution to changing the lives of the rural poor, implementation of this crucial flagship programme remains a challenge.

“There is a huge group of MGNREGS beneficiaries who are critical, but supportive of the law. They are losing public and political space to a small, vocal, and powerful minority determined to undermine the basic objectives of the MGNREGS,” Roy said in her letter.

“This is in continuation of the conversation we had some time ago, when I had requested that I not be considered for another term in the NAC. I am grateful for your accepting my request, while assuring you continued support to campaigns for social sector causes being taken up outside the NAC,” Roy wrote.

She said that it was “extremely unfortunate” that the prime minister rejected the NAC recommendations on payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers and chose instead to appeal against the Karnataka High Court judgment ordering the payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers.

“Even more distressing is the government’s refusal to pay minimum wages even after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Karnataka High Court judgment. It is difficult to understand how a country like India can deny payment of minimum wages and still make claims of inclusive growth,” Roy said.

Listing the achievements of the NAC, Roy said: “It is a matter of great significance that the NAC has approved a pre-legislative consultative process and will send it to government for necessary action. In my opinion, the NAC is itself a kind of pre-legislative body that has benefited immensely from the public consultations it has held.”

The functioning of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, and its celebrated report in the aftermath of the Dec 16 gang-rape in Delhi, were also an outcome of a pre-legislative consultative process, Roy noted, hoping that the process of public consultation would become more robust.

Favouring immediate passage of the food security bill, Roy said: “Given the hunger and malnutrition scenario in the country, a food security bill should have been debated and passed by parliament by now.”

In her letter accepting Roy’s resignation, Sonia Gandhi said: “I respect your decision to move on from the National Advisory Council. I hope that we will continue to have the benefit of your wisdom and thoughts as a friend and supporter of NAC.”

 

IANS

 

Protest the arrest of Anti Posco Leader Abhay Sahoo


abhaysahoo

We strongly condemn the arrest of our leader and president of PPSS Mr. Abhay Sahoo this morning i.e.  on 11thMay 2013. As you are all aware 50 cases had been filed against him at different stages of the movement and all the cases are blatantly false and fabricated. The district administration and police were after him as the movement instead of withering away under severe repression has gathered more momentum. Abhayji has been taken to Kujang jail in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha.

We understand that this is part of a larger game plan to destabilize the movement and  force the project on our unwilling people. Earlier also Abhaya Sahoo was arrested in 2008 and was kept in jail for 14 months. Mr. Sahoo was again implicated in another false case leading to his incarceration from 25th November 2011 to 14th march 2012.

Every time when Abhayji was arrested the movement got further strengthened and our people threw up more leaders with solidarity from you all.

We have been informing you that our life has been severely disrupted since the state government signed the said project with POSCO. The police force has been using coercive measures to suppress our constitutional right to dissent. We have been peacefully resisting all types of criminal forces for more than eight  years, but ironically hundreds of cases are being lodged by the police against us. Our protesters have been murdered by bomb attacks, assaulted by hired goons and beaten by police-all done by at the behest of administration. Local authorities ignored our demands for recognition of our right to the land. Instead, armed forced were engaged to silence our voices.  Till now more than 200  false cases have been registered against our villagers by the government, 1500 warrants have issued out of which 340 are women.

Our people are unable to go out and receive treatment because of the threat of arrests. None of the cases has any basis and all are fabricated by the police to keep our people inside jail for as many days as they think by doing this they could spoil our democratic movement. The government of Odisha has been clamping false cases against anyone trying to oppose POSCO, It is matter of regret that all the actions till date by the government of Odisha against us is totally unjustified as the entire projects stands on shaky ground.

We call for all the Jan Andolans, People’s organisations, Political parties, activists, intellectuals and people at large to condemn in strongest possible terms this cowardly and undemocratic act of the administration. We appeal you all to demonstrate and demand immediate release of Abahya Sahoo. Also please lodge your protest near the following authorities.

Let me assure that our people will put up a more determined resistance and what they all need is your continuous support and solidarity.

 

 

 

Kindly forward this mail widely.

 

Hoping for Solidarity.

 

Prashant Paikaray

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Mobile no – 09437571547

E- mail- prashantpaikaray@gmail.com

 

You can call and write to the following :

1. Mr. Naveen Patnaik

Chief Minister,  Odishas

Tel. No.(O) 011 91 674 2531100,011 91 674 2535100,

011 91 674 2531500, Epbax 2163

Tel. No.(R) 011 91 674 2590299, 011 91 674 2591099,

011 91 674 2590844, 011 91 674 2591100,

Fax No- (91)6742535100

E Mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

2.  Dr. S. C. Zameer, Governor of Odisha,  Fax No-
(91)6742536582

3. Shri B K Patnaik, Chief Secretary, E-mail: csori@ori.nic.<csori@ori.nic.in>

Phone no – 0674 – 2536700

0674 – 2534300

0674 – 2322196

Fax No – 0674 – 2536660

3. S.K. Mallick , District  Collector, Jagatsinghpur, Contact number
09437038401,   Fax no – : (91)6724220299

4. Superintendent of Police, Satyabrata Bhoi, Mobile no-09437575759, 0624-
220115,  dmjsp@ori.nic.in

5. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Tel no-+9111-23016857

e mail: manmohan@sansad.in

6. Sonia Gandhi: Tel Phone no – (91)11-23014161, (91)11-23012656, Fax-
(91)112301865, soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in,

*7.* Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot
House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, Tel: +91 11 230 74448, Fax: +91
11 2334 0016, Email: chairnhrc@nic.in

8. Shri. V.Kishore Chandra Deo

Minister of Tribal Affairs

Ministry of Tribal Affairs,

Room No. 400  ‘B’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan,

New Delhi- 110001

vk.deo@sansad.nic.in

9. Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan

Minister of Environment & Forests

Ministry of Environment & Forests

Paryavaran Bhawan,

CGO Complex, Lodhi Road

New Delhi-110003

mosefgoi@nic.in

 

 

#India- MP minister justifies number of rapes to total population #WTFnews


, TNN | Apr 21, 2013,

MP minister justifies number of rapes to total population
Women activists of BJP remove police barricade outside UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi‘s residence during a protest against the rape of of the 5-year-old girl in New Delhi.
BHOPAL: At a time when the whole nation is outraged by the alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl child in New Delhi, a Madhya Pradesh minister went on record claiming the number of rapes as still less when compared to the total population.While Delhi‘s 5-year-old is under medical treatment in AIIMS, another little girl of her age from Madhya Pradesh is still fighting for her life in a hospital in Nagpur. The second child, also a victim of gang-rape, from Ghansor in Sheoni was flown out in a critical condition to Maharashtra for treatment. Her condition is critical.

But an insensitive minister of state for urban administration and development, Manohar Utwal, on Saturday said, “Evaluating the population of the Madhya Pradesh, the number of rapes is not that high.” Madhya Pradesh continues to be the rape capital of the country with the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) revealing the largest number of the heinous offence being reported in the state. In 2011-12, NCRB records showed a total 3,406 rapes in the state.

Speaking to reporters in Jaora town in Ratlam district, the minister justified, “In a state where total the population exceeds 7.5 crore, only 4,500 rapes have been reported this year.” He further defended that rape statistics is high in Madhya Pradesh because the police diligently records every complaint.

Manohar Utwal’s inconsiderate comment comes less than a week after an MP cabinet minister Vijay Shah was sacked for making sexist remarks against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan‘s wife while addressing a students’ gathering in the tribal dominated Jhabua district. With such reckless anti-women observations coming from state ministers, the Congress opposition in Madhya Pradesh isfurious.

Congress’ leader of opposition Ajay Singh on Sunday said, “By the way the state ministers are speaking, it is clear that the BJP government has no respect for women and have no intention or desire to protect them. To compare the population of the state to the number of rapes and justify the crime just brings out the BJP’s anti-woman mentality.”

 

#India – People leave mother and daughter to’ bleed to death’ on Jaipur road for 40 minutes #Vaw #WTFnews


Tuesday, Apr 16 2013 

Traffic camera captures family’s anguish as mother and baby daughter ‘bleed to death on Indian road as callous motorists drive past for 40 minutes’

  • Family of four were on the same motorbike when they were hit by a lorry
  • Desperate pleas for passing drivers to help were ignored for 40 minutes
  • Shocking tragedy struck on section of road where bikes are banned

By Sudhanshu Mishra

PUBLISHED: 15:33 EST, 15 April 2013 |

A mother and baby daughter bled to death on the road while motorists sped past them, ignoring the desperate cries for help of the victim’s husband and their four-year-old son.

The family was travelling on a motorbike in Jaipur‘s newly constructed tunnel, Ghat-ki-Guni, where two-wheelers are banned, when a speeding truck hit them, killing Guddi Raigher, 26, and her eight-month-old daughter Arushi.

Her husband Kanhaiya and son Tanish, both of whom suffered minor injuries, spent the next 40 minutes desperately trying to flag down passing motorists for help.

Scroll down for video – WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT

Desperation: Kanhaiyalal Raigher and his young son try to flag down passing motorists as his wife and young daughter bleed to deathDesperation: Kanhaiyalal Raigher and his young son try to flag down passing motorists as his wife and young daughter bleed to death

Not a single motorist stopped to help Kanhaiya, who kept running to each and every vehicle passing the accident spot where his wife and daughter lay in a pool of blood.

He fainted near the bodies after running around for more than half-an-hour.

 Finally, some motorcyclists stopped to lift him and informed his relatives and the police.

This, too, was possible only after coming out of the tunnel as there is no mobile connectivity inside.

Horror: A CCTV camera captures Kanhaiya consoling his distraught son as vehicles pass by the scene of the accident without providing help for nearly 40 minutesHorror: A CCTV camera captures Kanhaiya consoling his distraught son as vehicles pass by the scene of the accident without providing help for nearly 40 minutes

Desperation: Kanhaiya Raigher and his young son attempt to flag down passing motorists after the motorbike they were travelling on was hit by a truck, killing two other members of their familyDesperation: Kanhaiya Raigher and his young son attempt to flag down passing motorists after the motorbike they were travelling on was hit by a truck, killing two other members of their family

Carnage: Motorists swerve around the fatally injured mother and daughter instead of stopping to helpCarnage: Motorists swerve around the fatally injured mother and daughter instead of stopping to help

But by then, 40 valuable minutes had passed without any assistance coming his way.

The ban on two-wheelers has not yet been enforced in the tunnel as a tug-of-war is going on between the traffic police and the private company responsible for its maintenance over who would deploy personnel to implement the rule.

The Ashok Gehlot government had shown unusual eagerness in getting the 2.8km tunnel inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on January 19, during the Congress party’s Chintan Shivir.

Devastating: The couple's son, pictured with relatives, sustained head injuriesDevastating: The couple’s son, pictured with relatives, sustained head injuries

The hurry was such that artificial trees and plants worth Rs 1.25 lakh were fixed with cement at the tunnel’s entrance to give it a green look.

The tunnel, on the outskirts of Jaipur, is on NH-11. Ever since the tunnel was thrown open to public, the Jaipur traffic police and Rohan Rajdeep Rajasthan Infrastructure Limited (RRRIL), the company entrusted with its maintenance, have been evading the responsibility of implementing the ban on two-wheelers.

Tragedy: Distraught father and grieving husband Kanhaiya pictured left, with a bandage around a hand wounded in the crash watched his wife and daughter bleed to deathTragedy: Distraught father and grieving husband Kanhaiya pictured left, with a bandage around a hand wounded in the crash watched his wife and daughter bleed to death

The traffic police maintain that it is the company’s responsibility, while the RRRIL claims that it had installed the warning boards restricting two-wheelers, but it does not have the authority to penalise the defaulters.

As a result of this dispute, two-wheeler riders have been flouting the ban, using the tunnel to reach their destinations. Kanhaiya’s ordeal was caught on the CCTV camera installed inside the tunnel.

Police rushed the family to hospital, where Guddi and Arushi were declared dead on arrival and Kanhaiya and Tanish were discharged after first aid.

Police tracked the truck’s registration number from the CCTV cameras installed in the tunnel and a hunt has been launched to catch the driver.

 

Passersby ignore accident victim in Jaipur street

 

#India – Amendments in slum policy of Delhi, will benefit lakhs of slumdwellers #goodnews


 

After a long & continued struggle, Delhi Government brought amendments in modified slum policy after getting pressurized from the slum dwellers of Delhi.

 

Delhi Government has accepted most of the demands of the Sangathan & amended policy has been notified on 25th ‘February’2013. The benefits of amended slum policy of Delhi will reach to the hundreds of slum clusters & lakhs of slum dwellers of Delhi.

 

Since last one decade thousands of poor families living in slum clusters of Delhi facing inhuman evictions by the Government agencies. The ongoing eviction was supported by the modified slum policy which was notified on 19.02.2010 by Delhi Government.

 

This modified policy had a number of conditions under its eligibility criteria for rehabilitation of slum dwellers. Most of the slum dwellers were unable to fulfill those conditions despite of living in slums since last twenty years. This could have resulted in mass evictions of slum dwellers, loss of shelter & livelihood, school drop outs of children, extreme poverty and malnutrition among women & children. As per previous policy/guidelines, around 80-85% slum dwellers were not eligible for rehabilitation. The settlement of slums has direct link with the livelihood of lakhs of construction & domestic workers, transport workers, vendors & contract workers living in slums.

 

Delhi Shramik Sangathan mobilized thousands of slum dwellers in hundreds of slums in Delhi against the threat of mass eviction due to such anti labor & anti poor policy. The slum dwellers across Delhi sent thousands of letters to CM office as well as office of the Urban Development Minister of Delhi Government and also marched to Parliament to lodge their protest demanding amendments in slum policy of Delhi on 27th Novenber’2012.

 

Delhi Shramik Sangathan also submitted memorandum to Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, UPA Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, CM of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit and Minister of Urban Development, Government of Delhi, Sh Arvinder Singh Lovely demanding amendments in slum policy of Delhi.

 

These actions pressurized Delhi Government to change several conditions for eligibility for rehabilitation. The major amendments include:

 

  • The policy announced on 19.02.2010 had not only defined eligibility criteria for slum dwellers but it had also laid down eligibility conditions for slums; the slums which are situated near footpath, safety zone of railway, right of way, community areas were not eligible for rehabilitation; got removed from the policy.
  • The cut-off date for slum rehabilitation extended from 31st March’2007 to 4th June’2009.
  • As per the modified policy dated 19.02.2010; the slum dwellers had to present documents (Ration cards, Election identity card etc) of four periods that is of 1998, 2002,2007 and on the date of survey. The amendment has removed previous requirements of documents for eligibility condition; the name of the slum dwellers should be in electoral list on or before 04.06.2009 and in the year of survey.
  • The basis of income of slum dwellers as eligibility criteria for rehabilitation got removed from the policy.
  • With respect to ownership right; the flat to the eligible slum dweller will be allotted initially on lease hold basis for 15 years and converted to free hold thereafter.
  • Delhi government has shown intention in the court to withdraw their petition against the order of the honorable High Court of Delhi for rehabilitation of evicted families of New Sanjay Camp, Okhla through petition WP(C) 8904/2009.
  • This amendment will have impact on a number of cases pending in honorable High Court of Delhi for rehabilitation of slum dwellers.
  • The benefits of amended guidelines will also apply to those eight slums which were demolished as per previous modified policy dated 19.02.2010.
  • The procedures of Survey of slums have become more transparent than the earlier one. Now, the slum dwellers will be informed in advance about the survey and each family will be included in survey list whether it’s owner of the Jhuggi or tenant.

 

The amended policy is still silent on the issues of In-situ rehabilitation and actual cost of the flat under JNNURM.

 

In total, the amendments in the slum policy will bring relief to the lakhs of slum dwellers of Delhi who were under threat of inhuman eviction & fear of throwing away out of the city. The reality will be known after implementation of these policy guidelines.

RAMENDRA KUMAR

Secretary General

Delhi Shramik Sangathan

M-9868815915

 

 

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases #wakeup #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 14, 2013,

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases
Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), CRPF (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), ITBP (132), Nagaland Armed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and CISF (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.
NEW DELHI: Every month, the Delhi government spends Rs 20 crore of taxpayers’ money to provide security to 436 persons, who do not hold any constitutional post and 29 of whom face criminal case, the Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday. The annual tab comes to Rs 240 crore.

As against this, the government spends just a little over Rs 3 crore a month to protect the President and Rashtrapati BhawanThe bill for providing security to holders of constitutional posts, including the President, Vice-President, PM, Lok Sabha Speaker and Chief Justice of India, comes to Rs 341 crore a year or over Rs 28 crore a month.

An affidavit filed by the Delhi government revealed that 44 personnel have been deployed to provide security to “children and other family members/relatives of public functionaries”.

Additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra might find it a tad difficult, when he appears for the Delhi government, to explain to the court why “Delhi Police has provided security to 29 individuals (23 central protectees and 6 local protectees) who are facing criminal charges at state expenses”.

Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), Central Reserve Police Force (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (132), NagalandArmed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and Central Industrial Security Force (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.

Though the Delhi government said it had not provided security to any private individuals in lieu of payments made by them, it added: “89 individuals, including those holding public office and who have demitted office, have been provided security at the cost of public exchequer.”

It also provided in sealed cover the security arrangements for the protection of home minister, former prime ministers, Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family members who have been provided Special Protection Group (SPG) cover as also former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

 

UIDAI mum on #Aadhaar cards for Prime Minister, Sonia #UID #WTFnews


TNN | Mar 8, 2013,

UIDAI mum on Aadhaar cards for Prime Minister, Sonia
The RTI activist demanded to know if Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, other parliamentarians and Union Cabinet ministers possessed Aadhaar cards, UIDAI failed to provide details.
HYDERABAD: A recent RTI query to theUnique Identification Authority of India(UIDAI) for information on whether India‘s ‘top brass’ possessed Aadhaar cards, has come back without any response. The RTI query was filed by city activist Rakesh Reddy.
While Reddy, under the Act, demanded to know if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia GandhiUIDAI chairmanNandan Nilekani, deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and other parliamentarians and Union cabinet ministers possessed Aadhaar cards, the department concerned failed to provide details. The information was cited as “personal” and, therefore, withheld.

“The excuse is silly. I will go in for an appeal to acquire it,” the activist said adding, “Under section 8 (1) (j), one can exempt giving information if it is personal without any public interest. But in this case this exemption would not apply as I just asked if they had enrolled or not and did not ask for any further personal information“.

Explaining the reason for filing the RTI query, Reddy said, “A Union minister had recently said that Aadhaar cards are only for beneficiaries. It is surprising he feels he is not a beneficiary despite benefitting from the state. If they believe in this initiative, the leaders have to be role models by registering for the Aadhaar card first. This only reflects the hypocrisy of our lawmakers and shows that they have the least regard for this initiative.”

He demanded that the salaries and even the attendance of the parliamentarians be linked to Aadhaar card.

 

#Budget2013 high on rhetoric, low on funds for food security


Buisnesstoday

Sebastian P.T.
Sebastian P.T.

For all the talk of the United Progressive Alliance government about the seminal step the proposed National Food Security Bill will be in eradicating hunger and malnutrition, Finance Minister P Chidambaram‘s budgetary allocation for it is paltry. In his Budget speech , the Finance Minister said he was setting aside an extra Rs 10,000 crore, apart from the usual provision for  food subsidy, toward the “incremental cost” likely once the legislation is passed.

How much has Chidambaram provided? Part two of the Expenditure Budget documents shows it is Rs 90,000 crore. The document clarifies: “The provision of Rs 90,000 core for food subsidy also includes a provision of Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act.”

How much was the food subsidy envisioned in the last Budget (2012/13) for the current financial year? It was Rs 75,000 crore, and the revised estimate was above Rs 85,000. But this estimate – as the government itself has said – was based on population numbers of year 2000. Had this figure been updated to the 2011 census, the food subsidy would have been above Rs 1,10,000 crore (as per Food Ministry’s estimates).

And, if the 2011 census figures are used to estimate the food subsidy bill for 2013/14, it rises, by the food ministry’s own calculations, to Rs 124,000 crore – even without the Food Security Bill becoming law. If it is passed the subsidy will be even higher. Of course, all these estimates are based on the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011.

So how does Chidambaram’s allocation of Rs 90,000 crore amount to an additional outlay?  “I don’t know the Bill yet,” said Chidambaram at his press conference after the Budget announcement. “There is no Food Security Bill at the moment. We only have the Standing Committee’s report on an earlier version of the Bill. It is only when the (revised) Bill is presented to the Cabinet, that we can do an assessment of its cost. I cannot put a number today. However, in anticipation that a Bill will carry an incremental cost, I have provided Rs 10,000 crore.”

But he should have had an idea. The estimates of the food ministry, based on the original provisions of the Bill, are public knowledge. The original bill intended to include up to three-fourths of the rural population and half the urban population as beneficiaries, with 46 per cent of the former and 28 per cent of the latter being ‘priority households’, which would be entitled to seven kilos of foodgrain per person per month, at prices of one rupee per kg for coarse grain, two rupees for wheat and three rupees for rice. (Distinct from them would be the ‘general households’, which would get three kilos or less at half the price the government paid farmers to procure the grain.) The ministry estimated the subsidy at Rs 1,26,000 crore a year.

How can Rs 90,000 crore then be called an enhanced allocation? “This is a big letdown,” said N.C. Saxena, member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC). “The meagre Rs. 10,000 crore set aside for the implementation of the Food Security bill not only implies the lack of urgency on the government’s part to enact it but also the gross underestimation of the additional resources required,” says Subrat Das, Executive Director, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

Examining the original Bill,the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has recommended removing the distinction between priority and general households, among other things. But no final decision has been taken. Whatever is decided, however, even if the final cost is less than Rs 126,000 crore, it certainly will be much more than what the finance minister has provided for. He certainly will have to loosen his wallet or the outcome could well be a diluted Bill, hardly serving the noble intent.

 

NAC members raise concerns over direct benefit transfer scheme #Aadhaar #UID


Concerns raised over the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the schemeAnuja & Liz Mathew   Liz Mathew , livemint.com
First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint<br />
” src=”<a href=http://www.livemint.com/rf/Image-621×414/LiveMint/Period1/2013/02/27/Photos/uid–621×414.jpg&#8221; />
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

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Updated: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 59 PM IST
New DelhiA section of the Sonia Gandhi -led National Advisory Council (NAC) is not happy with the government “rushing into” the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme, expected to be the flagship programme of the ruling Congress party in the national election scheduled for next year.
At a meeting of the NAC on Tuesday, where Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairmanNandan Nilekani made a presentation on Aadhaar and DBT, some members flagged concerns on the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the scheme. They argued that no public services should be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
According to five members in the 11-member committee, the members warned the scheme cannot be implemented in a hurried manner without proper mechanism and preparations.
State governments, ministries and departments should not rush into direct cash transfers without assessing whether or not they are appropriate and whether the preconditions are in place,” said A.K. Shivakumar, NAC member, adding that a legal framework within which the identity numbers are being issued needs to be in place.
The United Progressive Alliance government, which has been in election mode for some time now, recently launched the DBT, which aims to directly transfer cash subsidies using Aadhaar to beneficiaries of several government welfare schemes. A pilot was rolled out in 20 districts for 26 schemes on 1 January. Finance minister P. Chidambaram and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh announced that programme from a party platform, which indicated the Congress’ intention to use it as an election plank. Party leaders also coined a slogan for the scheme, “Aapka paisa aapke haath” (your money in your hands), an indirect reference to Congress’ election symbol.
Nilekani told the members that 280 million Aadhaar numbers have been issued so far and by 2014, the authority expects to enrol 600 million people. DBT is expected to plug leakages, reduce wastage and bring down discrepancies in the beneficiary list. However, the members also raised questions about making Aadhaar compulsory. “The council appreciated UID as a concept but some issues were raised. The main concern was that while UID was voluntary, the interpretation made at the state level was that it was mandatory for access to certain social service schemes. While it is not intentional, it is playing out differently on the ground,” said Mirai Chatterjee, member of the council.
Another NAC member N.C. Saxena said that while in general there was a view that Aadhaar was a “good scheme”, there were transition problems and the ministries should not be in a hurry to make it compulsory.
Another member who did not want to be identified said that concerns over the banking network and linkages to it were also raised.
NAC member Aruna Roy was critical of the scheme, saying in the meeting that the idea of DBT was an “experiment on the poor” and a “failed experiment being pushed through”. “The new architecture of using the UID to access existing cash benefits through the bank has only added an extra layer of complicated and complex procedures and has burdened both the programme as well as the beneficiary with little apparent advantage,” a release from Roy’s office quoted her as saying.
In response to concerns that UIDAI had not been given legal sanction by Parliament, Nilekani’s presentation highlighted that the authority has been functioning under executive notification issued by the Planning Commission in 2009, which is valid under law, the same member said. The Bill pending before Parliament is just to strengthen the authority by giving it statutory status in order to impose obligations and penalties, Nilekani said in his presentation.
A senior government official aware of the development, who did not want to be identified, said most of the NAC members were supportive. However, concerns raised by some on operational issues related to cash transfer were legitimate. “They are being addressed,” the official said.
The Congress is pushing the DBT scheme as one of its key achievements. In the presidential address last week listing the government’s agenda for the coming year, Pranab Mukherjee said it will be a “trendsetter” and will “cut leakages, bring millions of people into the financial system and lead to better targeting of beneficiaries”.
Surabhi Agarwal contributed to this story.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST