Aruna Roy urges Sonia to give social schemes a push

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Noted social activist Aruna Roy Friday urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to intervene personally to give a “strong political push” to the UPA’s flagship schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Social Security Pensions.

In her letter to Gandhi, who heads the National Advisory Council, the former NAC member said as the term of the 15th Lok Sabha draws to a close “four important assurances” of the United Progressive Alliance government are “still to be implemented, despite being supported by a national political consensus”.
Besides MGNREGS and Social Security Pensions, the other two are accountability laws like the Whistleblower Protection Bill and the pre-legislative consultative process for all laws.
Roy said it is “imperative that we act now to ensure that important efforts made so far are not undermined by apathy, inertia, and the contrary designs of vested interests”.
On the rural employment guarantee scheme, Roy said while crores of people have benefited from the scheme, “its implementation remains unfortunately suspect”.
She pointed out the “falling figures of employment” as “proof of the lack of administrative and political will” to run the scheme, and said that “disturbing reports are coming in from different states and districts facing a cash crunch and their consequent refusal to implement it as a true demand-based programme”. Feb 2 is the eighth anniversary of the scheme.
Roy said the Kaam Maango Abhiyan launched by the central government in conjunction with state governments and civil society has shown “a dramatic increase in employment demanded and work provided and clearly demonstrated that a collaborative effort can go a long way in providing entitlements to the people”.
Initiatives like the Kaam Maango Abhiyan should be extended across the country and the government should pass a message at the “highest level” that the “demand driven aspect of MGNREGS is sacrosanct and adequate funds will be made available”, she said.
“Along with this, an unambiguous commitment should be made to the people of the country to deliver the entitlements as promised under the act,” she wrote.
Calling for the assurances on the Social Security Pensions to be honoured, Roy termed the government’s contention of lack of resources as “biased against the poor and objectionable” and criticised the finance ministry for seeking to “cut budgets from across the social sector spectrum”.
“Government claims that these are not budget cuts but unspent balances. Even a small portion of these could be used to fulfil the assurances that the government has given on social security pensions.”
“We would, therefore, like to make the limited demand that social sector expenditure not be cut by even a rupee and that any ‘savings’ be put into meeting the pension requirements,” she asserted.