New Delhi: National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy has written to panel chair Sonia Gandhi saying that the massive gathering of people during the anti-corruption and gang-rape protests were an indication of the "strong desire" by ordinary Indians to suggest institutional reform and participate in the process of law-making.
The noted social and political activist said the Justice Verma panel received more than 60,000 suggestions and many of them "revealed a high degree of expertise, as well as common sense and wisdom".
Roy wrote that the speed with which suggestions were provided and the well argued positions indicated that "there are enough people engaged with all issues, and that they have already engaged with certain deliberative exercises on their own", said a statement Monday of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) which Roy heads.
The MKSS leader said the NAC too can and should be seen as a pre-legislative body "which functions best when it draws on the expertise wisdom, and suggestions of people, rather than confining itself to the expertise of its members".
Roy noted that "unfortunately, even a set of preliminary recommendations on the pre- legislative process taken up by the NAC have reached a dead end because of the resolve of the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) that it will "consult 85 departments to elicit their opinion".
She said that "in a participatory democracy, when citizens are demanding their voice be heard, to not create an institutionalized platform for pre-legislative consultation, is unwise and self defeating. If the NAC is not considered the right platform for such a discussion, it should be taken up by some other agency immediately".
On the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Roy mentioned two case studies, that of bonded labourers from Rajasthan and the case of a whistleblower, who was killed. She said both the cases illustrate the potential of the rural employment scheme to be a "lifeline for the poorest segments of our society; as well as the serious implications of our failure to implement it properly".
Roy said she is convinced that the grievance redressal bill is "one of the most important pending legislations for the poor and marginalised. Like the RTI Act, it will help all segments of Indian Society".
The passage of the Grievance Redress law, she noted, is crucial to the effective functioning of other social sector rights based laws and entitlements.
On old age pensions, she noted that there is no income support for the vast majority of the elderly, with even those eligible getting a nominal amount of Rs.200 month.
She said the Pension Parishad is organising a sit-in March 4-8 with 20,000 elderly people during parliament's budget session to press for hiking the amount, and making all the elderly eligible for it.