A Wishlist Left Unfulfilled
By U Anand Kumar - NEW DELHI
Published: 09th Feb 2014 08:54:01 AM
As the UPA government’s term draws to an end, many an item on UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s wishlist seem fated to remain just there, confined to the papers only.
The National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia had made several recommendations to the UPA government on wide ranging issues—from Right to Information to the recently passed Food Security Bill. Though some historic legislation were made in the past, many recommendations of the reconstituted NAC were not implemented.
The NAC was first constituted on May 31, 2004 to monitor implementation of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). It was reconstituted on March 29, 2010 to provide inputs for policy formulation by the government and to provide support in legislative business.
Since 2010, the NAC had made 39 recommendations to the UPA government on various issues including universal health coverage, National Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill, Communal Violence Bill. After over two years, the UPA government could not legislate on the recommendation of the NAC on communal violence. Though the NAC recommended draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill to the government in July 2011, the proposed legislation continues to hang fire. The government was forced to defer the introduction of the Bill in Rajya Sabha in the current extended winter session of Parliament.
Though the Council made recommendations for essential elements of a National Policy for Domestic workers, the government is still struggling to finalise it.
The NAC submitted recommendations on the Strengthening of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act, 1989 in March last year. However, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Kumari Selja on December 12, 2013 and still pending in Parliament.
The NAC recommended Universal Health Coverage to the UPA government in July last year. The Health and Family Welfare did not reject the recommendation. However, it expressed inability to implement the recommendation due to lack of time and funds. Sources in the Health Ministry pointed out that the allocation of funds for the Ministry for the first two years in 12th plan have already been made. In December 2011, The NAC has recommended prohibition of child labour up to the age of 14 years. Though the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2012, it is still pending in Parliament.
NAC recommended on Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups in August last year and it is still being considered by the by the Tribal Affairs ministry.
Another pet project of Sonia, and NAC sent its recommendation on the proposed Disability Rights Legislation in May 2012. The government could only introduce the Bill in the extended winter session of Parliament this week.
Only last week, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi assured a delegation of Disabled Rights Group of his support to ensure that the Bill is not just tabled, but also passed along with the amendments drafted by disability activists. However, his promise is unlikely to be fulfilled due to lack of time. The NAC also recommended the Pre-Legislative Process. In its recommendation, it said, “the concept of popular sovereignty is one of the basic structures of the Constitution of India. Hence people have the right to participate in all decisions on all matters. This draft pre-legislative policy draws its mandate first from the Constitution and seeks to move in the direction of creating institutionalised space for people’s participation in the formulation of legislations in a systematic manner.”
In more than a dozen Parliamentary standing committee reports in the recent past, the government has been hauled up for drawing up weak Bills and for lack of a thorough consultative process while drafting historic legislations.