Piqued at govt, Aruna Roy not to continue in Sonia Gandhi-led NAC

Social activist Aruna Roy has decided to end her association with the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) after her current term expires on 31 May 2013.

Roy has been at odds with the UPA government for its reluctance to take up the issue of providing minimum wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as recommended by the NAC.

She has also been critical of the prime minister's office (PMO) for not taking up the recommendations of NAC on minimum wages to workers under MGNREGA.

"I do believe that it is extremely unfortunate that the prime minister rejected the NAC recommendations on payment of minimum wages to MGNREGA workers and chose instead to appeal the Karnataka High Court judgement ordering payment of minimum wages to MGNREGA workers," she said.

"Even more distressing is the government's refusal to pay minimum wages even after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Karnataka High Court judgement. It is difficult to understand how a country like India can deny the payment of minimum wages and still makes claims of inclusive growth. However, I realise that this effort to persuade the government to respect the minimum wages law must now continue outside the NAC," she said.

She said the NAC working group on implementation of flagship programmes had taken up several issues related to implementation of the MGNREGA.

"The recommendations of the working group were sent to the ministry, which has set up a programme advisory group to oversee implementation of these recommendations and the new guidelines that have been issued by the rural development ministry. Despite its contribution to changing the lives of the rural poor, implementation of this crucial flagship programme remains a challenge," she said.

Roy also criticised the UPA government over its inaction on the food security bill, which would have ensured some measure of security to the country's poor. She felt the Parliament wasted precious time instead of debating and passing the bill.

"The recent record of Parliament on debating policy and legislation underscores the need for this process. Given the hunger and malnutrition scenario in the country, a food security bill should have been debated and passed by Parliament by now,'' Roy said.

"There has been extensive and healthy debate within the NAC as well as in the public domain on the provisions of the bill, making it clear that if Parliament were to take it up, it would most likely result in robust and well supported legislation," she said.

Roy has written to Sonia Gandhi, who is chairperson of both the UPA and the NAC, requesting that she should not be considered for another term in the NAC after her present term expires on Friday.

While Sonia Gandhi is reported to have accepted Roy's request, Roy has sought Sonia's support for social sector campaigns outside the NAC.

"I am grateful for your accepting my request, while assuring your continued support to campaigns for social sector causes being taken up outside the NAC," Roy said in a letter to Sonia Gandhi.

Roy also thanked Sonia Gandhi for the freedom she enjoyed during her tenure in NAC.