National Advisory Committee (NAC) member Aruna Roy has thrown a curve ball at Finance Minister P Chidambaram and demanded that pre-budget consultations with social sector representatives and business should be held jointly.
Roy, who skipped the social sector group's meeting today with the minister, wrote a letter later to the ministry explaining what she is riled about.
Her main gripe seems to be about the imposition of Aadhaar cards without legislative support, and the speed with which the government plans to roll out direct cash transfers despite glitches. She also wants NREGA outlays to be restored, and the launch of universal old age pensions for the poor.
Aadhaar is clearly the sticking point. "The government," she charged, and said the government "is making a huge mistake in pushing Aadhaar and making it mandatory, without ensuring its viability."
I come from a sector that is shocked and baffled that you talk about the need to cut subsidies for the poor, but have no hesitation in funding a programme like Aadhaar that functions in a legislative vacuum," she wrote.
"Glaring mismatches have already begun at the grass root level and the system being imposed is undemocratic and injudicious. Any further investment without proper and complete examination will undoubtedly lead to confirmed disaster."
She is also in complete disagreement with the understanding that technology can be a substitute for failures in Governance... "There is no substitute for political will, and we want to register our fundamental objection to this commercial and centralised mode of governance."
Roy has asked the finance minister to hold joint consultations with the corporate and social sector wher in both groups will hear each other, rather than be 'pigeon holed into unequal consultations'.
"We would like to understand and listen to the demands of the corporate sector, and we would like them to hear our demands. Open consultations are surely the minimum democratic standard for budget formulation."
Meanwhile, Social sector representatives led by D R Mehta of Jaipur Foot, Namrata Bali (SEWA Academy), Rukmani Banerjeee (Pratham) and Samit Aich
(Greenpeace) today pitched for tax exemptions and greater involvement of NGOs in implementation of welfare programmes of the government.
These demands were raised during the customary pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi.
The Union Budget is likely to be presented on February 28.
The representatives also suggested that government engages highly qualified professionals at grass root level, exempt donation to non-profitable organisation and recognising profit making NGOs for bank loans and financing.
They also suggested linking of inland water ways programme with MNREGA, higher allocation for rehabilitation of disabled people and early disbursement of grants to NGOs.
The social sector groups also demanded that charitable institutions should be exempted from service tax, more funds for alleviating urban poverty, formulation and adoption of National Competition Policy.
They also pitched for higher investment in education, gender equality and for providing water and sanitation facilities.
With inputs from PTI