PUCL writes to Rajasthan CM, calls for a transparent mechanism for pre-budget discussions

People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a human rights body formed in India in 1976 by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, has written a letter dated June 23, 2019, to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Geholt, expressing its multiple concerns relating to the functioning of the Congress government and a list of suggestions with a focus on pre-budget proposals.

The major issues covered in the letter include- lack of representation of subject-matter experts in budget discussions, increasingly apathetic and a communalized police force impacting the law and order situation in the state, handing over some of the Mahila Salah evam Suraksha kendras to Durga Vahini, RSS’s women wing, irregular meetings of the SC/ST committee with the last one being held in 2012, violence in jails with miserable conditions of prisoners, non-representation of educationists in curriculum updates, lack of shelters for the homeless, specifically the DNT and NT communities, poor implementation of the mid-day meal scheme, illegal mining in Neemkathana and Shuklaka baas and Kotputli, increasing cases of cow vigilantism, among others.

With an interim budget already presented, the Rajasthan government is all set to present the final budget on July 31, 2019. Before the budget is presented, the Rajasthan government called for a meeting of activists and experts from diverse fields such as child rights, women rights, education, urban poor, minority rights, development NGOs, among many others. However, as per the PUCL letter, the government failed to call representatives from all the fields in order to take their ground level experience into consideration and prepare the budget accordingly. The letter reads, “So I (President Kavita Srivastava) am talking on behalf of all those who have been left out, whose voices are not being included in the budget discussions this time.”

Requesting for “putting in place transparent mechanisms and platforms for dialogue from the village to the State level” PUCL suggests the following:
  1. Stating that the present system is opaque, non transparent and arbitrary, PUCL calls for using social and other forms of media to start a dialogue between various levels of government, citizens and civil rights organisations w.r.t. budget formation.
  2. Creating a “public discourse” on Mahatma Gandhi in the 150th birth year by forming a five member committee and designing a year long programme. It even states the names of some experts who can be approached for this purpose like Nand Kishore Acharya, Om Thanvi, Varsha Das, Neera Chandoke, Apoorvanand and Kumar Prashant. It also recommends conducting trainings, workshops and lectures in schools for the same.
  3. Make the police force accountable and restore the law and order situation by fully implementing the Rajasthan Police Act, 2007 like constituting the grievance redressal committee  and also ensuring other committees like the Child Rights Committee are fully filled. It also calls for reconstitution and revival of such committees. It states,“Adopt a comprehensive police reform agenda from the perspective of women, SC, ST and minorities.”
  4. Comprehensive sensitisation programme for the lower Judiciary which can be designed with the help of PUCL.
  5. Expressing its grave concern over the increasing cases of violence in jails that too on communal basis, PUCL calls for introducing grievance redressal platforms for prisoners and staff inside the jail, with civil society groups. It gives a cautionary note stating, “Please remember if there is nationalism outside, there will be hyper nationalism inside, Communal society outside, then there will be hyper communalism inside.”
  6. Form a committee of educationists for examining and revamping school textbooks. The letter reads, “The process as of now is happening under no curriculum framework or keeping in mind the pedagogy.  This random manner is extremely harmful for the children. Please do this systematically. Bring in Prof. Krishna Kumar, former NCERT chief as advisor to this process.”
  7. Creation of women and family shelters.
  8. Ensuring that the maternity benefits under the Prime Minister’s Matritva Vandana Yojana, which proposes to provide Rs. 6000 to mothers of newborns, is extended to all women irrespective of the number of the children as is happening currently.
  9. Reintroduction of providing free sanitary napkins in Anganwadis, along with reproductive awareness.
  10. Ensuring eggs are provided at least three times a week for children till class 8th and in Anganwadis under the mid-day meal schemes.
  11. Concerned over the threat to the fragile ecology of Rajasthan due to increasing illegal mining, allegedly supported by MLAs and MPs, PUCL pleads for putting an immediate stop on this, especially in Neemkathana and Shuklaka baas and Kotputli.
  12. Stating that the Women’s Policy, 2000 is outdated, PUCL requests for introducing a new policy as the one prepared by Dr. Lad Kumari Jain in 2015, which continues to lie as a draft with the state government.
  13. The mandatory condition of Aadhar, needs to be removed from all schemes related to food, health and social security as we have had hunger deaths in the past due to this.
  14. Due to an amendment in Rajasthan’s Bovine law in 2017, which calls for seizure of vehicles used in illegal transportation of cows and arrest of culprits, and increasing number of ‘Gau Rakshaks (cow vigilantes), the attacks on Muslims, who are dairy farmers, have increased. PUCL thus demands the revocation of the amendment and calls for a stringent law to restrain the Gau Rakshaks.
Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL, through the letter requested the Chief Minister for an urgent meeting for a lengthy discussion on the aforementioned issues and suggestions.