Skip to main content

New Rajasthan laws seek to help poor, but does the government have resources?

By Bharat Dogra 

Recent steps taken by the government of Rajasthan, one of the better governed states of India, can result in providing much needed relief to the weaker sections ( with rights based longer term commitments added) and hence deserve our high praise and appreciation. 
The Chief Minister Mr. Ashok Gehlot deserves appreciation for his commitment to giving high priority to pushing ahead a number of significant welfare steps in recent times, as well as involving several reputed social activists and organizations of high integrity in these steps, while these social organizations led by the Rajasthan Soochna va Adhikar Abhiyan (a group of about 80 civil society organizations) in turn deserve praise for using all their experience to bring in more durable rights based laws for the poor, doing away with the more frequent doles or concessions oriented approach to welfare.
The Minimum Guaranteed Income Act 2023 of Rajasthan consolidates and enhances existing programs like those for rural and urban employment guarantee and for pensions for the poor. The Gehlot government in fact has been a pioneer of the urban employment program. With further enhancement now an assurance of 125 days employment is given for both urban and rural employment programs. 
With increased pensions for the elderly, the disabled and for widows and with even more significant annual increase of 15% built into the program, it is hoped that this together would amount to significant income support, particularly when this is seen in addition to the earlier significant relief provided in the form of a big health initiative which can significantly reduce the indebtedness and sinking into poverty that arises from serious health problems and health or injury emergences. 
In addition there are other helpful initiatives likely a dedicated fund to help scheduled castes and tribes, assurance of work for traditional art performers, a recent law to help gig workers, welfare measures for nomadic groups and some other deprived groups.
Prominent economist Prabhat Patnaik referred to these recent steps as ‘very impressive’ at a press conference in Delhi. While all this is to be certainly welcomed, one should nevertheless be cautious regarding the limitations of such welfare measures in order to present a more balanced and accurate view.
There are basically four approaches to reducing that part of human distress which is related to the denial of fulfillment of basic needs. Firstly, there is the component relating to improving government services and programs with an emphasis on helping the weaker sections in particular (including making available more funds for these). Secondly, there are aspects leading to a more comprehensive improvement of economy, including structural measures to reduce inequalities. Thirdly, there are social reforms, for example those related to improving the access to resources for women, deprived children and discrimination affected groups, as well as those related to reducing consumption of various intoxicants etc. Last but certainly not the least, there are various efforts for environment protection and sustainability. All these four categories are of course related to each other to some extent.
The most important and durable help for the poor is in the second category but this has been the most neglected in most parts of the country including Rajasthan. The reforms of the Rajasthan government, which are most welcome, are confined mainly to the first category, to some extent to the third category and there is good potential of first category of work also contributing to the fourth category, particularly in the form of water conservation.
Even within the first category, reforms are likely to be most effective only to the extent that budgetary resources are adequately available for them and their implementation can be kept free from corruption.
Fortunately Rajasthan has been the scene of many important transparency, governance improvement and anti-corruption movements as well. It is also encouraging that the groups involved in such transparency and anti-corruption movements have also been involved in the advocacy and subsequently formulation of recent important initiatives of the Rajasthan government. Nevertheless it would be well to remember that despite all that has been done, big corruption scams have continued to take place in Rajasthan and one should not be complacent regarding this.
Regarding budgetary resources, the capacity of most state governments in India in recent years has been constrained due to the lesser capacity to independently raise resources (following the introduction of the GST regime) as well as the fixed very high share of government finances going to government staff salaries and pensions or clearing debt and interest payments. Hence it remains to be seen to what extent state governments remain capable of fulfillment their commitments regarding recently announced initiatives, particularly where annual increments (which too are welcome and needed of course) are involved.
However it is encouraging to know, as prominent activist Nikhil Dey stated at the press conference, that the Rajasthan government has held important consultations with civil society activists regarding making budgets a highly participative process, both at the pre-budget and post-budget stages. This will be helpful for raising the budgetary resources for these important initiatives in transparent and participative ways.
Hence the highly welcome initiatives of the Rajasthan government should be seen in a wider perspective, so as to maintain a balance, and also to remember that despite the importance of what has been achieved, what remains to be achieved is still more than what has been achieved.
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, When the Two Streams Met and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food



Still not dead and buried: A rural Punjab move to keep alive the spirit of Naxalbari

By Harsh Thakor  There was a well attended and most lively meeting in memory of Thana Singh of around 2000 persons in Thana Singh’s village of Bhallai Ana in community hall in Muktsar on September 17th, with most encouraging participation of youth. It was a testimony that the spirit of Naxalbari is still not dead and buried with the audience literally reverberating the message of Naxalbari. In spite of every effort of the state to crush the naxalbari movement, it is not dead and buried, as we witnessed here. I was privileged to participate in the event.

Dev Anand ably acted as westernised, urban educated, modern hero, as also anti-hero

By Harsh Thakor  On September 26th we celebrated the birth centenary of legendary actor Dev Anand. Dev Saab carved out a new epoch or made a path breaking contribution in portraying romanticism and action in Bollywood cinema, giving his style or mannerisms a new colour. Arguably no Bollywood star manifested glamour in such a dignified or serene manner or struck the core of an audience’s soul in romantic melodies. Possibly we missed this evergreen star being cast in a Hollywood film. Dev Anand is like an inextinguishable soul of Bollywood. Although not as artistic or intense as Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor or Ashok Kumar ,Dev Anand surpassed them all for liveliness or flamboyance, with his performances radiating g energy on the screen, in realms rarely transcended. In his own right, Dev Saab, was a craftsman, like his classical contemporaries, with a characteristic composure. Perhaps never was a Bollywood star so suave, bubbling or charming as Dev Anand, who often looked like an Indian versi

Ludicrous how Gandhi is ritually remembered by our leaders with broom in their hands

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed  On every Gandhi Jayanti day, ludicrous scenes of multi-hued political parties’ leaders with brooms in their hands are seen doing rounds on television commemorating Mahatma Gandhi regarding “swachhta” (cleanliness). This won’t do unless there’s cleansing of heart followed by the cleanliness of the poor voters’ stinking areas. Tragedy with Mahatma Gandhi is that he is just ritually remembered by us on the occasion of his anniversaries but he is worth remembering each day owing to his sagacious words that contain wisdom for all ages and in all times.

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Why Govt of India, Sangh Parivar want to stop the use of ‘India’? What's in a name?

By Ram Puniyani  Coincidentally after the opposition parties came together to form INDIA (Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance), the ruling BJP is desisting from the use of word India in official communiqués and its parent organizations RSS has issued a fatwa that only word Bharat should be used for our country. While inviting the representative’s participants of G 20, the President issued the invitation in the name of ‘Rashtrapati of Bharat’. Since then BJP is on the track of avoiding the use of the word India in all its pronouncements, saying this word smacks of colonial legacy since this word was given to the country by British colonial rulers. Mr. Hemant Biswa Sarma of BJP said that word India is part of the colonial legacy and should be removed. RSS chief and other functionaries have intensified this message. Speaking at a function at Guwahati Mr. Bhagwat, stated “We must stop using the word India and start using Bharat. At times we use India to make those who speak Eng

Why originality of Gandhi's thoughts, example of his life still inspire people world over

By Moin Qazi*  Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary reopens a familiar debate around his legacy every year. How could a frail man use his moral strength to galvanize 400 million Indians in their struggle for independence from the mighty British Empire? How did Gandhi inspire ordinary people to turn fear into fearlessness and anger into love? What were his tools for fighting colonialism? How could he inspire the world to embrace his philosophy of nonviolence? What can we learn from him today? And is he still relevant?

Pot calling the kettle black: EAM Jaishankar accusing Global North of double standards

By Chandra Vikash*  While addressing a Ministerial Session on Saturday 23 September 2023 in New York on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly session titled ‘South Rising: Partnerships, Institutions and Ideas’, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that economically dominant countries are leveraging production capabilities and those who have institutional influence have weaponized these capabilities. He also cited an example of Covid-19 and stressed that it is still a world of double standards."

In today’s India aggressive violence has become weapon of choice for buying peace

By Harasankar Adhikari  Mahatma (the great soul) Gandhi's vision stands for "ahimsa" (non-violence) and ‘Satyagraha’ (holding of the truth). It is absolutely the beacon of his spirituality. His searches for peace and bliss are within the realm of ahimsa and satyagraha. Although his works are confined to the political movement for India's freedom as the political leader, his lifelong practise is enshrined as the political saint of India( according to Swami Yogananda Paramhans). His devotion and self-sacrifice for the universe are the revelation of his sainthood. 

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc