On a day when a full-page email interview with the prime minister appeared in the Hindustan Times, the National Advisory Council, chaired by Sonia Gandhi, on Friday slammed the United Progressive Alliance government for not implementing a score of its recommendations, including food security to all, made in the past two years.
The NAC's censure, though not a direct rap, is contained in the form of "the current status of the NAC recommendations in the government" in a 35-page report approved in the meeting on the work done by the council and actions of the government on its advices.
The report will be an embarrassment to the government as Sonia Gandhi has ordered that it be placed on the NAC website to show how the government has been dragging its feet on the recommendations for social change.
The NAC is upset that the government is also diluting its recommendations like those on the food security bill in which it has sought a universal public distribution system (PDS) covering the entire population and enlarging the list of targeted beneficiaries to include marginalised groups such as the homeless and destitute senior citizens.
The report shows how little has been done on the NAC's repeated stress for enactment of the communal violence bill and the land acquisition-rehabilitation bill, besides its call for strengthening the forest dwellers' rights bill.
The NAC members were also given a presentation by the labour and finance ministry officials on their recommendations to the government in April for a comprehensive social security package through a single window to the unorganised workers. The NAC asked them to submit detailed features of the scheme, including the implementation architecture and phased coverage, in its next meeting on August 24.
A NAC press release said the meeting also discussed the threat of a failed monsoon and an impending drought that may put pressure on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to provide employment to the jobless in rural areas.
The council expressed concern over several challenges in "basic implementation" of NREGA and decided that "it is crucial to interface with workers. Sonia Gandhi asked the NAC Working Group on Transparency, Accountability and Governance to hold consultations with the workers in tandem with the rural development ministry to measure the impact of the Act, monitor implementation and suggest effective measures.
Stress was laid that the working group should focus on measures like work on demand; wages and timely payments; expanding the scope of works, ensuring better quality assets; transparency, accountability, and social audit.