Even as the Parliament session begins and the Budget is soon to be presented, it is clear that the Modi government is intensifying various offensives that the UPA Government had begun; and rolling back various hard-won rights and entitlements.
The UID Aadhaar scheme is a case in point. This is a scheme that the UPA Government had rushed in, without Parliamentary approval and steamrolling various substantial concerns about privacy, surveillance, and corporate access to personal data of citizens. A parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Yashwant Sinha of the BJP had endorsed many of these concerns and had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill. Now, the Modi Government is rushing through the same Aadhaar scheme. Moreover, though a March 2014 ruling of the Supreme Court said categorically that the Aadhaar card could not be made mandatory for government subsidies, the Modi Government is proposing to make Aadhaar compulsory for allotting cooking gas cylinders. A meeting headed by Narendra Modi himself has reportedly decided to bring back the Aadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer DBT scheme, which had to be withdrawn following the March 2014 Supreme Court order.
Following the Rajasthan Government’s lead, the Modi Government is now planning to usher in what it is euphemistically calling ‘job-oriented labour law reforms’. In essence this is to facilitate hire and fire, make widespread exploitation of contract work legal, and loosen the labour laws in favour of employees.
The Rajasthan Government has also initiated a move to dilute and dismantle MNREGA. The Rajasthan CM has written to the Centre asking why MNREGA needs to be a law, and why it should not be a scheme. Prior to MNREGA, there have already been multiple rural employment guarantee schemes – but these did not imply a legal entitlement. What is new and significant about MNREGA that a reluctant UPA enacted, is that it imposes a legal responsibility on the Government to guarantee employment. The fact is that Governments all over the country and the Centre have resented this legal obligation, and have tried their utmost not to implement it. But the MNREGA has galvanised the rural poor in struggles to claim and avail of their legal entitlement to jobs. Now, the Modi Government proposes to do away with this legal entitlement.