In a significant move towards alleviating poverty and ensuring social security for its citizens and the coming elections, the Rajasthan government, led by the Indian National Congress (INC), passed "The Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Bill", on the 21 of July.
This groundbreaking legislation aims to provide entitlement-based social security to support individuals and households of the state with an additional minimum guaranteed income. By introducing this progressive bill, the government has taken a commendable step towards fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities and ensuring inclusive growth for all its residents.
The Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Act, 2023, was passed in the state legislative assembly and is set to revolutionise the way social security is provided to the citizens of Rajasthan.
It is built on the principles enshrined in the constitution of India, particularly Articles 39(a), 41, and 43, which emphasize the State's duty to ensure the welfare of its citizens, promote social justice, and secure decent living standards for all.
Aptly called the Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Act, 2023, it extends to the entire state, covering both urban and rural areas. The legislation shall come into force on the date appointed by the state government, ensuring swift implementation of its provisions.
Income, Employment, and Social Security Pension
At the heart of the Bill lies its provisions for guaranteed employment and social security pension. Every adult person residing in Rajasthan shall have the right to guaranteed employment, ensuring a minimum number of workdays and receiving fair wages as per the provisions of the Act. This could empower individuals to earn a livelihood and contribute to the overall development of both rural and urban areas.
The legislation establishes a robust framework for providing guaranteed employment to every adult person in the rural and urban areas of Rajasthan. This ensures that no individual is left without work and a source of income. By designating program officers to implement the Act and ensuring timely work allocation, the government showcases its dedication to efficient and transparent governance.
Under a chapter of the act, every adult person residing in rural areas of the state has the right to get guaranteed employment for doing permissible work for at least 25 additional days in a financial year after completing the maximum days of work prescribed by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The same provision applies to adult individuals residing in urban areas, with a right to guaranteed employment for at least 125 days in a financial year.
Recognizing the needs of vulnerable sections of society, the Bill provides guaranteed social security pensions for categories such as old age, specially-abled, widow, and single women.
Under this chapter, every person falling under the prescribed eligibility criteria for old age, specially-abled, widow, or single woman categories is entitled to receive a pension under the Act. The pension payable shall be increased at the rate of fifteen percent per annum on the base rate in two installments, i.e., five percent in July and 10 percent in January of each financial year starting from financial year 2024-2025.
Implementation, Accountability, and Grievance Redressal
To ensure smooth execution and effective implementation of the Act, the government designates nodal departments for urban and rural employment as well as social security pensions. This centralized approach streamlines the process, making it easier for beneficiaries to avail their entitlements.
The Local Self Government Department is designated as the nodal department to implement the provisions of urban employment, while the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department shall be the nodal department for the implementation and day-to-day management of the provisions of rural employment. The Social Justice and Empowerment Department shall be the nodal department for provisions of the right to guaranteed social security pension.
In a display of transparency and accountability, the Rajasthan government here ensures that all payments, including wages, compensation, unemployment allowance, and pensions, are made directly to the beneficiary accounts through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mechanism. Moreover, the government provides opportunities for public scrutiny of relevant accounts and records, fostering trust and confidence in the system.
To ensure effective monitoring and review of the Act's implementation, the state government shall constitute an advisory board, headed by the Chief Secretary, to regularly assess the progress and address any challenges. The advisory board will consist of various other members of the state government, including Secretaries in charge of key departments, such as Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Social Justice and Empowerment, Local Self Government, Planning, and Finance. This multi-disciplinary approach ensures comprehensive oversight and fosters collaboration among various departments.
Furthermore, the Act lays down a robust grievance redressal mechanism. Beneficiaries will have the right to lodge their grievances, if any, and seek resolution in a timely manner. The structure and the modus operandi of the grievance redressal mechanism will be formulated in line with the Act's provisions, emphasizing the government's commitment to accountability and responsiveness.
A Milestone for Inclusive Growth
To promote transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Act, the Program Officers responsible for executing the provisions shall provide accounts and books to the Rajasthan Social and Performance Audit Authority (RSPAA). The RSPAA will conduct social audits and performance audits, ensuring that resources are utilized efficiently and the intended benefits reach the rightful beneficiaries. By subjecting the implementation process to regular scrutiny, the government demonstrates its commitment to upholding the highest standards of governance.
The Act provides the state government with the power to address any difficulties that may arise in giving effect to its provisions. If any challenges hinder the smooth implementation of the Act, the government can make necessary provisions, not inconsistent with the Act, to overcome such obstacles. This provision reflects the government's adaptability and commitment to addressing issues promptly, ensuring a seamless implementation process.
The Act passed by the INC-led Rajasthan government, sets a shining example of inclusive governance. By providing a safety net for its citizens, ensuring guaranteed employment, and protecting vulnerable sections through social security pensions, the government has taken a decisive step towards eradicating poverty and promoting the welfare of all residents. It stands as a beacon of hope and a model for other states to emulate, showcasing the transformative power of progressive policies in shaping a brighter future for all.
It marks a historic milestone in the state's journey towards inclusive growth and social justice. By ensuring entitlement-based social security, guaranteed employment, and enhanced social security pensions, the Act uplifts the marginalized sections and empowers every resident to pursue a life of dignity and opportunity.
With the Rajasthan Minimum Guaranteed Income Act, of 2023, the state paves the way for other regions to embrace progressive policies and work towards a more equitable and inclusive society. As this transformative legislation takes effect, Rajasthan moves one step closer to becoming a beacon of hope and progress in the state election year.
(Vikram Raj is an independent journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)