The following is the full text of Ms.Roy's letter to the Prime Minister, declining a second term in the National Advisory Council.

21st June 06

Dear Shri. Manmohan Singhji,

I joined the NAC two years ago encouraged by many of the assurances contained in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of the UPA government. Its primary task, as I understood it, was to advice the government on implementation of the NCMP. At a time when there has been a comprehensive assault on the poor and their rights, the NCMP seemed to bring some of their concerns centre stage.

The passage of the Right to Information Act 2005 and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 demonstrated that the NCMP was not a collection of empty promises. Without firm resolve, and a display of political commitment these two legislations would not have been passed. In my opinion, despite some inevitable shortcomings, they are both laws that India has reason to be proud of.

Membership of the NAC did give me a chance to bring to the Government, the views, opinions and understanding of the peoples movements that I have had the privilege to have been associated with. It is to the credit of this government that this kind of grass root understanding helped shape these legislations. The clear stand of the NAC, backed by the firm resolve of the Chairperson, the acknowledgement of the NCMP as a benchmark for the passage of these legislations, as well as several other decisions related to the social sector, has been particularly encouraging. In fact my decision to accept membership of the NAC, was taken after wide consultation with many colleagues from these peoples movements.

There have been no regular meetings of the NAC held in the last four months.

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I have now decided to decline the offer to renew and extend my term, after consulting them once again. There are several reasons for this decision. One reason is the greater role I see for myself in trying to work for the implementation of the RTI and the NREGA at a grass root level. It was of course always clear that the struggle would not cease when the legislations were passed, and that questions of implementation are crucial if these benefits are to reach the people.

However, there has also been a growing cause for anxiety that I must put on record. While there are many assurances in the NCMP that will take a while to implement, there must be a clear and unequivocal position of the GOI in support of NCMP positions. In my opinion, the NCMP is an acknowledgement of some of the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people in India. I have also been concerned by the attempts from some quarters , within government, to dilute both the RTI and the NREGA through a variety of means. In fact, in the current euphoria about the performance of the economy there is a great danger of not paying heed to the anguish of the poor and the marginalized.

The results of the Lok Sabha elections are ample testimony to demonstrate how the majority of voters did not see an 8% growth rate, as a case of India shining. There can be no doubt that in some cases, such development passes them by. But there are instances where it is at great personal cost to them. The Narmada dam and the situation of those it has displaced, is perhaps the most well known of these cases. Despite better rehabilitation for tribals being an explicit assurance in the NCMP, even existing policy and Supreme Court orders were violated as borne out by the report of the GOM constituted by you. Despite the report of the GOM, apparently for reasons of political expediency, construction on the dam continues at the cost of people yet to be rehabilitated even as per laid out norms. As this government considers adopting a new rehabilitation policy, it will have to come to terms with this crisis of credibility and confidence due to decisions taken that violated NCMP assurances.

I do think effective implementation of the common minimum programme needs the inputs, experience and expertise of many people outside government. I think the NAC has played its most important role in bringing the benefit of that rich body of opinion to this government. The regularity of the meetings and the presence of the chairperson at each one of them, also contributed to the NAC being seen by citizens groups as a forum of public consultation. I do think this space has been reduced, there have been no regular meetings of the NAC held in the last four months.

As my term in the NAC ends, I would like to thank you for providing me an opportunity for our views to be heard. As someone who sees a great value in the NCMP, I think the space for wide ranging public discussion needs to be preserved and strengthened. I hope that your government will ensure that there will be an increasing number of platforms, through which the opinions of people can become part of the policy formulation of the government.

With warm regards,

Aruna Roy