Social Security, Law & Public Policy

Session Report
Harshaa Kawatra

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Social Security, Law & Public Policy” was held on the 30th of June, 2023 by Prof Aruna Roy is the President of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and is the  Founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS).

The chairperson for the programme is Professor Vibhuti Patel, who is a distinguished visiting professor at IMPRI, and Panel expert Prof Aruna Roy. 

The opening remarks were made my Professor Vibhuti Patel, who provided a brief outline of the discussions taken place so far about the overlaps between law and public policy in previous sessions, before opening the floor for Prof Aruna Roy to share her insights. She started off the session by telling the audience that her real preoccupation is poverty and livelihood. 

She also mentioned in her talk by how she is in touch with people who have never realised their rights and have been given to them with sovereignty, and the Constitution. Also, her work involves people who are receivers of charity, especially of the plans implemented by the Government. According to her, the two important issues of understanding, that had to be removed were:

1.  They continuously complained of corruption and the non-delivery of services.

2. Their actual needs were in the priority of policy makers and the government never seriously considered allocation of funds. They were in fact given the most marginal of funds. 

Despite the fact that India declared itself a welfare state and the first five year plan came in with the approval of the Planning Commission. Planning was looked at as a concept being performed for a big economy, that would fall under the State and the rest with the private sector. More than half of the work was given to the state. Adding to this she expressed that as researchers, policy makers or politicians we looked at the poor as beneficiaries, targets or receivers.

Her perception however was quite different. She thought there was knowledge, understanding and some portion of innovation that could be made for better planning. She shared that Dr. Ambedkar on the 26th November 1949 spoke and made his famous statement on the challenge India faced, that as the country entered social and economic inequality, we would have to build a social democracy and not just a political democracy.

With the Constitution we had just guaranteed one person, one vote but differences were still yet persistent. Looking at articles like, Article 39, 41 and 43 of the Constitution, it says that welfare which includes public education, health, livelihood, agricultural or industry workers, a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of so and economic equality  should be assured to them. In the early 90s, she worked with an NGO (1975-83) which made her realise how there is a lack of understanding of their minds, conditions and skills.

Agriculture, craft, or the mechanics of existence in the industrial sector etc are overlooked. All in all there is a great amount of skills that persists. While travelling and moving around, she expressed that there has been a concept of minimum wages which has remained constant along with people’s will to work and live their lives with dignity. Adding on she said that they wish to become masters and mistresses of their lives and want to assure self-reliance and a life full of dignity.

She continued that as the country progressed in the 90s, people were not aware of the wages they deserved and that is when the law of information (RTI) came into the picture. This law came in from the common people. She also pointed out how the pen holds extreme power and indeed we are being thieved by the governments. As we progressed, people realised that they need these 4 things:

  1. Transparency
  2. Accountability
  3. Public Audit
  4. Dress

Through processes and judgements, these led to what we call the Social Audit. She also gave an example when the laws were not followed, campaigns were initiated for justice and information. National common program, RTI, Right to work and many more laws were taken care of so that it reaches the marginal society as targeted.

She also gave a reference of the Trickle Down Effect, which was being seen by the Indian Economy. Moving on, she mentioned how the participation of the Panchayats and local bodies was essential which has been on a slowing effect even in the past 7-8 years.

In 2004, the idea of participatory democracy was put to practise from theory. The best laws actually exist when they arrive to practise from theory and not vice-versa. A Right to Accountability law is being demanded to ensure any activities that go otherwise. She also quoted the Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Stigiltz who when came to India and said that Indian laws are the best laws that are implemented in terms of inequalities and democracy are being taken care of.

Thus, participatory budget and participation in law-making has been essential in law-making. The fundamental rights that have been derived from the articles of the Constitution have worked along all these changes.

She then invited Nikhil Dey, who is a lawyer and has studied from the US. He works along with Prof Aruna Roy and has helped in access of laws and economic power for the poor in Rajasthan. He started off by giving a brief of what ma’am had gone through. Then he focussed on RTI and how it covers all people of the country. “Hum jaanege, hum jeetenge” was the slogan of the right. Generally in policies, we see growth as a primary factor, however directive principles are generally ignored.

When globalisation was happening, not many were progressing and thus a lot of doubts were raised including the NREGA. NREGA actually provided the economic deliverables. Moreover, the Forest Acts and Street-Vendor Acts which were protecting people. Domestic Violence Acts, Education Acts etc were also an important part of the discussion. 

Ravedi in Hindi and 3Bs in English came up. The idea of freebies being questioned by the Supreme court was brought up. He said, directive principles were actually what we fought for. According to him, privatisation of health, let’s say, is harmful for the state and is still under debate. He then focussed on Rajasthan. Pre-budget and Post-budget discussions were taken up. Civil society was taking up suggestions and improvements.

Urban employment has actually been put on main focus. Even for the homeless, policies are going to be implemented. Moreover, education and child labour were linked and taken care of. Right to Health is also something that was mentioned. Hospatilsation and insurance policies are also brought up. SC, STs, Forest Acts, BoCW, Silicosis, Food security, Women’s empowerment, DnT, Local Artisans Act, Transparency and Accountability Youth Policy, Police, Transport and MGISS were briefly looked on.

Post the discussion, remarks from Prof Vibhuti ma’am were taken. She exclaimed how insightful the discussion was and how it is important to hang in together as a society. She further progressed with questions on universalisation and the Aadhar link concept. Moving on, Prof Shalu Nigam also gave her remarks.

She also expressed how inspiring the session was and asked what challenges have been faced in such struggles to make the laws and rights reach to the poor. He answered that it is essential to raise a voice and have an opinion which is strong and beneficial. He also emphasised on representing the marginals as academicians as a responsibility. Further when the floor was opened for questions, they revolved around how to make our voice stronger, MNREGA, structural development, RTI and digitalisation.

Harshaa is a research intern at IMPRI.

Youtube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme:

Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship:

Basics of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India

Bureaucracy, Laws & Public Policy



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  • Harshaa Kawatra