Universal basic services for all

Objectives:

Human rights must be the starting point in approach to economic policies. This leads to the need to link employment guarantee with universal public provision of good quality social services. The demand, therefore, is for Universal Basic Services combined with basic income guarantees in the form of employment guarantee, pensions etc. Existing social services in lieu of cash transfers. This needs to be combined with responsibility of government as employer of last resort and social protection for specific categories.

All strategies must be evaluated in terms of environmental costs and benefits, with a strong focus on pollution reduction and strategies to mitigate climate change. It is necessary to link employment generation strategies to the restoration and creation of ecological commons in urban and rural areas.

Action points:

6.1 Expand the employment guarantee programme to provide 150 days of work to all adults in rural and urban areas, at minimum daily wage (by category according to state).

6.2 Include training in the employment programme and introduce a skilled category and creation of a “skill ladder” with mobility for workers.

6.3 Expansion of public education at all levels, with emphasis on inclusion and affordability along with quality.

6.4 All vacancies must be filled in education, health and other essential public services and all workers in essential services (health, education etc.) must be treated as regular public employees (including those currently classified as volunteers, such as anganwadi workers and helpers and ASHAs).

6.5 Accountability: Ensure effective mechanisms to empower local communities and stakeholders and ensure accountability of public service providers, including through social audits, education and health committees etc. with power to take action in case of dereliction of duty.

6.6 Food security: Universalise the Public Distribution System (PDS) in rural areas and add pulses and oil to the PDS basket, at least for Antyodaya households. Promote traditional staples (nutria-cereals) including through decentralized procurement. Abolish mandatory biometric authentication and allow other proofs of identity for accessing rights and entitlements.

6.7 Maternity entitlements must be provided by the state, for all those who are not covered by employers. This must amount to minimum wages for 3 months covering period of childbirth. Ensure compliance with National Food Security Act.

6.8 Universal pensions at half the minimum wage.

6.9 Encourage investment in essential infrastructure that improves the lives of people and improves quality and affordability of the provision of basic amenities (energy, water supply, etc.).

6.10 Reorient fiscal policy towards employment (rather than credit ratings based on faulty economic understanding). Instead of making fiscal deficit a central concern, fiscal policy should allow for increased spending that can create jobs by investing in the creation of public goods such as education, health, and the environment.

6.11 Active fiscal strategy for raising resources: 20% Inheritance tax, wealth tax in rising slabs for wealth above Rs. 10 crore, corporate social tax linked to turnover, not profits; green taxes to encourage less carbon emissions, pollution tax, etc.

6.12 Revive viability of banking and improve access to institutional credit especially for micro, small and medium enterprises. This will require recapitalization of banks and special focus to provide credit to underserved groups. There is a need to publish list of large corporate and individual wilful defaulters, recover their assets and take appropriate action against them.

6.13 Revive federalism, involve state governments in major economic decisions of national significance, restore decision-making powers of states and allow greater fiscal flexibility for revenue raising by states.