Independent institutions crucial to oversight, accountability: Activist

She said institutions are being interfered with in very basic ways even as a newly defined nationalism is being endorsed
Last Updated 16 March 2023, 23:17 IST

Social activist Aruna Roy said on Thursday that independent institutions in the country are being undermined, critically impeding their scope as bodies for oversight and accountability.

She was delivering the keynote address at a conference organised as part of the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS).

Underlining the “rapidly deteriorating” democratic framework, she said institutions are being interfered with in very basic ways even as a newly defined nationalism is being endorsed by compromising secular and democratic ideas central to the Constitution.

“We need institutions with principles that are unpacked from the Constitution and are repeatedly adhered to till we have built the laws. For policy to formulate, we need an interim space where we can accept that policy, experiment with it and make it a theory, a law, a tool,” Aruna, co-founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan, said.

Aruna — a prominent face of the Right To Information (RTI) movement — said 18 years after the act, an independent information commission remains elusive, but with roughly 40 to 60 lakh RTI applications filed in a year, the movement has been “immensely” impactful.

Two-day conference

CBPS, an independent, non-profit public policy research institution, is celebrating its 25th year with a two-day conference titled ‘Institutions and Public Policy’ at the JRD Tata Auditorium in the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus. The inaugural plenary session also featured a panel discussion on building and sustaining independent institutions.

The panel — which had Jayna Kothari, co-founder and executive director, Centre for Law and Policy Research; N V Varghese, former vice-chancellor, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration; Shyam Menon, vice-chancellor, BML Munjal University; and Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor, The Wire; as speakers — was convened by M S Sriram, faculty member, Centre for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore.

Over the two days, the conference will feature sessions covering gender and public spaces, public finance and governance, education as public good, and health and social security.

(Published 16 March 2023, 21:41 IST)

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