‘Acche din’ an illusion?

Four Years of NDA

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

The BJP-led NDA is celebrating its four years in power. Ministry after ministry is going all out to highlight its achievements. However, for the common man, the reality on the ground may not match the claims. The big question is whether the people have got a feel of ‘acche din’ as promised by the Modi government? Karnataka and recent byelections results suggest that people are not convinced and perhaps disillusionment is setting in.
The Government’s performance in several fronts leaves much to be desired. Despite being an agricultural economy, the farm hands have a sorry tale to tell. The farming community continues to be up in arms against the government for non-compliance of its demands and that the various schemes announced or underway are of little consequence to small and marginal farmers. In the list of protests, another one has been added. ‘Gaon Bandh’ launched by 172 organisations under the banner of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh and Kisan Ekta Manch on June 1 across States, will culminate into Bharat Bandh on June 10.
Undeniably, farmers are really facing a critical problem, fighting against selling their produce at non-profitable rates so as the repay their debts. Pictures of farmers throwing their produce on the roads is becoming quiet common, making the experts question whether, in spite of all claims of being the fastest growing economy, this is the most anti-famer government in the country. The fact is that in the past four years, the share of agriculture growth stands at around 2.4 per cent. This is half of what it was during the previous four years of UPA government. Thus, the possibility of doubling farmers’ income in real terms, as per Modi’s promise, even by 2025 appears remote, if not impossible.
A recent problem that has further complicated matters is the high price of petrol and diesel which has skyrocketed in the last three months or so. While international prices may have increased, the high Central and State duties are affecting the middle income sections of the population. Neither side is ready to make minor cuts in their duties and blame each other. The result of this will have a cascading effect on daily necessities as most of the goods are transported through surface transport. In fact, prices have already started rising and the Centre remains a silent spectator.
While a commentator of a leading national daily talked about innovations being promoted by the Government with the increase in the use of mobile phones and the recharge rates coming down, one fails to understand what actually has happened to the poorer segments of the population in rural areas. Toilets are being built, most of which do not have water connections or are not suitable for use, while food storage facilities is grossly inadequate. Moreover, the health sector in the rural areas is in a mess.
According to recent study and that too by an official agency, about a quarter of all rural households and one in five urban households in India are forced into debt or sale of assets to meet hospitalisation costs. This is true across income levels, revealed by the National Health Profile 2007 published by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence. In rural India, about two-thirds — ranging from 65.6 per cent in the poorest to 68 per cent for the richest – depend on household income or savings while 27 per cent of the poorest households and 23 per cent of the richest households depend on borrowings to meet hospitalisation costs.
Moreover, the condition of health centres and hospitals in the Blocks are pitiable with very few doctors and support staff and virtually no medicines. The poor and the economically weaker sections, who cannot afford to go to nursing homes, are faced with severe problems when they are referred to district hospitals which are overcrowded and no bed is available. Is there any country, comparable with India, where the state of health care is in such a bad shape? Possibly not as another recent study, published in The Lancet, pointed out that India ranked 145 among 195 countries and lower than China, Bangladesh and Sudan on health care access and quality, measured through their capacities to prevent premature deaths from 32 diseases.
As regards education, the state of affairs is far from better. Though the government has been talking of giving more autonomy to certain institutions and giving crores to universities of excellence, higher education in rural and semi-urban areas is appalling. Teachers are not qualified enough to teach innovative subjects and guide students in the proper manner while infrastructure of most of these institutions are in a pretty bad shape.
The poor state of governance has not even spared the nationalised banks. Most of these are in the red due to inordinately high non-performing assets. The results in the last quarter indicate a net loss of around Rs 45,000 crores, the highest in recorded history of banks. The huge loans being granted to business houses, some of whom are reportedly close to the powers-that-be, would not have been possible without the involvement of the political class. While the Finance Ministry blames the Reserve Bank of India, the latter transfers the blame to the top management of the respective banks.
The entire country is in a mess, whether it be the economic, political or social front. The strategy being followed has led to jobless growth which has severe adverse repercussions in society. Many hear of schemes and slogans, which have little value for the common man who continues to struggle for his existence.
It matters very little which party or coalition would form the government at the Centre in the next elections. ‘Inclusive’ development remains a slogan. Over the years and even now big talk and new schemes and promises are being made without actually seeing how much of these are benefitting the masses. How long will this continue? How long will the government laud GDP growth, without calculating the damages incurred every year due to various environmental phenomenon, to show how efficiently the government functions?
When Modi came to power, he made tall promises, but many are yet to be realised. There are also no indications whether the situation may change in the coming years as those in power or authority– political or economic – don’t profess communitarian feelings. However, this must change. While, good and efficient governance is always a priority for any government, values need to change and a sense of concern and empathy with the aam aadmi and the community needs to be nurtured.
To start with those in power and authority, specially the political leadership, need to gain the confidence of the people and that every scheme announced has their welfare in mind. Unless this happens, social transformation cannot be achieved and the reforms contemplated by the government will not be able to ensure real development for the people at the grass-root levels.—INFA