By Dhurjati Mukherjee
The latest Human Development Report (HDI) Index has given India a ranking of 130 among 188 countries in 2017, once again reiterating that India’s score is below the average of 0.645 for medium developing countries and slightly above 0.638 for countries in South Asia. It is difficult to believe that things have improved in the country in spite of various plans and programmes and inequality levels are same as before. Is it not surprising that the HDI expressed concerns that India’s inequality adjusted loss remains a challenge for India despite its record of economic growth and despite various initiatives on social protection?
In fact it gives the Congress further reason to target the Modi government as “suit boot ki sarkar’ (government for the rich) and has now upped the ante with the Rafale fighter jet deal, accusing it of robbery — Rs 130,000 stolen from the people and given to a tycoon friend Anil Ambani, who was Rs 45,000 crore in debt. The deal is said to have secured Rs 30,000 crore for his company from Dassault Aviation. Rahul Gandhi has launched a blistering attack and its obvious will lead the charge of corruption as well as total government failure on the economic front in his campaign for ensuing Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan elections.
The Government has been in a swoop with the agrarian crisis and with job crunch looming, it is expected to be embarrassed further. Add to this, the BJP’s Hindutava agenda, which is being seen by many even at the ongoing draft NRC exercise in Assam, where 40-odd lakh people’s future is in jeopardy. Both academic community and political analysts suspiciously view it as BJP’s larger objective of imposing aggressive Hindutva as most of the ‘illegal migrants’ are reported to be Muslims, who may come from neighbouring Bangladesh due to poverty and squalor.
Whether the government comes out with convincing answers is unknown but it is largely believed that a major section of intellectuals are aggrieved at the state of affairs. The Hindu line, propagated by the BJP, may not be in consonance to what organisations like Ramakrishna Mission or Bharat Sevashram believe and preach, not to talk of a large section of educated Hindus. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent comments at the RSS event, steering it in a new direction, is one such indication.
Coming to the economic perspective, the government recently admitted in the Rajya Sabha that 24 lakh jobs have been lying vacant in government sector, including 10.1 lakh vacant positions for teachers in elementary and secondary levels, including the much-hyped Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). This is followed by 5.4 lakh vacancies in various police departments and 2.4 lakh in Railways. Plus, there are 2.4 lakh vacancies among low-paid anganwadi workers and 1.5 lakh in health centres, where lack of doctors, nurses and support staff is known.
Add to this, the spiralling fuel costs and rising import bill, putting the economy in shatters; present conditions of banks and media reports of how the likes of Vijay Mally were allowed to leave the country with the intervention of political bigwigs.
This apart, the Jan Swasthya Abhijan (JSA) and the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) has expressed concern in a recent report over “misuse” of the public-funded Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana for BJP’s promotion. They said the NDA had renamed Jan Aushadi scheme — launched in November 2008, first to Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Yojana and then to Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana. The website highlights the letters ‘B J and P’, which is synonymous with BJP or ‘Bhajpa’ in Hindi. Frankly, publicity appears to be uppermost on Government’s mind.
Regarding the agrarian crisis, unprecedented protests have occurred across the country due to increasing poverty among farmers and failure to get reasonable returns for their crops. Merely announcing schemes without seeing their actual implementation and also allocating adequate resources cannot achieve the desired results.
One may also refer to the fact another hyped flagship programme – launched in 2016-17 – wherein a 15 per cent decline has been found in coverage of farmers in its second year (2017-18) and one key reason for the dip is the loan waiver announced by several States last year. Farmers’ enrolment declined from 57.3 million in 2016-17 to 48.8 million in 2017-18 with Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar, the first four having announced loan waivers. In some of these States the loan waiver schemes were announced before the cut-off date for insurance for kharif crops under PMFBY in 2017.
Thus, the poor farmers have hardly benefitted from government initiatives. The poverty in villages is a matter of fact though in a recent interview the Prime Minister very cleverly stated that there are 3 lakh village entrepreneurs who run common service centres without mentioning whether the number has increased during NDA rule.
All this makes one refer to an observation by former CEO of Niti Aayog, who rightly pointed out that the government needs economic expertise not just in the Finance Ministry but in many others. The government needs to strictly monitor implementation of plans and programmes, but the way it works it isn’t capable of using economics judiciously being largely based on patronage or opportunism.
The question of whether the government has been a failure may not be admitted by all but its overall performance is not better than previous UPA. Corruption in government offices has not decreased, there is communal violence, plans and programmes are not being monitored to the extent desired and government’s publicity expenses and also on the PM’s foreign visits zoomed without any tangible benefit to the country. However, it has to be admitted that in the realm of higher education, construction of roads and highways and also spreading electrification in villages, the government deserves some credit.
On the social front, it needs to be pointed that all political parties push for their agenda but that of the BJP has been somewhat different. The aggressiveness of pushing Hindutva has not been accepted even by educated Hindus, while minority communities feel insecure. This has an effect in disintegrating society and goes against the tradition, values and ethos of the country.
From the political perspective, the manoeuvring done by BJP in grabbing power in some States despite not being the largest single party has left a rather bad taste. Moreover, the party, somewhat like the Congress, is centralised with power being concentrated in a few –Modi, Amit Shah and may be one or two Central ministers.
Then there are the regional parties, which are not very happy with the BJP due to its big brotherly attitude and way of functioning in matters of planning and development. The allocation of resources and initiating plans without consultation with the States or being let down as has been the case with ally TDP in Andhra, are reasons for disenchantment.
It now appears that the BJP will face stiff opposition where elections are due. Analysts point that Modi’s graph is showing a declining trend-even by around 50 per cent or more since 2014. Of course, a lot will depend on how successful the Opposition will be in projecting the so-called misdeeds of the government and eventually convincing the voter.—INFA