Just all end up as election slogans?
Who is the urban development minister? And also, who is the rural development minister? Can one recall at once? Such is the urban-centric, New Delhi-based power elite that occupies all the ministerial posts and party jobs! And we talk of aam aadmi, tongue in cheek!
We seem to be living more and more in a make-believe world of politics. As soon as Rahul Gandhi took over “power”, he asked the PM to extend the NREGA to the whole of India and the PM does it in a second! As if this is a magic wand!
Is this all we have had, I mean the great hope in a Prime Minister who was seen all along as the great economic expert? The PM for one must surely know well enough that the NREGA as it has so far been put into practice is not delivering on its promises. There have been more than one report/survey that points to the very low success rate. There have been large scale funds diversions, as little as 6 per cent of the households that have registered for the jobs had had jobs and that too at wages that are lower than what is available in the open market. Even in very backwards districts the progress has been very modest, to say the least. As such the NRGEA must have been now restricted to the most backward districts where tribal population is concentrated and where there is no scope for outward migration. But instead, now, at the drop of a hat, Rahul asks the PM just to extend the jobs scheme to the whoe country and the PM obliges with no thought for its truth! No funds, no chance of success and yet the PM obliges.
As the days go by, as the mid-term election nears, the PM seems to have become clueless to the future, including to his own future. That may be one reason why the PM is so obliging to the wishes of a young man who is seen as the heir to the throne! An young man, quite experienced and yet he would be the Prime Minister under whom the dodling old men, all in office for very long time, and all so old to be in total isolation of the ground realties of the country would however would be asked to be Cabinet Ministers and they, including the incumbent PM would be only too willing to oblige!
Now, what are the election slogans? Bharat Nirman, JN Urban Mission and NREGA!
First, Bharat Nirman.
Funds Rs.48,000 cores. Only Rajasthan and MP have shown dynamism, surprisingly, achieving as high as 89% to 99 % targets. Bihar, Assam and W.Bengal are reaching only below 50% targets.
Under this scheme (1)roads (2)telephone connections(3)Irrigation(4)Water supply(5)Housing and (6)electrification are the major development areas. Under each head there is massive problem in size and also massive failure of will to reach the targets in any foreseeable time frame. Still How to provide roads connections to 38,484 villages and an additional 500 hilly habitations by 2009.Telephone connections to 66,822 villages. Irrigation to 1 crore hectare of irrigation potential. Water supply to 55,067 uncovered habitations. Additional coverage for 2.8 lakh habitations. Housing to 60 lakh houses through panchayats to the homeless. Electrification to 1,25,000 villages.
This is a Rs.48,000 crore ambitious programme and no amount of cosmetics, no election campaign, on however high such as the one planned by the Congress at a massive Rs.100-Rs200 crore wont help the party to serve the people in any significant way.
This doesn’t mean the programme is not wanted. We want. But we need vision, willpower and also raodmap, the new institutions, the revitalisation of the existing ones(like the panchayat raj)and many other initiatives.
Considering the way the UPA if going about with a powerless PM at the helm, it is anybody’s guess what will be the progress on Bharat Nirman.
Second, Urban Mission.
Funds Rs.1,50,000 crores.
Urban expansion is faster everyday. Urban transport to every aspect is now getting noticed. The latest is the Global Report on Human settlements 2007-enhancing urban safety and security by UN-Habitat.
New problems in urbanisation are the safety. The elderly are targeted vt the criminals. New Delhi, as per the recent TC channel news, the elderly killed by criminals in Delhi is going up. So a new police service to call on the elderly and keep a routine monitor is now going to be adopted in every major city. Not to leave is the new terror threats. We have seen how Mumbai terror blasts, Hyderabad terror attacks and also in Delhi and elsewhere is going to be a new problem with which we have to live the rest of our lives!
So too the rise of slum population, roughly 35 million are becoming slum dwellers every year, as per the UN report.
Ensuring guaranteed employment scheme works well is a stupendous task. Now reports come in about its deficiencies and the PM himself has noted the same .In Orissa for example as much as Rs.500 crore had disappeared!
Fourth, the PDS
Rs.31,000 crores worth of grains leaked out of the PDS system!
Now comes the latest Supreme Court directive to streamline the PDS which sees huge diversions of rice and wheat for other purposes. If in Assam, it is wheat that is diverted to private trade, flour mills, then in TN and Kerala it is PDS rise that is diverted to balcmarket. Then, what we see is ration riots as in Bengal, reminscent of the good old days of poverty and hunger.
As much as Rs. 31,000 crores worth of poor ration is diverted off the PD.SC has directed that PDS go through the panchayat raj institutions and very timely step, considering how the states nowadays want to derail the panchayat raj too for their own selfish and narrow consideration of tightening the official grip over the otherwise a bit liberal decentralised governance.
So, at the end of the day, rural India is not going to get its deal done so easily as we all imagine. Every step in transforming rural India is a gigantic task. One hopes the otherwise the easy power seeking bureaucrats who abound in Delhi might talk sweet and yet do nothing for the India outside the Delhi municipal limits!