Monday, May 25, 2015

A destructive economic vision

25 May 2015, New Delhi, Pankaj Sharma

The Centre seems hell bent on destroying the egalitarian character of India’s polity.

Narendra Modi’s hands are busy writing a radically different definition of a welfare state. The writing on the wall is rather clear. In its first year in office, the NarendraModi-led government has left no stone unturned to demolish the edifice of India’s foundational values of inclusive and equitable development. Political commentators have attributed these moves to its insatiable quest to appease a few crony capitalists and trading partners. The Modi government has perplexingly slashed ‘Social Sector Spending’ by a whopping Rs 1,75,122 crore in one year alone. It has made a Rs 66,222 crore cut in grants on Social Sector Schemes. This has been made in sync with a Rs 5,900 crore cut by closing down Backward Regions Grant Fund. The most shocking and unkindest cut is the indefensible Rs 1,03,000 crore slashing down by not implementing the Food Security Programme: which was aimed at 67 percent of our population.

Shockingly, these cuts have been unabashedly applied to areas that are vital to India’s poor. These areas include Women & Child Development, Agriculture, Irrigation, Panchayati Raj, Education, Health, Housing, Swacchh BharatAbhiyaan, Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Tribals, and Backward Regions. Qua teeming millions of India, BJP government is following a policy which ignores the deprived.
Agriculture and irrigation contributing 17 percent of our GDP, and engaging in 49 percent of India’s workforce and 62.5 percent of India’s population has been the worst hit by Modimonics of Crony Capitalism. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna has seen a reduction in funds to the extent of Rs 7,426.50 crore. Animal Husbandry and Dairy Vikas has seen a reduction in funds to the extent of Rs 685 crore. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna has seen a reduction in funds to the extent of Rs 8,156.22 crore. Funds for National Livelihood Mission have been reduced by Rs 1,632.50 crore.

Not surprisingly, agricultural growth has gone down from 4.7 percent in 2013-14 to 1.1 percent in 2014-15 under BJP government. Area under cultivation has gone down by 33.22 lakh hectares in 2014-15 and total grain output is likely to go down from 2650 lakh metric ton in 2013-14 to under 2500 lakh metric ton in 2014-15. Even agricultural exports that increased under Congress rule from USD 7.5 billion in 2002-03 to USD 42.6 billion in 2013-14 will see a drop of over 25 percent under the 
Modi government.

Insensitivity towards the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is perhaps the professed policy of the Modi government. It is also not surprising that the only Ordinance issued by previous Congress government that was allowed to be lapsed was ‘The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes  (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014’. The bill envisaged speedy and expeditious disposal of SC/ST cases by an exclusive Special Court at District level. It further proposed the appointment of a special public prosecutor and punishment for new offences like garlanding with footwear, compelling to dispose of or carry human or animal carcasses, etc. Even the funds for Scheduled Castes Sub Plan have been reduced by Rs 13,208 crore and for Tribal Sub Plan have been reduced by Rs 7,714 crore.

Panchayati Raj and its institutions provide the last mile connectivity to our poorest. The budget of Panchayati Raj institutions has been reduced by Rs 3,306 crore i.e. by 98.6 percent. The Modi government’s allocation to Panchayati Raj Institutions is a trifle pittance of Rs 94.75 crore only. MNREGA has been described as a ‘colossal failure’ by none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the floor of Parliament. No wonder that Government of India is systematically killing MNREGA by a concerted design in the shape of not releasing funds to the States. Even for the year 2014-15, Government of India has not provided funds over Rs 6,000 crore, which were due to the States. The net result is a profound failure of the States to take up new projects and provide employment in the current year.

Women & Child Development is also one of the biggest casualties in Modi’s first year. Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) aimed at health and nutrition of millions of children and lactating mothers has seen a reduction of Rs 9,858 crore. So much so that the Women & Child Development Minister had to write a letter dated 27th April, 2015 to Union Finance Minister stating, “This may result in a situation where the focus is lost on critical programmes related to malnutrition of children…… Nutrition for pregnant and lactating mothers…… I am afraid to point out the political fallout of such a situation can be grave.”

Education has become the last priority of the Modi government. Funds for Education have been reduced by Rs 14,088.59 crore (Primary Education- Rs 10,186 crore, Secondary Education-Rs 1,422 crore and Higher Education- Rs 1,479 crore). The Modi government has also abolished the scheme for granting Central assistance for setting up 6,000 Model Schools at the Block level across India.
Health, a primary fundamental for a nation’s growth, has been hit by the ruling dispensation’s reckless apathy. Funds for ‘National Health Mission’ have been reduced by Rs 3,650 crore. Funds for ‘National AIDS and STD Programme’ stand cut by Rs 392 crore and for ‘Ayush’ by Rs 64 crore. As per government estimates, the present housing shortage is around 18.7 crore units in urban areas, which is likely to increase to 30 crore units by 2022. On June 11, 2014, Modi promised ‘Housing for all by 2022’. Contrary to his own promise, he reduced funds for ‘Housing’ by Rs 4,376 crore. The prime minister launched the ‘Swacchh Bharat Abhiyaan’ with great fanfare and media publicity. Same was the case for ‘Drinking Water’ and ‘Sanitation’. The ruling dispensation has, however, reduced allocated funds for ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ (including Drinking Water and Sanitation) by Rs 9,025 crore.

‘Backward Regions Grant Fund’  was constituted to address not only regional imbalances in identified backward districts but also to ensure direct development in naxal-affected areas. The Centre has shut down the scheme and consequently denied the yearly allocation of Rs 5,900 crore. The erstwhile Congress-led government enacted National Food Security Act to guarantee 5 kg foodgrain per person per month at a price of Rs 2 per kg to 67 percent of India’s population. But identification of beneficiaries has been completed only in six States and BJP government has extended the time limit for implementation of Food Security Act. Prime Minister constituted a single member committee under BJP leader Shanta Kumar to review the Food Security Act. Shanta Kumar has suggested a reduction of beneficiaries from 67 to 40 percent. If this is the beginning of Modi government, the have-nots have darker days ahead.

The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India

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