The great 2009 promise trap
By U Anand Kumar - NEW DELHI
Published: 11th Nov 2012 10:18:07 AM
The Congress has failed to implement most of the promises made in the 2009 manifesto. This is causing concern of an adverse effect on the party’s chances in the next general elections.
WOMEN LET DOWN: Though the scheme for leadership development of minority women was launched with much fanfare in January 2010, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has spent not a single rupee on its implementation. The funds for the scheme were earmarked in the Budget Estimates and Revised Estimates in both 2009-10 and 2010-11.
WEAK PROMISE: The Congress has also claimed to give greater impetus to the empowerment of the weaker sections of society. Its manifesto says, “The Congress will ensure that the Bill for reserving 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures is passed in the 15th Lok Sabha and the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha are held on the basis of one-third reservation for women.” The reality is that they are still far from the finishing line—the government has managed to get it passed in the Rajya Sabha, but not in the Lok Sabha. With allies like Mulayam Singh critical for the government’s survival, this brave promise looks like a lost one.
FOOD INSECURITY: The Food Security Bill, the dream welfare project of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi herself, was supposed to be the UPA II’s flagship social sector initiative. Despite doing several rounds of various ministries, the draft Bill is yet to reach the Union Cabinet. Finance Minister P Chidambaram has expressed hope that it would be passed in the next “Budget session, if not in the ensuing winter session” of Parliament. However, at the Surajkund dialogue session, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram have their hands off the bill. “Unless growth rate could be increased, fiscal deficit controlled and political consensus achieved, it will not be not possible to push through the party’s social welfare agenda in too,” they reportedly said.
GROWTH WRATH: The Congress claims in its manifesto that it will maintain the path of high growth with fiscal prudence and low inflation. However, the economic landscape is bleak. In the first quarter of this fiscal (2011-12), growth declined to 7.7 per cent, compared to 7.8 per cent in the January-March quarter, and 8.3 per cent in the previous three-month period. The growth slumped further to 6.9 per cent in July-September.
EDUCATION NIGHTMARE: In its manifesto, Congress had claimed “we will make quality education affordable to everyone.” But it seems the newly inducted Human Resource Development Minister MM Pallam Raju and his Minister of State Shashi Tharoor are not on the same page on this: the former finds it overly simple and the latter believes it is a difficult promise to keep.
Though the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 is notified, its implementation has problems with the states grappling with an acute shortage of teacher and poor infrastructure. Despite requests from some state governments for extensions to implement the Act, Pallam Raju has refused to budge. There are about 8.1 lakh untrained teachers in the country with four states of Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and West Bengal accounting for 72 per cent. Besides this, an estimated 12.58 lakh vacancies (5.64 old vacancies and 6.94 lakh vacancies of positions sanctioned under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) are yet to be filled up. The number of faculty will need to be doubled from the current 8 lakh to 16 lakh during the 12th Plan to keep up with the demand.
HEALTH NO WEALTH: The Congress manifesto has promised to guarantee health security for all. Despite the progress in the National Rural Health Mission, the Urban Health Mission still remains on paper. As per the Indian medical register, 8.58 doctors are available in the country and we need 4.2 lakh more by 2022. The health sector has a total outlay of Rs 34,488 crore in the budget estimate for 2012-13, which is 13.24 per cent more than the budget estimates of Rs 30,456 for the ongoing fiscal. The UPA II is taking credit for the elusive medical institutions modelled on the AIIMS, to be made operational in the beginning of the 12th Plan period. These institutions were conceptualised under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) in the first year of the 10th Five Year Plan. However, the AIIMS-like institutions in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal remain in the correspondence stage.
POWER FAILURE: Another major promise far from being fulfilled is connecting all villages to a broadband network in three years’ time. But, 2011 census says that around 7.5 crore rural households still do not have electricity compared to 7.8 crore in 2001. The total power generation in 2011 is 2,07,006.04 MW. The current demand is 937199 million units. Ironically according to CII, 20 million Indians have broadband now: the figure will reach 600 million by 2020.
NO SERVICE: After successfully implementing the VAT throughout the country, the Congress promised to introduce Goods and Service Tax from April 1, 2010. But the date for rolling out this ‘game-changing’ legislation has been postponed thrice. The new deadline is April 1, 2013. But the Parliamentary standing committee on Finance is unlikely to submit its report on the bill during the ensuing winter session of Parliament.
JUDGE US NOT: Another major promise of the Congress is to pursue judicial reforms. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill had already been passed by the Lok Sabha but is pending in Rajya Sabha.
SEPARATION PANGS: As demands for separate states escalate in various parts of the country, the Congress had promised to be ‘sensitive’ to regional aspirations and find pragmatic solutions to deal with these demands. The UPA II’s indecision continues to haunt Congress leaders in the Telangana region. On December 9, 2009, Chidambaram made a statement that the Centre would initiate the process for the formation of a separate Telangana state. But, the Centre again stated on December 23 that more consultations were needed on the issue.