Millennium Post

Making rational promises

Hindsight is perhaps the biggest source of ascertaining credibility. This statement makes all the more sense in election times. A retrospect of Modi's term justifies his candidature more than his promises for the future. The choice of bringing him to power, once again, largely rests on how India perceives his tenure at the helm. Were they what we expected, short of that, or more? Governance itched with ambitious welfare schemes and marred by controversies serves well in decisive matters such as the upcoming general mandate. A plethora of major welfare schemes aimed at the development of crucial infrastructure areas was initiated in the five years with ambitious targets. And, while that shaped Modi's report card a certain way, there were controversies which blemished it. 2.84 crore homes connected to electricity grid through Saubhagya Scheme with the government claiming that 25 states have electrified all households. As per the government's claim, the promise of electrification – an essential 21st-century infrastructure – has 'largely' been fulfilled. On the ground, reports may speak otherwise but even those have been timely justified by the dispensation. However, the claims of 100 per cent electrification are rather dubious owing to how they are based on slashed targets. The target fell by 81 per cent from 1.98 crore households in April 2018 to 74.4 lakh households by December 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, which is a small instance to elucidate the slashed targets. But, significant strides were indeed made to expand electricity's outreach. Though, providing a connection is one thing and ensuring quality electricity is another with the latter being an uphill task with inconsistencies arising as far as the distribution companies are concerned. Apart from electricity, affordable housing features significantly in the infrastructure provision debate. The current dispensation announced in 2015 that by 2022, every Indian would have a brick and cement house with gas, water, electricity, and a toilet. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, which provides subsidies for building low-cost houses in both rural and urban areas, was the key to that announcement. However, slow progress in construction of houses both in urban as well as rural areas threatens to make that announcement hollow. Out of the goal to build 1 crore houses by March 2019, only 69 lakh houses have been constructed, and out of 68.5 lakh houses sanctioned in urban areas, only 18 per cent of those have been actually built. What devalues slow progress is false claims as urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri claimed in September that 50 per cent of the target had been met in urban areas.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana was launched to expand crop insurance – a vital agrarian issue – coverage in India. The government, while attributing the decline in coverage to an overall decline in institutional credit, acknowledged that numbers did not augur well in this. Even with compulsory sign-ups through institutional credit, coverage among loanee farmers declined by 20 per cent from 2016-17 to 2017-18, as per the Lok Sabha reply. Farmers have been unhappy and they expressed their discontent mood well in the recent state assembly elections. And, not just farmers but the educated class is also unhappy. In the predominant promises of BJP during 2014 polls, the creation of jobs attracted great attention. Condemning UPA for "ten years of jobless growth", BJP looked all set to reverse this regressiveness. However, five years later we found out that India's unemployment rate (for 2017-18) as per an official survey rose to its highest level in 40 years. Not just failing but concealing was the order of the day since the government withheld the release of the survey and subsequently, two members of the National Statistical Commission resigned. More than 10 million jobs were lost between Decembers of 2017 and 2018 as per a survey by CMIE. The government rallied around the Employees Provident Fund and the MUDRA scheme which are directed at improving the job situation but the gross picture, again, did not augur well for the country. The number of bank accounts doubled between 2014 and 2018 owing to the Jan Dhan Yojna. The Modi government only facilitated an enormous rise in bank accounts as the number of zero-balance bank accounts saw a massive increase in the initial year but more than half of those did not have any balance in March 2015. Experts opined on how there was no increase in the institutional credit in rural India. Financial inclusion has definitely been increased but without any gross advantage as such. Under the massive cleanliness drive initiated, the Modi government claimed to have constructed 9.2 crore toilets. It declared 5.5 lakh villages and 28 of India's 36 states and Union Territories had become open defecation free (ODF). However, independent surveys contradict this claim. NFHS surveyors found that more than half of rural households defecated in the open. Even in states and districts which had been declared ODF by then, the surveyors found high levels of open defecation. There are more schemes that feature a 'however' following an ambitious promise or claim. For one, the Modi regime has spread its wings to cover all the infrastructure promises and welfare schemes. But discrepancies and lacunae evident upon insight into those steal the admiration. Of course, the Centre can have the benefit of the doubt that the five-year term is not enough to provide comprehensive development and the progress made justifies to some extent to their manifesto promises back in 2014. Taking into account how the promises have been delivered, and with respect to efficiency, there should be better identification of obstacles, and consequently, a more rational promise made to at least allow complete credibility instead of just a part of it.

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