Home > 2019 > Can the NDA Rise above its Shortcomings before the 2019 Polls?

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 8 New Delhi February 9, 2019

Can the NDA Rise above its Shortcomings before the 2019 Polls?

Sunday 10 February 2019

by Suraj Sharma

The following is a contribution from a government servant writing under a pseudonym. It was written sometime ago last year but its contents still retain their validity.

Experience has shown that the Indian citizens cannot expect visionary and honest political leadership either from the NDA/UPA or any other coalition. All of them have the same character and corrupt tendencies..

The present age is known as Kaliyuga or the era of Kali. The characteristics of this era are: wealth alone is considered a sign of a man’s good birth; law and justice apply only according to one’s power; a person clever at juggling words will be accepted as a learned man; hypo-crisy and cheating tendency will be manifest in all humans; the society will be dominated by dishonest people; political leaders will exploit the citizens and intellectuals will be guided by their stomach rather than by their intellect.

The general elections of 2014 have seen the highest number of politicians with criminal records being elected to the Indian Parliament. As per record, every third newly elected MP has a criminal record.

An analysis of 541 of the 543 winning candidates by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) shows that 186 (about 34 per cent) of the new MPs have admitted in their election affidavits that they have criminal cases against them. In 2009 this figure was 158 (about 30 per cent).

Among the newly elected Members of Parliament, 112 have declared that they have serious criminal cases against them, including those of murder, attempt to murder, creating communal disharmony, kidnapping and crimes against women. Giving nomination to such persons is immoral.

Political parties are also getting huge amounts of money mostly from unkown sources. This is the cause of rabid and uncontrolled political corruption. It is shocking that 70 per cent of the income of the political parties is from unknown sources. Party-wise, it is 83 per cent for the Congress (Rs 3324 crores); the BJP 65 per cent (Rs 2125 crore); the BSP, cent per cent from unknown sources; the Samajwadi Party 94 per cent; and the Akali Dal 86 per cent.

It is noteworthy that between 2006 and 2016, the income of the political parties rose by three to six hundred per cent. The voluntary income declaration scheme from June 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016, only helped conversion of black money into white by paying just 45 per cent tax. Similarly the Garib Kalyan Yojana has helped black money holders to convert their black money into white by paying just 49.9 per cent tax, without the fear of being prosecuted or questioned.

Under Section 271(1) ©(iii) of the existing Income Tax Act anyone, who is caught with black money, is liable to pay 132 per cent tax, plus penalty.

Under the existing laws, a company can contribute upto 7.5 per cent of the average of its net profits in the last three years to political parties. The company is required to disclose the contributions made to parties in its profit-and-loss account along with the names of the recipients.

The new scheme removes the limit of 7.5 per cent of net profit and there is no need to disclose the name of the receiver.

A senior official in the CAG office said: This means that an infrastructure firm could theoretically pay up to 50 per cent of its net profits to a single party as donation without anyone getting wiser as to which party has been paid... This throws open the possibility that an order to build a highway or a railway bridge could be given to a firm and that firm could make donation to the party in power which placed the order with it.”

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition that seeks the quashing of a law that grants full income-tax exemption to political parties as long as they show all their income, including the donations received. According to petitioner and lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, is “illegal, unconstitutional and malafide”. He has argued that 100 per cent tax exemption to political parties violates Article 14 (right to equality), as no such exemptions are granted to citizens, not even to women or the aged.

Election funding, arguably the most visible source of political corruption, remains unchecked. The introduction of electoral bonds (now challenged in court) has failed to address the core issue of promoting transparency in funding. Under the new law, details of individuals and corporates funding political parties will not be disclosed in public.

All payments made by political parties must be made digitally or through banking channels. This has been recommended by the Core Committee on Electoral Reforms sponsored by the EC and Ministry of Law and Justice. The CEC and CAG must be given powers to scrutinise and monitor a party’s financial transactions. Currently, political parties merely obtain a certificate from the EC that they have submitted their annual audited statements of accounts.

The BJP received Rs 532.27 crores as donation during 2016-17, which is a 593per cent increase as compared to Rs 76.85 crores it declared as donation the previous year (2015-16), according to a report prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW). The Congressregistered an increase of105 per cent during the same period.

Corruption in Financial Institutions enjoying Political Backing

First, the amount of money which can be sent abroad rose from $ 75,000 to $ 2,50,000 in 2016 under the NDA Government. This amendment went unnoticed. Second, the government then brought an amendment to the FCRA in February 2016 through the 2016Finance Bill to avoid scrutiny, A provision was added having retrospective effect that the ”Representation of the People’s Act bars political parties from receiving foreign funds, but after this amendment, political parties can receive funding from foreign donors who will bypass government scrutiny.”

The High Court had passed the order while upholding a PIL filed by an NGO, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, alleging that the Congress and BJP had received crores in donations between 2007 and 2009 from the Sterlite Industries India Ltd and Sesa Goa Ltd, both Indian subsidiaries of the UK-based Vedanta Group.

So now corporates and shell companies can take huge loans without collaterals or security and encash the money abroad and make secret donations to political parties under the Finance Bill 2016 and 2018. Later this huge amount of public money can be termed as NPA and written off by the banks.

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (1976), which was enacted 42 years ago, banned political parties from accepting donations from foreign firms, including Indian subsidiaries of foreign firms, unless prior permission had been taken for such donations.

Officials say the amendment had to be brought to give relief to the country’s two largest political parties from a legal tangle they had managed to walk into. A judgment by the Delhi High Court in 2014 held that both the BJP and Congress were guilty of receiving donations to their party funds from the Indian subsidiaries of a “foreign” company, in contravention of the FCRA Act.

The implication of the judgment, which asked the government to “take action as contemplated by law”, was that the two political parties could face action for violating the FCRA 1976 and FCRA 2010.

The government is seeking major relaxations from the RBI in the resolution of stressed loans, arguing that the plan put forward by the regulator will not just impact lenders but also push several small companies towards bankruptcy. It has suggested that implementation of rules be deferred, at least for the time being.

Although the RBI does not seem to be keen on relaxing the rules, sources in the government say the norms proposed in a circular issued in February 2018 are impractical and needed to be reviewed. The circular on the new mechanism for resolution of stressed assets has asked lenders to go ahead with a resolution plan even if loan repayment is overdue for just a day. In case a solution is not found within 180 days, banks have been asked to initiate the bankruptcy process and set aside 50 per cent of the loan amount for provisioning, once the case is referred to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

Nine lakh crore rupees was given as loans by banks till 2016. Thus demonetisation was also meant to save banks which are burdened with Rs 9 lakh crores of bad loans given mostly on directions of the government nominees of banks who worked at the behest of their political masters

Ritabrata Banerjee had asked in the Rajya Sabha whether the government had, till September 2017, written off Rs 2.4 lakh crores worth of loans that industrialists had taken from public sector banks. The Finance Ministry’s reply was: “As per the RBI data on global operations, public sector banks have written off an amount of Rs 241,911 crore from the financial year 2014-15 till September 2017.”

Gross NPAs have gone up from Rs 251,054 crores in March 2014 to Rs 831,141 crores in December 2017, as per the reply given to Parliament by the Finance Ministry as recently as April 6, 2018.

Let us now see how autonomous Indian institutions have been weakened and subverted by the NDA Government.

It is very surprising that the post of Lokpal, created in the Lokpal Act, 2014 has not yet been set up by the Centre deliberately. The Supreme Court has censured the government for deliberately delaying the filling up of the post of Lokpal.

The government claims it has introduced tough new amendments in the Benami Property Act and brought in an Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to enable actions against swindlers. But who will implement these tough laws if administrators and institutions are rendered irrelevant? The government has not appointed a single Lokpal in the last four years and as many as four posts in the Information Commission are lying vacant.

The CBI, described as a ‘caged parrot’ during the UPA, has still not been set free. That the Centre determinedly pushed through the controversial appointment of a Gujarat IPS officer as Special Director despite complaints of serious irregularities is evidence of a political system that is unwilling to create a truly independent federal police.

The people’s interests are best served when the government takes urgent steps to ensure that institutions—like the CVC, CBI, judiciary, RTI, CIC, bank watchdogs—are not weakened or marginalised or bypassed but made strong and independent and manned by persons of courage and integrity. It’s these institutions that are India’s real chowkidars, not any individual.

Appointment of Judges 

India has a shocking four crore cases pending in all Courts. Nothing has been done to reduce this alarming number. India has the largest vacancy of judges at all levels from the Supreme Court to the District Courts.

Yet the Centre refuses to appoint judges even when the Supreme Court collegium sends the list of judges for elevation to the High Courts or the Supreme Court.

Thus the Centre is clearly signalling to the collegium that it will allow appointment of only those judges who are at the beck and call of the Central Government. This has undermined the judiciary to a large extent.

The cheap publicity that 30 crore Janadhan accounts have been created and 10 crore LPG connections given and 10 crore Mudra loans given will not satisfy the Indian electorate.

Failures of the NDA

Let us start with the economy which is one of the biggest casualties of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. Modi has lumbered on from one ill-advised and poorly thought out decision to another. The senseless implementation of demonetisation cost us Rs 3 lakh crores in GDP growth and wiped out over 25 lakh jobs, while a hastily implemented GST penalised entrepreneurship.

The shortage of jobs continues to be the biggest challenge facing this government. Having misled the public (and probably itself) on the creation of jobs through “Mudra loans” for over three-and-a-half years, Modi finally acknowledged the need to do something about it by constituting an ‘Economic Council’ in January of this year. The Council is yet to provide a solution.

To say that the situation is dire is no exaggeration. According to a McKinsey report, even when India’s GDP grew over seven per cent per annum during 2013-15, job growth was only 1.7 per cent.

Unemployment

Unemployment now stands at 40 million or four crore.

NSDC Data (2018) 

  • 10 lakh look for jobs every month.
  • 12 million or 1.2 crore look for jobs every year.
  • 500 million is the total workforce—50 per cent in Agriculture (four per cent have vocational skill or training).
  • In 2015, six crore registered their names in 997 employment exchanges. There was only one per cent placement.

 

A Comparison with China 

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said in a statement that 10.97 million new jobs had been created in China from January to September this year, a growth of 300,000 compared to the previous year.

“We need to create 15 million jobs per year,” a leading Chinese official said, singling out China’s more than eight million new university graduates that enter the job market each year as one group in need of additional employment

Present Job Scenario in India 

1. UP—23 lakh applied for 368 jobs of peon.

2. West Bengal—25 lakh applied for 6000 Group ‘D’ jobs.

3. Railways—five crore applied for 90,000 jobs.

4. Maharashtra—two lakhs applied for 1000 vacancies for constables.

5. Kanpur Municipal Corporation was flooded with seven lakh applications for 3275 safai karamchari vacancies; five lakh of them were graduates and post-graduates.

6. The railways got two crore applications for less than one lakh lower level Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ jobs.

Employment

The Report focuses on employment against the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to create twocrore jobs a year, pointing out thatonly 1.5 lakh jobs were offered in 2016. It says there has been a steady fall in job creation since 2010, coming down by 90 per cent in 2016.

Skill India Status Report

Skill India mission has the aim of giving as many as 2.4 million young Indians industry-oriented training

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY 2015) is struggling to achieve end results. Data for the PMKVY scheme until the first week of July 2017 reveals that out of a total 30.67 lakh candidates, who had been trainedor were undergoing training across the country, less than a tenth or 82,000 had received placement offers.

India’s 25 million Toilets are missing, says CAG Report 

Government officials have been inflating the number of toilets built from public funds across the country in rural homes and possibly siphoning off money and winning awards too for their extraordinary performance, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has indicated in its report submitted to Parliament.

As against UP’s 172 per cent excess toilets built over the census numbers, Jharkhand stood at a whopping 326 per cent, Madhya Pradesh at 277 per cent, Chhattisgarh at 183 per cent, Odisha at 199 per cent, Tamil Nadu at 190 per cent and Gujarat stood at 81 per cent.

Incidentally, the Centre did not seem to question the CAG’s findings and accepted its observations that “The ministry ... stated that the difference in achievement was probably due to over-reporting to some extent by states (especially in above poverty line toilets) to get more Nirmal Gram Puraskar awards.”

States lack Initiative, not Cash: SC 

The Apex Court has said there was no lack of funds as Rs 36,000 crores had been earmarked under the Swachch Bharat Mission but there was a lack of initiative and willingness on the part of State governments to resolve the problem of garbage management. Compiling the responses of 22 States, the Centre filed the report and told the Bench that it was for the State governments and municipal bodies to enforce the law and the Centre cannot compel them in a federal structure.

As per the government estimates, 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, 7.90 million tonnes is hazardous waste and 15 lakh tonne of e-waste. Municipal bodies collect 43 million tonnes every year, out of which 11.9 million tonnes is treated and 31 million dumped in landfill sites. It means that only about 75-80 per cent of the waste gets collected and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is processed and treated.

India behind Pak and China in ‘Inclusivity’

India was ranked 62nd among 74 emerging economies on World Economic Forum’s Inclusive Development Index, a report released recently said.

While Norway topped the rankings, China was at 26th and Pakistan at 47th. Last year, India was ranked 60th among 79 developing economies, as against China’s 15th and Pakistan’s 52nd position.

It further said that slow progress in living standards and widening inequality has contributed to political polarisation and erosion of social cohesion in many advanced and emerging economies.

Failure of Health Care Wealth of Wisdom 

The fact that seven decades after independence we have no public healthcare worth the name, and whatever we have is being progressively whittled down, is a shame and abomination. Indeed, it is ironic that public healthcare expenditure as a proportion of GDP, which the Srinath Reddy report had wanted raised from 1.2 per cent in 2011 to 2.5 per cent in 2017 and three per cent in 2022, continues to languish at 1.3 per cent even today.

The ratio of public health expenditure in India to the GDP (taking the Centre and the States together) is about 1.3 per cent. If the proceeds of the one per cent wealth tax on the top one per cent of the population is spent entirely on healthcare and hence added to this 1.3 per cent, then the total public health expenditure as a proportion of GDP will be 3.8 per cent.

This double abomination, namely, the absence of a wealth tax worth the name on the one hand, and the absence of any public healthcare worth the name on the other, could be removed by one stroke if even a one per cent wealth tax could be imposed on the top one per cent of the population.

The acute agricultural distress in India

Thirty-five farmers commit suicide per day on an average which is shocking. Over five lakh kisans committed suicide since 1995.

As many as 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013.

Protests and food riots due to agrarian distress almost doubled in 2016 

The NCRB Report reports 4837 riots taking place across the country due to agrarian crisis while only 2683 such incidents were reported the previous year. The State-wise break-up is: Bihar 2342 cases, Uttar Pradesh 1709, Gujarat 123, Jharkhand 197, Karnataka 231, Tamilnadu 72, Maharashtra five and Madhya Pradesh 38. In MP, Bihar and UP, the cause is shrinking farm lands, failure of crops, poor irrigation facilities, bad seeds, drought, debts etc.

Lack of irrigation, costly fertiliser, non-availability of quality seeds at reasonable prices, irregular electricity supply, marketing of agri-products and, above all, remunerative price are some of the other problems. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) is many times less than the market price and does not even meet the cost of production.

Crop insurance is not insurance to the farmer but insurance to the bank which is lending loan to the farmer. Even five per cent of farmers are not benefited by crop insurance but insurance companies benefit in looting the peasants through premiums.

The farmers are facing nature’s wrath every year, besides the risks of middle men after the crop yielding.

The Swaminathan Commission has drawn attention to the need to complete the unfinished agenda of land reforms, technology access, adequate and timely institutional credit, remunerative marketing etc. The Commission’s recommendations need to be adopted as those are pro-farmer. It is the right time to implement them in toto.

The Prime Minister needs to be reminded that during his election campaign, he had promised a Minimum Support Price that will provide a 50 per cent net profit to the farmer over his production costs. During the last three years, he has done nothing to fulfil this promise.

The two government agencies, FCI and NAFED, do not buy all the produce of the farmer, even at the existing MSP, forcing the farmer to make distress sell of his produce at a loss in the market.

The government should introduce and pass a legislation in the next session of Parliament which not only confers on the farmers the right to sell at MSP, but also guarantees an automatic annual review of the MSP which will be at least 50 per cent more than the comprehensive production costs as established by the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) for that year.

The PM’s Fasal Bima Yojana has not reached even 20 per cent of small and marginal farmers as the Centre has parked thousands of crores of rupees with private insurance companies

There is no constituency that the PM has failed in greater measure than that of the farmers. Agricultural growth over the past four years has been at its lowest since economic reforms began. At a growth rate of 1.9 per cent, the promise of doubling farmers’ incomes seems like an insensitive taunt. In comparison, the average growth rate of agricultural income under the UPA was 4.2 per cent.

The farmers, who gave their lives for a fairer price for their produce, became victims of verbal jugglery. When the Finance Minister announced that the government would pay MSP plus 50 per cent profit, it turned out to be a mirage with rates for various produce being far below than what was paid during the UPA’s tenure. In fact, even now it is impossible to find a mandi where the promised rates are paid for any produce.

On the one hand, different agricultural commodities like pulses were imported in bumper years. On the other hand, import duties for wheat were cut down to zero. These measures forced a sharp decline in the already low farmers’ incomes since they had to slash prices to find buyers for their produce. To make matters worse, agricultural exports fell by over $ 9 billion. This is a failure of policy-making that borders on criminal negligence.

Farm distress was already apparent when members of 184 farmers’ organisations hailing from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Telangana staged demonstrations in the national Capital. Their distress and the resultant unrest were not taken note of as it should have been at that time. However, the election results in Gujarat and the ‘Long March’ in Mumbai have underlined the significance of the problem which demands urgent attention and national priority.

Agriculture is a State subject although most of the policy-decisions relating to the farm sector are dependent on the Union Government. The first priority is to bring this sector in the concurrent list so that both the State and Union governments can formulate policy and fix a programme or a short/long-term plan to develop the sector and make farming sustainable.

Poor credit facilities seem to be one of the main causes of stressed farming and the high number of farm suicides. While lending institutions have provided various products for the industrial sector, such as project finance, term loans, cash credits and periodic relief measures as and when required, the farm sector has not been considered for such interventions. Large amounts of loan are disbursed to the industrial sector, even by introducing the special system of ‘consortium finance’. But no such system is being considered for the farm sector. The concept of non-performing asset is made applicable to minor crop loans that are treated on a par with big loans given to the industrial sector. The agricultural sector should be considered specially, in view of its needs and seasonal requirements. Credit facilities like overdrafts and cash credits which are now entangled in the restricting norms of NPA should be looked into.

Left behind on the Farm

The new schemes of the NDA Government are Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF)with NABARD by Rs 20,000 crores taking its total to Rs 40,000 crores; the micro-irrigation fund of Rs 5000 crores, and the dairy development fund of Rs 8000 crores, all with NABARD.

Under the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017, not more than 10 markets have been completed so far and many of them are without field channels.

The micro-irrigation fund has not taken off yet, and the dairy fund was approved just a few days ago.

A major impetus needs to be given to link the farmer-producer organisations (FPOs) to agri-markets through “Operation Veggies TOP”.

The Apex Court’s orders are flouted by the Centre and States.

The Supreme Court has observed that “We pass orders. They (States) don’t obey and you (Central Government) throw up your hands.” This was said by a Bench of Justices M.B. Lokur and N.V. Ramanna. It said the Court may be left with no option but to appoint Court Commissioners.

What irked the Bench was non-compliance by 13 States that faced drought last year in setting up Commissions under the National Food Security Act to ensure smooth implementation of the welfare legislation.

Political Impact of Corruption

The banking system, which was hailed for its resilience in the face of the 2008 global financial crisis, has been a victim of feeble oversight and poor policy-planning. The results for the last quarter indicate a net loss of over Rs 44,000 crores, the highest in the recorded history for our banks. This is a direct consequence of the numerous economic offenders having fled with impunity from the BJP’s watch with over one lakh crore of public money. The government has done precious little to fix accountability and take steps for course correction in the institutional framework.

Shock Claim on Wealth Gap (2018)

  • The richest one per cent in India own 73 per cent of the wealth generated in the country last year.
  • In the past 12 months, the wealth of this group increased by Rs 20,913 billion, equivalent to the total Budget of the Union Government in 2017-18.
  • Sixty-seven crore Indians, who comprise the poorer half of the population, saw only one per cent increase in their wealth.

India has the highest bribery rate among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed by Transparency International.

Nearly seven in 10 Indians, who could access public services, had to pay a bribe. Contrast this with the least corrupt country, Japan, where only 0.2 per cent of the respondents reported paying a bribe

Corporate Sector in India 

More corrupt than China 

India has ranked worse than China and Bhutan in terms of “corruption perception” but fares better than its other neighbours, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to a global list released by the graft watchdog Transparency International. In the corruption perception Index for 2017, India ranked 81st with a score of 40.

  • Indian firms pay 50 per cent of the total project cost, on an average, as bribe to speed up clearances for real estate and infrastructure ventures, according to a report by the World Economic Forum on corruption in the country.

Loan Frauds

In response to an RTI application, the RBI has admitted that both the number and amount involved in bank frauds have spiralled in the last four years compared to five years of UPA-II between 2009 and 2014.

In response to an RTI application filed by economist and activist Prasenjit Bose, the Reserve Bank of India has now confirmed that in the last four years of the Modi Government, loan frauds have amounted to a whopping Rs. 55,000 crores more than in the previous five years of UPA-II under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Not only has the number of fraud cases increased under the present regime, the amount involved in loan frauds has also grown strikingly; it has in fact trebled. This points towards systemic corruption in sanctioning loans to large borrowers. The public sector Banks account for 88 per cent of the amount involved in loan frauds.

The reply from the RBI, Bose maintains, highlights the following:

  • There were 9193 cases of loans frauds across the nationalised banks, foreign banks, private sector banks, other financial institutions, small finance banks and local area banks in the last four years (April 2014 to March 2018), involving an amount of Rs 77,521 crores.
  • In the previous five years (April 2009 to March 2014) there were 10,652 cases involving Rs 22,441 crores.

The Income Tax Department has now started “writing off” thousands of crores of tax arrears by corporate defaulters after apparently failing to recover massive tax dues from them, according to RTI replies.

This, despite the fact that the ITD is sitting on a pile of Rs 50,000 crores of tax arrears all over India, according to available figures, with the highest (Rs 33,157.97 crores) due in Pune, Maharashtra, alone.

Experts say that PR-CCIT Hyderabad replies indicate it is barely making efforts to recover its massive dues/arrears and has apparently written off the entire amount to be recovered from the taxpayers in the past two years alone. “These figures are a matter of concern. The IT Department has notched up over Rs 50,000 crores as arrears but failed to recover most of it. Pune and Hyderabad IT have even gone ahead to write off an amount of Rs 3012.13 crores between them,” an expert pointed out.

Mumbai-based tax-consultant and chartered accountant Puneet Gupta said that arrears may be written off when the assessee is untraceable or bankrupt, but there is no procedure under the IT Act to “write off” arrears.

BJP Wealth Increase Breaks Ceiling

The Congress earned one-fourth of the funds less than the BJP in the financial year ended March 2017. The BJP declared an income of 10.34 billion rupees ($ 152 million) during this period, an increase of 81 per cent from a year ago, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms.

The Congress, in comparison, received 2.25 billion rupees, a drop of 14 per cent from the previous year.

The BJP spent double that of the Congress and is way ahead in attracting corporatedonations. The BJP received donations of Rs 7.05 billion from 2987 corporates during the year ending March 2016, while the Congress got 1.98 billion rupees from 167 business houses, according to the ADR.

During the 2014 general elections, the BJP collected 5.88 billion rupees, while the Congress got 3.50 billion rupees, said the ADR, citing expenditure figures submitted by the parties to the Election Commission.

 However, once in power, the new Prime Minister and his BJP-led government chose pragmatism over politics, or so it seems from the official data on meat exports showing a spurt in the first eight months of this fiscal.

India sold meat and meat products worth $ 3.3 billion during April-November 2014 compared to $ 2.8 billion in the same period the previous year, registering a 16.74 per cent jump.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, three companies—Frigorifico Allana Ltd, Frigerio Converva Allana Ltd and Indagro Foods Ltd— contributed Rs 2 crores to the saffron party.

Seven Indian companies manufactured most of the detonators, detonating cord, and safety fuses documented by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR). Those were all legally exported under the government issued licenses from India to entities in Lebanon and Turkey, the CAR found. They are suspected to have fallen into the ISIS hands.

Failure to control Prices

Since 2014, international oil prices have been at a historic low. Instead of lowering the domestic oil price, this government chose to increase Central excise taxes by over 200 per cent on petrol and over 400 per cent on diesel to make oil costlier than it has ever been, and thus collected over Rs 10 lakhs crore by way of this high excise duty.

The re-introduction of a regressive long-term capital gains tax (abolished by the UPA), the surreptitious levy of Swachch Bharat, education and Krishi Kalyan cess along with the reduction of interest rates on savings to a low of 3.5 per cent has ensured that the government has eroded every avenue of savings for the middle class. This is not an opinion but a verifiable fact.

The NDA’s costly fuel policy, in contrast with the UPA’s pro-people record is driving India into energy poverty.

As the GST has failed to achieve the expected economic growth, the government is trying to make up for it by high excise duty on fuel. In spite of global crude oil prices being compara-tively low (at around $ 80 per barrel), fuel rates are at record highs (petrol at Rs 76.57 and diesel at Rs 67.82 a litre).

Since the Modi Government came to power on May 26, 2014, international crude oil prices have come down to 73 per cent of what these were. But paradoxically domestic petrol and diesel prices have risen up to 108 per cent and 123 per cent respectively. This reflects the anti-people attitude of the NDA Government.

Thus, while the increase in excise duty on petrol since May 2014 is 211.7 per cent, that on excise duty on diesel is 443.06 per cent.

If we apply 28 per cent (the highest GST slab) to the price at which dealers purchase petrol, that is, Rs 37.43 a litre, we still get a price of Rs 47.91 per litre. Currently, India’s consumers pay 60 per cent more for petrol than they would have if it was brought under the GST.

The common man is experiencing “energy poverty” due to the hike in fuel prices. The NDA’s energy policy has been most insensitive when dealing with farmers. Taxes on diesel have shot up prices to Rs 68 per litre, resulting in increased transport costs and putting an additional burden on the common man. This increases the operational cost of farmers who are already reeling under the pressure of agrarian crisis under the NDA Government.

Failure to Protect Dalits

The BJP’s Poll Manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections spoke of the party’s commitment to social justice and harmony. It promised economic empowerment of the Dalits through education, entrepreneurship and skill development. The Manifesto also stressed on preventing atrocities against the Scheduled Castes (SCs). These goals were to be pursued in a missionary mode.

The declining allocation to the SCPs (and its renamed avatar) has affected the working of many schemes meant for the SCs. In entrepreneurial development, the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme was a significant project of the Ministry of Social Justice since independence. In fact, the scheme owes its origin to the initiatives of B.R. Ambedkar. But against an outstanding requirement of Rs 8000 crores, the 2018-19 Budget allocated merely Rs 3000 crores for the scheme. More than 5,10,000 SC students across the country have been facing difficulties due to this funding deficit. The shortfall could also result in an increase in the dropout rate.

Much of the fund has been wasted on organising conclaves by private parties, to educate SC/ST entrepreneurs. Under its procure-ment policy, the MSME Ministry was required to make four per cent of its purchases from enterprises run by SC/STs; it has managed a dismal 0.39 per cent. The Ministry would have done better had it drawn up a plan for strengthening the 59.7 lakh enterprises run by SCs.

And what about social empowerment? The BJP’s Manifesto for the 2014 general elections stated: “We will accord highest priority to ensuring their security, especially the prevention of atrocities against SC and STs.” There were 40,401 cases of atrocities against Dalits in 2014, 38,670 cases in 2015 and 40,801 in 2016. It seems that the BJP’s stated commitment to reduce atrocities against Dalits has not led to any appreciable decline in violence.

Jharkhand has not claimed Central funds for loans to minorities for employment generation for the past seven years, putting to test the BJP-led government’s election promise of ensuring “sabka saath, sabka vikas”.

Since 2009-10, Jharkhand has not claimed a single rupee from the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC), a non-profit company set up by the Centre in 1994. It turns out that Jharkhand could not access the NMDFC funds as it does not have a functional State Minorities Finance and Development Corporation (SMFDC).

SC/ST courts

Out of 1,450 pending cases of 700-odd districts, merely 194 have the recommended exclusive courts for the SC/ST Act cases. The Sunday Express travelled to two such courts— one in Ahmedabad, set up after Una, and the other in Banda, a district with a high number of cases—to find a familiar story

Over 1.44 lakh cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and 23,408 cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes came for trial before the judiciary in 2016, as per the last available data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Of this, only 10 per cent SC cases completed trial and later, just a fourth of this number ended in convictions. In case of STs, 12 per cent cases completed trial and a fifth of these ended in convictions.

The poor rate of convictions point to an unfinished agenda identified in the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The law, commonly called the SC/ST Act, requires all States to provide for an ample number of Special Courts that can hear cases of atrocities against SC/STs. Yet, of the 700-odd districts in India, merely 194 districts across 14 States have set up suchexclusive SpecialCourts;the rest have simply designated their existing overworked Sessions Courts as Special Courts.

In 2015, under the NDA Government, following sustained campaigning by Dalit rights organisations, 29 newer categories of offences were added to the Act to strengthen it further. These included, among others, forcing an SC or ST person into being a devdasi or manual scavenger, garlanding them with footwear and imposing social or economic boycott.

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court order, Krishnan, an SC/ST activist, wrote to the government citing several instances of mass killings of Dalits by caste Hindus in post-independence India—from the Keezhvenmani massacre in Tamil Nadu in 1968 (where 44 people, 39 of them women and children, were killed by dominant caste landlords for demanding higher wages) to the Kambalapalli carnage in Karnataka in 2000 (where seven Dalits were burnt alive) to six cases in Bihar, including the Laxmanpur Bathe carnage of 1997 where the Ranvir Sena gunned down 58 Dalits. In a majority of cases, the perpetrators were eventually acquitted by the higher courts.

As many as 98.6 per cent of all crimes against SCs came up for trial against 99.2 per cent cases against STs, but did not see convictions.

Fourteen States have Special Courts mandated by Section 14 of the Act; the others have designated district and sessions courts for this purpose.

 There are 194 exclusive courts for trying cases under the Act, which is less than a third of the number of districts in India.

Ten per cent of cases of crime against SCs and STs under police investigation are labelled as “false”.

An examination of cases with the police under the SC/ST Act, read with sections of the IPC, reveals that between 2015 and 2016 reported crimes against Dalits increased by 5.5 per cent and those against STs by 4.5 per cent.

Rape and “assault on women with the intent to outrage her modesty” constituted the largest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs.

In 2016 the largest number of reported rapes of Dalit women were from UP (557), while rape of adivasi women in Madhya Pradesh (377), Chhattisgarh(157), and Odisha (91) accounted for 10 per cent of all crimes committed against STs throughout the country.

Money earmarked for Dalits not spent

In the last 35 yrs, Rs 2.8 lakh crores ($ 42.6 billion) set aside for improvement of the lives of Scheduled Castes (SCs)and Scheduled Tribes (STs) by measures like midday meal, scholarship and crop insurance was simply not spent.

The unspent amount that either lapsed or was given back to the Centrewas eight times bigger than India’s agriculture budget—enough to fund India’s rural road construction projects for the next 15 yrs and larger than the gross domestic product of Serbia, Nepal or Jordan.

India has failed to engage positively with China which has encircled India completely in the last four years. This has made all SAARC nations economically dependent on China by way of OBOR, CPEC, etc. Now India’s balance of trade position is the worst with China.

On the economic front, Japan remains an enormously positive example of an Asianmodel of development

Ever since the Meiji era, Japan has been a pioneer of a labour-intensive pattern of indus-trialisation to improve the quality of labour through a massive expansion of basic education and skill development.

The present Central Government has been unnecessarily trying to provoke China over the Doklam issue. On this issue Bhutan has remained quiet, it did not even move the International Court of Justice but India got a bad name. India also did not attend the OBOR summit on a flimsy excuse which could have been mutually sorted out. Now India is trying to create a quadrilateral group which will anger China.

India has also to reduce the huge trade gap with China which has increased from Rs 2,10,855 crores in 2012-13 to Rs 3,42,847 crores in 2016-17. As far as defence spending is concerned, China spends $ 235 billion against India’s $ 65 billion only.

It is worth noting that the Indian Army has rejected the 7.62x51 mm guns made by the Rifle Factory at Ichchapore in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal after they miserably failed during firing tests. Also the Army last year rejected another indigenously built assault rifle, namely, a 5.56 mm Excalibur gun as it did not meet the required standards.

India’s warhorse T-90s tanks have crashed out of the 19-nation contestafter its Russian origin T-90 main battle tank broke down due to mechanical snags in the gruelling sport.

The DRDO remains upset that the Army has not yet ordered upgraded Arjun Mark II tanks after inducting the first lot of 124 Mark I variants, stressing the indigenous tanks did better than the T-90 tanks in comparative trials in 2010.

The CAG in a follow-up audit of its May 2015 report on the dismal state of “ammunition management in the Army” held that the stocks of 121 of the 152 types of ammunition were below the authorisation level required for 40 days of “intensive fighting” as per norms.

Case studies of the most prosperous and successful States ruled by the NDA have proved that they have failed the people.

Gujarat

For the first time since 2002, the BJP’s supporters, including the Patels, have criticised the party’s rule in Gujarat because of its economic performance. The urban youth resent that the number of educated-unemployed has risen from 6.12 lakh in 2016. The farmers argue that their daily income which was Rs 264 in 2016 was Rs 77 less than the national average.

This attitude has been precipitated by the impact of demonetisation and GST but it is also the legacy of policies harking back to the early days of BJP rule in the State, which was meant to benefit the big corporate houses. The industrial policy of 2003 is a case in point. A large number of industries were exempted from obtaining no-objection certificates from the Pollution Control Board and the release of agricultural land for industrial use was made easier.

In 2004, the State Assembly passed the Gujarat Special Economic Zones Act that made land acquisition easier and labour laws less strict. Five years later, the Gujarat Special Investment Region Act was passed to promote “mega projects”. Gujarat’s Industrial Policy of 2009 was designed to make the State “the most attractive investment destination not only in India but also in the world”.

These investments meant that Gujarat was behind only Maharashtra and Haryana in terms of State domestic product (if one does not consider city-states like Delhi). But these investments did not create many jobs. The petrochemical and chemical industries are cases in point. These sectors generate 34 per cent and 15 per cent of Gujarat’s industrial output, but they are not labour-intensive. Manufacturing is more labour-intensive, but automation is gaining momentum in the large factories. For instance, for an investment of Rs 2900 crores, the Nano plant never had more than 2200 employees. In other words, the capital-labour ratio was more than Rs 1.3 crore per job created.

This is partly due to the crisis of the Gujarati SMEs which are four times more labour-intensive on average than the big companies. The share of the MSMEs’ (micro, small and medium enterprises) credit as a percentage of the gross bank credit has declined from 12.98 per cent in 1997-98 to 6.34 per cent in 2006-07. It did rise to touch 10 per cent in 2009-10, but that isn’t sufficient. The financial turmoil, partly caused by a crisis in the district cooperative banks, jeopardised the future of many MSMEs. According to the Union Ministry of MSMEs, the number of sick units jumped from 4,321 in 2010-11 to 20,615 in 2012-13 and 49,382 in 2014-15. Between 2004 and 2014, 60,000 MSMEs were shut down in Gujarat.

According to the National Sample Survey (NSS), in 2009-10 the informal sector represented 84.1 per cent of the work-force in Gujarat. This informalisation is in sync with the stagnation of wages in the State. One reason for industrialists investing in Gujarat is the low level of wages in the state. According to the 2011 NSS report, Gujarat has the third lowest average daily wages for casual labourers in urban areas.

The lack of resources partly explains the low level of social expenditure in Gujarat. Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, Gujarat spent 13.22 per cent of its budget on education when the national average was slightly above 15 per cent. It did little better insofar as public health was concerned. With 4.2 per cent of its budget devoted to health-related expenditure, Gujarat ranked seventh out of 17 large States in 2010-11. But Gujarat lags behind States like Tamil Nadu with respect to vaccination, infant mortality rate, child undernourishment and literacy. These are symptoms of rising inequalities between caste groups as well within them. (See ‘Alienation of the Patels’, The Indian Express, October 25)

The “Gujarat model” has, therefore, been characterised by attempts at attracting big investors who generate growth but create few jobs (and even fewer good jobs), at the expense of the exchequer. It is also characterised by disappointing social indicators reflecting com-paratively low social expenditures.

A case study of why Madhya Pradesh, the ‘best performing State of India’, temporarily collapsed in revealing. MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s investments in irrigation, electricity, roads and procurement systems worked for the State’s farmers.

Chouhan concentrated on agriculture, which employs the largest share of MP’s workforce (54.6 per cent in 2015-16, as per a Labour Bureau report).

In fact, MP now has an extremely farmer-friendly CM in Shivraj Chouhan. Thanks to his focus on agriculture, MP witnessed more than 20 per cent growth rate in agriculture in the past few years.

MP’s current problem arose due to a glut, a problem of plenty—increased production of crops like cereals, pulses, onions and soyabean and lack of remunerative prices. The CM has now agreed to 11 of the 13 demands put forth by the farmers’ organisations. He has already announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore each to the kin of those killed in firing and a job to an eligible member from each family

However, the current agrarian crisis is not due to any natural causes but to bad political and administrative management along with bureaucratic failure:-

This is the second year running that the State has had a bumper onion crop. Throughout May, many farmers were forced to sell their produce at Rs 2 to Rs 3 a kg as the Chouhan Government delayed announcing the procurement price of Rs 8 a kg, till June 5.

In Indore, farmers had left truckloads of onions on the streets in protest. According to one estimate, one-third of the State’s onion crop rotted away because of inadequate storage facilities.

But other farmers’ organisations stepped up their agitation. Shiv Kumar Sharma, for instance, was deeply upset that Chouhan had not invited him and other farmer leaders for talks, although his organisation has the largest following among the State’s farmers. The price of pulses too has fallen sharply in Madhya Pradesh. While the Central Government has raised the minimum support price of tur dal from Rs 4500 to a little over Rs 5000 a quintal, the State’s agencies have failed to procure any significant amount of the produce at the assured price.

Demonetisation struck another lethal blow. Traders who had been hit by the note recall that they either remained absent from the market or were willing to pay far less. This phenomenon appears to have led to the “fire sales” that the RBI has mentioned in its report.

The Modi Government, which has been tom-toming the fall in prices as a positive fallout of demonetisation, appears not to have factored in the flip side: lower prices help consumers but hurt producers—in this case the farmers.

“Those agriculture students who have graduated in the past 10 years but have not found suitable employment become the back-bone of the current agitation,” Anand Rai, who was behind the farmers’ agitation, said. He has joined hands with Paras Saklecha, Prashant Pandey, Anil Dubey and other anti-corruption activists in Madhya Pradesh.

Conclusion

1. The State governments ruled by the BJP must address the burning problem of agro distress, job creation, high prices of essential commodities, Dalit protection, bureaucratic corruption etc. if it wants to survive another election.

2. It’s no use starting multiple schemes when implementation of all schemes in India is sub-standard and mired in political and bureaucratic corruption. That was the situation under both the UPA and NDA and continues as before.

3. As Amartya Sen correctly pointed out, “I am not frustrated with India butI am extremely frustrated with governance in India.”

Whether it is health care, education, ease of doing business, bribery, women’s safety, infant malnutrition, pollution or law and order, India is still at the bottom of the bucket.

This entire research highlights the fact that the BJP is interested only in being the richest party by hook or by crook.Maybe that will be their nemesis and prove to be the proverbial Achilles’ heel.

4. The Prime Minister has to realise that he can’t do everything on his own. Today the Prime Minister stands isolated like a Greek hero. Perhaps a presidential form of government would have made Modi a little more successful. Our dysfunctional and malfunctioning Western style democracy can’t perform any better.

In the end, as Rajiv Gandhi had said in the 1985 at the centenary celebration of the Congress, “for every 100 rupees spent in India, only 5 rupee reaches the poor.” 

This prediction will never change in the present scenario.

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