Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking at the public meetings in Uttar Pradesh, had boasted about the ‘enhanced pace of completion of developmental projects’ by him and his government. He remarked that the previous governments were responsible for stalled projects in the country, particularly in UP. According to him, a list of incomplete projects was prepared and the target was set (though four years of the government have already passed) for their completion.
But is it really true? Has there been a surge in the completion of projects and has the functioning actually improved to that extent? The figures, however, speak otherwise. Let’s analyse this claim as per these projects and their pace in a bit. Meanwhile, the Modi government is eager to prove to the world that its prompt functioning and delivery is part of the World Bank developed index. Modi wants to be in the first 50 spots in the ‘ease of doing business’ list, which is why the claims about completing the projects quickly! ‘The ease of doing business’ has become a buzzword, and the Modi government, in contrast to its earlier position, where it had raised questions on the robustness of the methodology and the ranking system, has completely succumbed to the new model.
The country has witnessed some significant shifts in the financial policies since then. The ease of business is a facilitator for the big business capital in the country. The changes brought out via GST, demonetisation etc. are a few in the same direction. It is a different matter that these initiatives have significantly marginalised and thrown out many small-scale entrepreneurs from the market.
The BJP, in its election manifesto, had stated, “…..to aim at transforming India into a global manufacturing hub.” Thus there is this rush for an aggressive push for energy generation and shifts in policy like single window systems of clearances etc. This has been staunchly supported by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, who have promised to invest more than US$ 40 Billion. The main areas of investment happen to be smart cities, improving urban service delivery, solar energy, modernising railway system, investments in road construction etc. Hence, towards these objectives, the World Bank is urging the Indian government to improve its ranking in terms of ‘ease of doing business’.
According to Citizen’s Review (a peer group), of the four years of the BJP rule, the ease of doing business is further targeting 7,000 small and big reforms. India has come out with the business action reform plans, which will lead to change in governance policies across the central, state and municipality levels with the aid of the World Bank. Another area of intervention is the change in the labour laws of the country. The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoL&E) has notified a compliance regime based on self-certification for startups that would exempt them from inspection under nine labour laws in the first year. The Centre recently allowed for fixed-term contract hiring across sectors to facilitate hire and fire as per the need of the company.
According to the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan – a national campaign to hold the government accountable for its promises – the result of these rapid changes in financial policies and infestation of the development projects has only left the country with an external debt of Rs.11,247 crore, as of 2017. The NPAs have consistently increased, and to top it all, the tall claims of getting the black money back in the economy have fallen flat. The mad rush for projecting India as an investment destination is neither sustainable nor is fulfilling any development agenda, which is only coming at the cost of undermining the basic prerequisites of environmental and social justice. It’s high time the government reviews its policies and blind rush for attaining unsustainable growth targets at the cost of people and environment.
But all said and done, is this eagerness of ‘ease to do business’ fetching results with respect to the enhanced pace of projects in the country? Let us understand the pace of these developmental projects, which is a euphoric cry of the Modi government.
The Modi government, in its cabinet meeting held on June 17, 2015, promised to construct 20 million (2 crore) houses by 2022. Half of the year 2018 has passed by, and so far only 3.61 lakh houses have been constructed. Not just that, but 87 per cent of the houses constructed belong to the subsumed programmes of erstwhile housing schemes like the Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas yojana –Urban (PMAY-U). The financial evaluation performance under the PMAY-U has pointed out that the insufficiency of funds, gaps in allocation and release of funds have severely hit the schemes.
The Smart Cities Mission is one of the flagship programmes of the Modi government that was launched in 2015. The special purpose vehicles (SPVs), the tool to enhance the pace of developing these 100 smart cities, have been released just 5 per cent of the total sum required in a list of 60 short listed cities. One can easily understand the pace of development that is being witnessed. According to a reply in Rajya Sabha, the government admitted that just 14 per cent of the projects have been offloaded as of now. Presently, 70 per cent of the projects proposed under the Smart City Mission are still in the development stage, with the completion of just 5 per cent so far. But, Modi keeps on singing the rhetoric of efficient performance. Here, we have not reviewed the efficacy of the projects of the smart cities and there has been strong criticism of that as well. Just 9 per cent of the area in the city is utilising 84 per cent of the budget, which shows the highly centralised form of investment, thus making the city less inclusive.
Similarly, in the water and sanitation sector, under the tom-tommed scheme of Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), which was announced in 2015 for 500 cities, just 19 per cent of the central assistance has been released so far. The status of the projects is no different from that of the Smart City Mission.
Likewise, the Swach Bharat Mission (SBM) which was launched in October 2014, mainly to eliminate open defecation through the construction of over 1.4 crore toilets has shown poor results. Just 34 per cent of the toilets were constructed until 2017.
Despite all these figures, Modi, while speaking out in front of the people, not just hoodwinks them, but also plays to the international agencies whose money is being used for various developmental projects in the country. Against this backdrop, to say that the present government is more efficient in the implementation of projects is nothing but ‘true lies’.