The Moving Finger Writes: The Task Facing The NDA Government
Intro: One good thing that the elections did was to fully empower the NDA with an unchallengeable majority of 336 seats.
Now that the preliminaries are over the government is firmly ensconced it is time to recall certain facts that should concern ministers and bureaucrats. The time when both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were at the mercies of irresponsible MPs is over. One good thing that the elections did was to fully empower the NDA with an unchallengeable majority of 336 seats. But remember what we went through under the aegis of the UPA in 2012, for instance. The Lok Sabha worked for only 20 per cent of the total allocated time and the Rajya Sabha only for 27 per cent of the scheduled hours. Those times happily are now over.
The Planning Commission came up with an evaluation study on total sanitation campaign in 2013. The study covered 11,519 households across 27 states. It found that 72.63 per cent of all rural households practice open defecation. In places where there were toilets, many had no water. Take the case of children. According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, calculated in 2012, 20 per cent of all Indian children under 5 years of age are under-weight and malnourished. One in every four child dying of diarrhoea around the world (about 800,000 of them each year) are from India.
According to Hindol Sen Gupta, whose work is a classic, life expectancy at birth in India is now three years shorter than in Bangladesh and child mortality is 24 per cent lower. Only four countries fare worse than India in child mortality they being Afghanistan, Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) India has the worst death rate from respiratory diseases and more people are dying of asthma in India than anywhere else in the world. Think of excreta. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) 80 per cent of sewage in India is untreated and flows directly into the rivers, polluting the main source of drinking water. Only 20 per cent of the around 40,000 million litres of sewage produced by Indian cities is treated.
The author quotes the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) as saying that in 2011-12 waterborne diseases were probably the biggest killer in India. The CAG Report had worse things to say, like roughly 80 per cent of sewage from Indian cities going straight into the rivers and into our drinking water. According to the Water Resources Ministry in 2012 ground water in 158 out of 639 districts in India had gone saline and in 385 districts nitrate had risen above permissible limits. The book quotes the National Crime Record Bureau as saying that 270,940 farmers have committed suicide since 1995. Food is grown but apparently 31 million tonnes of wheat alone are wasted due to lack of adequate storage, as well as 40 per cent of all fruits and vegetables. Practically in every department of life India stands as a big loser. The number of urban homeless people exceeds rural homeless. To accommodate all the people who will migrate to cities by 2030, India will need to build 900 million new urban residential areas. Endlless is the information available.
We are way behind in health care with less than one nurse for 1,000 population in India in 2010, much lower than the average of 8.7 in OECD countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 3.20 per cent of Indians are falling below the poverty line because they cannot afford health care.
The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that economic losses to India due to non-communicable diseases will be around 6.2 trillion dollars between 2012 and 2030. The figures in the field of education are more frightening. According to NASSCOM, 75 per cent of technical graduates (like engineering or computer science students) and 80 per cent of general graduates are so poorly trained that they cannot be hired in any soft ware company. Then look at what, Pratham, one of India’s largest education NGOs found. They surveyed 13,000 schools in rural India and discovered that 50 per cent of the students of Class V are not up to the level of Class II. We don’t have even enough teachers in India. What about bureaucracy? Once considered the steel frame of the raj, according to Political & Economic Risk Consultancy the Indian bureaucracy is “the worst and most inefficient” in the world.
Smriti Irani and her colleagues have a job on hand. And she need not have to be apologetic about her educational qualifications. Indira Gandhi failed thrice in the entrance examination at Somerville College in Oxford. She never had a degree. Rajiv Gandhi got admission in Trinity College Cambridge to study engineering but could not complete his course and took to pilot training. If any air pilot can become Prime Minister and any non-degree holder can boss over a distinguished economist of world standing, Smriti with her background can do a splendid job.
-MV Kamath (The writer is a senior columnist and former editor
of Illustrated Weekly)