New Delhi: While the Narendra Modi government plans to hold a 20-day PR extravaganza called “MODI fest” to celebrate three years of their government, not everyone seems to share their enthusiasm. An anthology of essays from 59 experts coordinated by the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), a civil society initiative, paints a bleak picture of governance and the state of justice in India. The report, called ‘Citizens’ Report on the Third Year of the NDA Government 2017 – Promises and Reality’, was released on May 24 in New Delhi. The foreword of the report describes it as “a Civil Society initiative reviewing government promises and performance with special focus on the elimination of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.” Over 4,000 organisations and individuals from across India come under the WNTA umbrella.
The report was released by eminent members of civil society including Ramon Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson, RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, journalist Urmilesh and others. Most of the speakers attacked the government for not living up to their slogan of ‘Sabka sath sabka vikas’ and condemned the increasing instances of atrocities against minorities. They also pointed out the failures of the government in creating jobs, the dilution of the RTI Act and various other unsuccessful policy measures, including the “disastrous” effects of demonetisation on the most deprived citizens of the country. Pamela Philipose, public editor of The Wire, talked about how most of the media has been painting a rosy picture of the government and said that the media today is not just bending or crawling, but has stooped to much worse. Wilson was the first from the panel to take the dais and strongly condemned the frequent instances of lynching around the country. The rest of the speakers elaborated on the report. Here are some key takeaways on important sectors mentioned in the report.
In his essay ‘A story of missed deadlines and failed promises’, Amit Narkar, the executive director of the National Centre for Advocacy studies, points out that the status of the process of drafting a new education policy, promised by Modi, is still shrouded in mystery. He further says that the committee which was constituted for this purpose, the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy, does not include a single educationist. The report that the committee drafted and submitted to the Ministry of Human Resource Development has not officially reached the government yet.
Ambarish Rai, education rights activist and national convener of the Right to Education Forum, writes that the Budget allocation towards education remains poor, with the amount actually dropping from 2.44% of the Union Budget in 2015-16 to 2.19% in 2016-2017. Rai has also written about the severe lack of resources in the education sector, with five lakh vacancies of teachers in government primary schools and 10% of schools being managed by just one teacher.
E. Premdas Pinto, public health practitioner and human rights advocate, analyses the situation of healthcare in his essay ‘Health policies sans political will’. Apart from pointing out the “abysmal” Budget allocation to the healthcare sector, with this year’s allocation standing at 1.2% of the GDP, Pinto also writes about the “enhanced emphasis on privatization” in healthcare. According to him, the emphasis on insurance and private sector engagement has been readily accepted and forms the background for the National Health Policy 2017.
Pinto further writes that some states under the BJP rule, such as Rajasthan, Assam and Haryana, have enacted stringent rules when it comes to providing healthcare benefits to the poor. In addition to that, the proposed draft Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare “disentitles” women with more than two children to the maternity benefits which were provided under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.
Calling employment creation one of the most spectacular failures of the Modi government, Harsh Mander, writer and human rights activist, analyses the situation of employment in his essay titled ‘Jobless Growth’. Mander refers to the quarterly report on Changes in Employment in Selected Sectors, conducted by the Labour and Employment Bureau, and writes that employment even in the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy plummeted to a “mind numbing” low of 135,000 jobs in 2015. This figure, against the fact that over one million people join the workforce every month, indicates that barely 0.01% of new workers actually managed to find work in that period. Mander also writes about migrant workers, an estimated 12.24 million people who seek work for 2-6 months annually.
RTI activist and co-convener of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information Anjali Bhardwaj writes about the “contentious” amendments proposed to the rules of the RTI act in her essay ‘The jumla of Bhrashtachar-mukt Bharat’. The proposed amendment that she writes about is the provision for the withdrawal of appeals and closure of proceedings upon the death of the appellant. According to Bhardwaj, this provision will be instrumental in silencing the information seekers through coercion or physical harm. She further points out that the NDA government has failed to implement the Whistle Blower Protection Act, which was passed by parliament more than three years ago.
The WNTA has been conducting annual reviews of the government’s performance since 2005.