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Politics
Tall Claims Fall
07-05-2016

By Samuel Mathai

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have mastered the art of making Himalayan claims of their achievements and expanding their “56-inch chest” while boasting about the “successful” plans and policies launched by the party as and when they get an opportunity.

They hardly ever miss a chance to lash out at the previous Congress-led governments at the Centre and the states. They make scathing attacks on the Congress leaders for their failures and flip-flop policies during their six-decade rule.

Many a time, during public speeches, Modi was heard talking about the 18,000 un-electrified villages in India and taking a dig at the Congress-led governments for pushing the people of the country into darkness.

In the recently held BJP executive meet, the Modi-led Central Government has made a commitment of electrifying all the villages by May 1, 2018.

Renaming the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) scheme for village electrification and providing electricity distribution infrastructure in rural areas, the BJP government has launched “Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana” for rural electrification.

According to the BJP-led-Central government, as on April 1, 2015, total 18,542 villages in the country remained without electricity. On August 15, 2015, Modi had announced that the remaining villages would be electrified within next 1,000 days.

According to a government agency, after forming government at the Centre, the BJP government has electrified 5,542 villages by February 23, 2016. It means that as on February 23, 2016, only 13,000 villages remained for electrification. The government has also allocated Rs 8,500 crore for the Deen Dayal Gram Jyoti Yojana and Integrated Electricity Development Schemes.

A simple calculation shows on an average 9,300 villages per year were electrified since Independence. Simply put, the country’s total power generation capacity was 1,362 MW in 1947.  The total installed capacity of power generation of the country as on 29.2.2016 is 288,665 MW. Modi has claimed that his government will electrify the remaining 13,000 villages within 1,000 days. Mind you the tall claims should be seen in the context - when the BJP government has all the facilities, ample power generation capacity, economy and manpower at its disposal.

India has triggered a noteworthy improvement in the availability of energy by adopting a multi-pronged approach. After almost seven decades of Independence, India has emerged as the third largest producer of electricity in Asia. It has increased its electricity generation capacity from 1,362 MW in 1947 to 1,13,506 MW as of 2004. According to the Union Ministry of Power, the overall power generation in India has increased from 301 billion units during 1992-93 to 1048.673 billion units during 2014-15.

When it comes to rural electrification, out of the total 6,38,000 villages, the Indian government has managed to give electricity to 5,93,732 (2013 figures) villages as compared to 3,061 in 1950. The total number of un-electrified villages in India as on May 31, 2015 was 19,706. The percentage of electrified villages in India as on May 31, 2015 was 96.7%.

These figures show that only 3.3 per cent villages in India are to be electrified and of these a major chunk of villages belong to the BJP-ruled states where they are in power for over 10-15 years.

According to government figures, the 10 states/UTs with the highest number of un-electrified villages as on 31-05-2015 were: Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam and Chhattisgarh.

The number of un-electrified villages in Rajasthan as on 31-05-2015 was 4,166, whereas that of Odisha was 3,878, Jharkhand as 2,105, Bihar 1,757, Madhya Pradesh 1,458, Chhattisgarh 1,047, Uttar Pradesh 1,298, Arunachal Pradesh 1,564, Meghalaya 1,283, Assam 803 and Manipur 318.

The 15 states/UTs which have achieved 100% rural electrification as on 31-05-2015 were: Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chandigarh, D&N Haveli, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Pondicherry.

According to the 2001 census 72.2% of the Indian population live in about 6,38,000 villages and the remaining 27.8% in more than 5,100 towns and over 380 urban agglomerations.

Now, the question is who has electrified the 96.7 per cent villages of the country. Is it the BJP government led by Modi at the Centre which has done this “commendable” job of providing electricity to the nearly 6,20,000 un-electrified villages of the country during its nearly two-year stint.

There is no justification for failures of the Congress. The party has miserably failed on many fronts. The BJP rode to power because of the Congress’ failure. But one cannot deny the development made by the country in over six decades.

People of the country, especially political leaders should at least be aware of the fact that the independent India inherited a shattered economy, widespread illiteracy and shocking poverty.

While some have high opinion of India’s growth story since its independence, some others think the country’s performance in the last over six decades has been abysmal. It’s arguably true that the Five-Year Plans did target specific sectors in order to quicken the pace of development, yet the outcome has not been on the expected lines. All efforts are frustrated by lopsided strategies and inept implementation of policies.

Contemporary economists divide the history of India’s economic growth into two phases – first 45 years after independence and the two decades of free market economy. The years preceding the economic liberalisation were mainly marked by instances wherein economic development got stagnated due to lack of meaningful policies and resources.

The economic reforms came to India’s rescue with the launching of a policy of liberalisation and privatisation. Among the major factors that drove India’s economic growth following the economic reforms of 1991 were increased FDI, adoption of information technology and an increased domestic consumption.

Service Sector

At present, the services sector employs 23% of the Indian workforce and this process of development started back in the 1980s. In the 60s, the sector employed only 4.5% of the working population. According to the Central Statistical Organization, the services sector accounted for 63% of Indian GDP in 2008 and the figure continues to grow.

Agriculture Sector

India’s progress in agriculture has been somewhat steady since 1950. The sector grew at about 1 per cent per annum in the first half of the 20th century. During the post-Independence era, the growth rate nudged about 2.6 per cent per annum. Expansion of farming area and introduction of high-yielding varieties of crops were the major factors of growth in agricultural production.

Investment in research, land reforms, expansion of scope for credit facilities, and improvement in rural infrastructure were some other determining factors that brought about an agricultural revolution in the country. The country has also grown strong in the agri-biotech sector.

Infrastructure Development

Indian road network has become one of the largest in the world with a total road length increasing from 0.399 million km in 1951 to 4.24 million km as on July 2014. Moreover, the total length of the country’s national highways has increased from 24,000 km (1947-69) to 92,851 km (2014). Governmental efforts have led to the expansion of the network of State highways and major district roads, which in turn has directly contributed to industrial growth.

Education Sector

India has managed to bring its education system on a par with the global standard. The number of schools witnessed a dramatic increase during the post-independence era. Parliament made elementary education a fundamental right for children in the age group of 6-14 years by passing the 86th amendment to the Constitution in 2002. At independence, India’s literacy rate was a paltry 12.2 % which increased to 74.04% in 2011.

The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan was launched in 2001 to ensure education for the children from 6 to 14 years. Prior to that, it had launched an effective initiative – Sponsored District Education Programme, which increased the number of schools across the country. In a bid to attract children to schools, especially in the rural areas, the government also started implementing the mid-day meals programme in 1995.

Healthcare

Decrease in death rates is considered one of the major achievements that came India’s way in this sector. The life expectancy, which was around 37 years in 1951, has almost doubled to 65 years by 2011. Infant mortality has also seen a marked decline with death rate coming down to half of what it was during the 50s. Similar improvement was noticed in maternal mortality rate also.

India has been declared a polio-free country. Malnutrition in children under five years came down to 44% in 2006 from 67% in 1979. Government’s efforts yielded result as the number of tuberculosis cases also got reduced to 185 per lakh people in 2009. The cases of HIV-infected people are also witnessing a declining trend.

Scientific Achievements

The Independent India has taken confident strides in its road to scientific development. India takes pride in its space programmes, which began with the launch of its first satellite Aryabhatta in 1975. Since then, India has emerged as a space power that has successfully launched foreign satellites. Its first mission to Mars was launched in November 2013 which successfully reached the planet’s orbit on September 24, 2014.

India is also aggressively pursuing both nuclear and missile programmes. That has simultaneously augmented the country’s defence strength as well. BrahMos inducted into the defence system is the world’s fastest cruise missile that has been jointly developed by India and Russia. After more than six decades of independence, India has now come closer to being an independent force to reckon with in the field of nuclear and missile technology.