When Center has vindictive stance on States

…everybody suffers.

Today’s The Hindu carried a report that Anna Hazare asked Government of India to give up its vindictive stance.

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Sunday said the Union government was “vindictive” and warned that this attitude would create “unrest in society.” He was upset at the government targeting his team members — Arvind Kejriwal has been slapped with Income Tax notice, while Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan have been served breach of privilege notices.

What did IAC and Anna Hazare expect? INC has mastered the game since 1947. Some times, INC’s stance moves from being vindictive to retributive. Political parties, independent politicians, individuals whosoever it may be, everybody and anybody who raises a flag, legitimate or otherwise against INC faced flak, severe flak in social life. The path chosen is almost always convoluted and cunning.

Citizens of AP who observed and understood “Vizag Steel Movement” know it better. T. Amruta Rao went on a 21 day hunger strike demanding that a steel factory be established in Vizag. He was arrested several times and then finally Indira Gandhi had to agree to his demands. Very little is documented in MSM about T. Amruta Rao’s movement or the iconic “Visakha Ukku, Andhrula Hakku” slogan (translates to “Visakha Steels is Andhra peoples’ right”). However, people of AP especially those who saw the movement closely continue to remember T. Amruta Rao. MSM, rarely so!

The 90th jayanthi of  T Amruta Rao, the architect of the slogan ‘Visakha Ukku – Andhrula Hakku,’ was celebrated at Smrithyajali Park in Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on Thursday.

Though the movement was in 1960s, thought first project report was submitted in 1970s, and though plant went online in 1971, Vizag Steel was struggling badly even in 1980s. The issue convereted into N T Rama Rao camp’s important election agenda item. He had to make it a people’s movement for Government of India to really buck up and do something.

Which political party was leading Government of India in 1966 and then in 1980s? This is a recurring phenomenon. Something very unique to INC. Why, even today INC plays it in the same manner. Only, tools have changed. How? In the form of institutions established by them in the name of development. This very nature of Government of India, especially when led by INC, is the reason why, as noted here, NAC’s proposals really are paths being laid of institutionalize these mechanisms of clouding federal structure.

Recently, JNNURM declared 10 percent cut in funds to Karnataka. The Hindu reports:

The State has so far completed only 23 of the 66 projects (Rs. 4,622.97 crore) approved by the Union Government under the seven-year JNNURM scheme, which comes to an end in March 2012.

Karnataka has been in the forefront when it comes to using JNNURM funds. In fact, almost every BJP governed state has been using JNNURM funds to the fullest. Under JNNURM, in Bangalore, bus services have been added as an addition to existing schedules and vehicle fleet. JNNURM funds have also been used extensively in road extension, flyovers, TTMCs etc. As analyzed before, TTMC is one of the best ideas that has been floated by Bangalore local administration.

JNNURM’s reaction is not unjust on the face value. Yes, rewarding early completion of projects with more funds/incentives and punishing with funding cuts for delays is a good strategy. Had JNNURM’s intentions been clean and clear in this regard, it would have been laudable effort. But JNNURM’s selective punishment stinks of political bias. Let us look closely.

JNNURM’s decision to cut 10% funding to Karnataka comes from several delays in projects. Surely 50% project completion ratio is not a very good sign on the part of Karnataka. But then, what were the reasons for these delays. The report states:

Underpasses at Ring Road-Nagavara Road Junction (Rs. 21.62 crore) have been redesigned on account of the high water-table in the area.

Work on the underpass at Ring Road-C.N.R. Rao Circle Junction (Rs. 22.6 crore) has been delayed because of hurdles in land acquisition and permission for tree felling.

Similarly, work on the underpass at Tagore Circle (Rs. 17.55 crore) has been delayed because of protests by the public.

There was delay in commencement of sanitation projects at K.R. Puram and Mahadevapura, and the underground drainage system at Dasarahalli and Bommanahalli.

The disconnect that JNNURM has from ground realities is astonishing. NGOs and public outcry against projects has been a major problem that Bangalore local bodies have been facing especially since 2009. These “activists” drive around in their sedans and luxury segment cars in the name of environmental activism. Issues with land acquisition is such a common thing in India that JNNURM cannotignore. What prompted JNNURM that 7 years is a good number to start with, as the project window?

Only one explanation for this indifference – political bias and vindictive nature of Central Government toward those State Governments, that are not led by party leading central government or its allies. Moreover, how many other states experienced similar funding cuts as a penalty for delay in projects? Does this mean JNNURM and Ministry of Urban Development didnt find any project delays in JNNURM projects in other states? Ironcially, JNNURM website has a page speaking about bus funding under JNNURM and no other state has any report except Karnataka. Only Karnataka has clear reports, photo copies of tenders [1, 2] which are hard evidence to the fact that Karnataka has been very proactive in using JNNURM funds. And so the reward – funds cut by 10%.

Meanwhile, in other states,

Tamil Nadu, West Bengal – Bus Maker Suffer as they dont pay for ordered buses. This was in Jun 2011.

Delhi – Project Delays in JNNURM Parking projects

Chennai – Delay in JNNURM Scheme Drain projects

Delhi – Nowhere in JNNURM race

Maharashtra – So little to show

And still, states like Gujarat, Karnataka where JNNURM projects have been running with considerable ease and pace are the ones supposed to suffer. And why so? Because they have not been able to implement “Rent Regulation” in chosen urban areas, which – get this – is the key part of the whole JNNURM scheme of things. Unbelievable? Read this:

Overall, while states like West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala seem to have made good progress in keeping up with timelines for reform implementation, progressive states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat do not qualify to be in this list because they lag behind in respect of one reform namely rent control or community participation legislation. A state like Tamil Nadu could not meet the stamp duty rationalisation target and amending the rent control law as well as legislating for community participation.

So we wonder, why Anna Hazare, who is after all modern day Gandhi, makes such statements which tend to get lost in the noise! Vindictive Stance is the only stance that INC has ever taken on states where INC is not leading the government. Some say it is a political strategy. Some say it is anti-national. Whatever it is, we all suffer!

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6 comments

  1. Sarma,
    While JNNURM has been useful, it has also been misused. In the name of fund availability, several unscientific projects are being built, such as Tagore circle underpass and signal-free corridors in Bangalore. And labeling all green activists as luxury-car owners and hypocrites is a poor generalization. I have also commented on this article of yours: http://centreright.in/2011/07/an-analysis-of-commuter-services-projects-in-bangalore/

    1. Sumanth, thanks for your comment.

      Disagree on Green Activists. Green Activists are nothing more left libbies who have nothing better to do. I saw these guys at M G Road come in their Sedans and SUVs, parking their vehicles and protesting with their designer glasses decorating their heads instead of their eyes! A little bit of pro-activeness with a well worked out alternative to as much detail as possible will be taken seriously. In fact, that would be given a lot of applause even by local bodies as most of their work is already done for them! A classic case in this regard is Hyderabad Metro. The first plan was nothing short of ridiculous. The NGO which opposed it gave a sample plan – a sort of lead that this could be a better way. The current plan is a modified version of the same!

      I do not say that all is hunky dory and everything is perfect. My simple point here is this:

      Central Government has a vindictive stand toward BJP ruled state. Penalty for delay in projects is huge and reward for successful completion is little. The same stance, if taken towards all states, we would have concluded that JNNURM has some very strong people as office bearers but unfortunately, states like Delhi and Maharastra where JNNURM projects are next to a joke are not being penalized.

    2. Also, please read how GoI has been vindictive toward even newspaper who criticized it
      http://epaper.dnaindia.com/newsview.aspx?eddate=9/18/2011&pageno=13&edition=20&prntid=149783&bxid=30564418&pgno=13
      This one is DNA

  2. Sure, you always have good and bad in all types. What you saw rightly disgusted you. But, basing your judgement on the ‘rotten apples’ is never a good idea, as the good work done by others e.g ESG (Environment Support Group), though drowned out by mostly nonsensical groups, gets lost. That was my point, blanket generalization is dangerous.
    Political vindictiveness is a poor example of ethics, but not unusual in most countries. In the US, Democrats and Republicans are at it always. Back home in TN, DMK and AIADMK always resort to blind policy reversals and arrests once they are in power. So while what you point out is correct, this is ‘politics’.

    1. I agree that there are some groups doing some good work. Thats covered in my example of Hyd Metro. Also, some groups are being proactive like Save the House Sparrow group. Good initiatives as far as I have seen dont go out and out tomtoming. They quietly do their their job with little or no media/pol/celebrity support. There was definitely no blanket generalization intended. If that didnt convey, probably it is another example of my poor communication skills! On Political Vindictiveness, I agree that even in highly matured countries like US you have this. But never at the cost of US interests. They take care of US interests. When it comes to US interests, they put all this aside. Examples of this are there all over recent US history. Yes, they attack each other but at the same time never undermine interests of the country. I think thats “politics”. What happens in India is pure exploitation of political power and in some cases personal vendatta. This government has a lot to answer than how much it can pride upon.

  3. As far as the ruling government/party is concerned, for sure, this is by far one of the worst we’ve ever had. And day-by-day, we are discovering to what further depths they can plummet to.

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