Report card on Fadnavis govt: Some hits, some misses in eventful one year
A year on, here's a listing of the big hits and misses of the Fadnavis government.
When the people of Maharashtra jettisoned the largely discredited Congress-NCP government in 2014, it was a vote for change. 'Change' may have become an overused and overworn expression in the current political discourse, but yes, change it was in all connotations of the word. They not only wanted a respite from the 15-year rule of the earlier coalition, but also sought new energy and ideas in governance. This day last year, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government took charge, promising to live up to the expectation of people.
One year is too short judge any government. But the quality of its functioning and measures initiated offers us enough hint on the drift. Going by that it has been a mixed success story for the NDA government. Here's a listing of the big hits and misses of the government.
Jalyukt Shivar to make state drought-free
The Maharashtra government has undertaken a Jalyukt Shivar initiative (an integrated water conservation and management initiative) that aims to make 25,000 villages drought-free in the next five years. In the first phase in the year 2015-16, it has implemented the project in 5,000 villages across the water scarcity-hit state. The ambitious programme involves works such as construction of a series of check dams, rejuvenation of old check dams and repair of Kolhapur Type (KT) weirs and storage tanks, repair of percolation tanks, desilting village percolation tanks and connecting stream or nullahs with water storage bodies and others. Following its success, the Rajasthan government has decided to implement the programme. It is turning out to be a game changer in a state known for water shortage.
The state government has cut down the number of approvals required for setting up industrial units. This is aimed at making
the state investor-friendly. It has received assurances of approximately Rs 70,000 crore, which is likely to generate around 75,000 jobs in Maharashtra. This increase is attributed to the state government's Make in Maharashtra initiative to boost the state's image among investors. Apart from this, it has also introduced a slew of other reforms, including pruning permissions required to set up businesses from 75 to 25, time-bound single window approvals, incentives to manufacturers, reimbursement of cost of water and energy audit and exemption in stamp and electricity duties.
Right to Services Act
The government has begun the implementation of the Maharashtra Guarantee of Public Services (MGPS) Act, known as Right to Services, from earlier of this month to empower citizens to avail services in a time-bound manner. Citizens can apply for birth, death, domicile and marriage certificates under the Act. The government has notified 224 services across various departments under the RTS act. While around 42 services have been posted online, all the other services would also get covered gradually. It is mandatory for the departments concerned to furnish the information and certificates within the stipulated time. It is a step forward to bring in greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government and to combat the corruption in the system.
Abolition of Toll and Local Body Tax (LBT)
While contesting the assembly elections, the BJP had promised to abolish toll tax and LBT. The government has so far shut 12 toll plazas and given exemption for cars and state transport buses from paying toll on 53 other toll plazas. It has scrapped LBT in 25 municipal corporation areas from 1 August.
Action against NCP leaders involved in corruption:
During the assembly election campaign, the BJP had promised to take action against all Nationalist Congress Party leaders involved in corruption, including the alleged Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam. In case of senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, two FIRs have been registered by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). In the alleged Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam, the ACB has grilled the senior NCP leader and ex-deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and ex-minister and NCP president Sunil Tatkare recently. The inquiry has been fast-tracked by the ACB. This is seen as a major setback for them.
Failure to contain farmer suicides and tackle drought
Despite its assurances before the assembly elections, the state government led by BJP has failed to stop suicides of debt-ridden farmers. With approximately 2,230 cases recorded so far, the graph of farmer suicides in Maharashtra continues to rise rapidly. The count is 13% higher than the 1981 case reported in 2014. It has failed to get much financial help from the Centre. Despite the demand for complete loan waiver from opposition parties, Fadnavis stated that relief packages and loan waiver were announced in the past but things did not change as the package did not provide for irrigation facility. Refusing to announce the loan waive package, he stressed on water to farmers.
An enemy within, the Shiv Sena
Coalition partner Shiv Sena has proved to be one of the biggest opponents of the BJP. It is virtually serving as the in-house opposition by criticising the government on various issues, including farmers' suicides and rising dal prices. It has also embarrassed the government by forcing the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali's concert in Mumbai and the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni. Tension between the two parties increased when the Shiv Sena boycotted all the functions at which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in Mumbai on 11 October. Uddhav Thackeray left for the Marathwada region to distribute aid to farmers' families hit by the drought. The war of words from both sides continues.
Controversy over sedition circular
A controversy started after the BJP-led Maharashtra government issued a circular to allegedly invoke sedition charge for criticizing the political establishment. The circular had laid down certain conditions required to be considered for initiating action against a person under section 124-A of IPC which deals with sedition. The decision was widely criticized by the opposition parties and public in general as well and termed the circular as unconstitutional and violated fundamental rights of citizens. Later, it admitted that it got lost in translation and had promised to bring a revised version. Recently, the state government has announced that it has withdrawn the circular.
Law and order failure
Rising crime has been reported in the Nagpur city, hometown of Fadnavis, who also handles the Home portfolio. Opposition parties have come down heavily on Fadnavis and termed Nagpur as the crime capital. More than six months after the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare, the police have not able to solve the case. A suspect having links with Sanatan Sanstha has been taken into custody by the police so far. However, there has been no significant progress. The transfer of then Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria in the middle of investigation of Sheena Bora murder case also caused a huge embarrassment to the government. Following the transfer, the allegations of money laundering were leveled by the opposition parties. After facing, the government announced that it would ask Maria to continue to head the inquiry.
No cabinet expansion and unhappy allies
While the BJP-led government inducted a Sena minister last December, it has not expanded its cabinet afterwards. The four small alliance partners such as Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (RPI-A), the Raju Shetty-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), the Mahadev Jankar-led Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and expelled NCP leader Vinayak Mete's Shiv Sangram are unhappy with no cabinet expansion and also no appointments on the major corporations in the state. Of late, the smaller allies have been attacking the government for its 'anti-people' policies and failure to keep promises like Maratha and Dhangar reservation, minimum support price for farm products made during the assembly election campaigning.
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