More needs to be done for environment, farmers' welfare: civil society report
Civil Society group “Wada Na Todo Abhiyan” has released a citizens’ report on two years of NDA government. The two-year-anniversary marks the completion of 731 days from the total 1,826 days-long tenure of the government, approaching its mid-term point.
The report focuses on how the plans and programs of the government have impacted the lives of the marginalised groups in our society. The promise of providing a corruption-free India has met with low performance, finds the report. The government was unable operationlise Lokpal Act and Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act enough though they were passed two years ago. The proposed amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act may victimise vulnerable citizens who are seeking their rights and entitlements, adds the report.
Agriculture, farmer welfare, urban and rural development, drinking water and sanitation, housing and urban poverty alleviation, road, transport and highways and renewable energy have been given a thrust in budget allocation for 2015-16. However, the report says that allocations to most social sector do not address the critical concerns in health, education and civic amenities. Stress on private providers in core areas of health and education may undermine these public services, adds the report.
Allowing children below 14 years to work undermines the Right To Education Act and may counter efforts to improve education among the marginalised children, says the report. Further, the strategy of providing health care through promoting private insurances may do more harm than good, the report states. The government also lacks a comprehensive plan to address malnutrition among children in the age group of 0 to 6 years.
Despite the focus on children and young people, the budget cut of 29 per cent for children has been the highest ever, claims the report. On the question of youth, the target to be able to train over 40 crore people by 2022 is ambitious in the current scenario, says the report.
Highlighting some of the positive moves of the NDA rule, the report adds that passing of the amendments to the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is a welcome step. Recognition of Ambedkar as the architect of the Indian state is rightly placed and long overdue. However, the continued poor allocation under the scheduled caste sub-plan and tribal sub-plan holds has kept the communities poor and under-developed, the report says. The flagship Swachch Bharat Abhiyan does not seem to have provisions to improve the lives of Dalit Safai Karmchari communities, it adds.
Environment protection laws have been diluted in the past two years, concludes the report. A high level committee was set up to review important environment, forest, wildlife and pollution acts. The committee suggested radical changes that would undermine the laws and recommended changes to render less effective a number of laws it was not charged to review, the report adds. Between January 2013 and March 2015, a total of 118 projects were granted environmental and CRZ clearances, of which, only four were challenged before the National Green Tribunal.
The report also highlighted the issue of farmer suicides saying crop loss, mounting debt and acute drought situation continue to drive farmers to commit suicide in Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Rural insurance schemes like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and Bhartiya Krishi Bima Yojana could have been used to provide assistance to farmers, adds the report. Agricultural credit, rural electrification and a thrust on increasing the irrigation cover are major challenges that need to be addressed by the government, the report adds. The MGNREGA programme has been continued, which may help ease the pressure on rural economy.
Similarly, the impact assessment of the government’s Make in India push—which intends to transform the country into a global manufacturing hub—is being eagerly awaited. Despite many commitments, the anticipated foreign investment is not evident, the report says. The government has opted for trade and a market-driven economy, bringing concerns over livelihood of small landowners, farmers, rural households and economically weaker sections in the report.