After a week in office, Modi government sets its agenda

The new government faces its first parliamentary session. Down To Earth puts together the agenda of the government in key sectors




Faster forest clearances

Author: Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava

Two things that seem to be topmost priority of the new minister of environment, forest and climate change, Prakash Javadekar, are fast-tracking of environment clearances for development projects and firmly asserting India's position on climate change at the international forums. The day Javadekar took over his office, he launched an online system for application for the environment clearances  (a similar system for forest clearances is due to be launched next month). While the ministry might be working on this system from the tenure of the last government, Javadekar made it clear through his statements that he would make project clearances process "faster", "transparent" and hassle free. He was quoted by media saying that around 5,000 projects were awaiting green clearances from the ministry and his priority was to take up the clearances of defence and "public welfare" projects on the priority.

Read more on green clearances to ecologically damaging projects
The addition of the words climate change in the ministry's name signifies that climate change is going to be high on the new government's priority. As the international community has finalised the mechanism for implementing REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) programmes, earning funds from forest conservation and afforestation also seems to be on the agenda of the minister. "Forests are not a financial liability. They can earn us lakhs of crores of rupees if we rejuvenate them. We will explore such new ideas," Javadekar has been quoted as saying. With the Kerala chief minister approaching Javadekar with his demands on reducing the conservation area of the Western Ghats, Javadekar will also have to take a call on the issue soon.



Privatisation of health sector to get a boost

Author: Jyotsna Singh

The agenda that the new government has set for itself in the health sector was pronounced clearly within first week of Cabinet formation. The ministry has already issued press notes on important matters like medicines and health infrastructure. Certain tasks of the previous government have already become the priority, while a policy direction seems to have been concretised. As the new government starts its first Parliament session, new minister's preferences might affect budget allocations for the sector.

On his first day in office, even before the first Cabinet meeting, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan indicated that the ministry will aggressively take privatisation forward. Though the previous government too made space for private players in health sector, the new minister seems to be taking it on more vigorously. “I am not in favour of taxpayers’ money being used to push a one-size-fits-all health policy. From this morning itself, I have started contacting public health practitioners to know their minds on what should be the road ahead,” said the minister at a meeting.

Read more on privatisation in health sector
At the same meeting, he also emphasised on the need of insurance. The minister said that the health sector has to learn “from the micro-health insurance instruments developed by NGOs, self-help groups and small private entities”. He also emphasised on the need to strengthen the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana of the labour ministry.

The minister said that the Free Drug Programme will be formally launched soon. It was started by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2013, but could not come into full force due to lack of infrastructure for procurement and distribution. The programme aims at distribution of free generic drugs to government health institutions throughout the country under the National Health Mission.

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The Planning Commission had estimated that the free generic drug programme would cost Rs 28,560 crore during the 12th Plan period (2012-17) and had made its first financial allocation during 2012-13. While the Centre would bear 75 per cent of the cost, the states are supposed to contribute 25 per cent. Under the programme, 348 drugs under the National List of Essential Medicines are to be provided free from 160,000 sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals. The states have also been requested to add to the Essential List according to their local needs.

The minister also said that he will hold consultations with Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) to improve health care delivery at the ground level.

Another focus area is non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, occupational diseases and ailments connected to sedentary lifestyles. The minister promised to crack down on junk food for children. Promoting yoga and physical exercises is also high on Vardhan’s agenda.

Vardhan is also taking stock of tertiary care facilities in public sector. Following the start of six new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Vardhan has assured support assistance of the Central government to other state governments for opening more AIIMS-like hospitals.

Rural development


Create durable assets with MGNREGA

Author: Jitendra

The Union Ministry of Rural Development has decided to link the UPA flagship programme for rural employment, MGNREGS, with village development like construction of durable infrastructure and linking it with agriculture. The government also plans to introduce a provision to punish those responsible for delay in payment to rural job seekers under rural employment guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Read more
The ministry has also decided to make Indira Aawas Yojana flagship programme more inclusive by adding new categories to the list of beneficiaries, like migrant labourers and nomadic tribes.

In his one week as Union rural development minister, late Gopinath Munde who dies in a road accident on Tuesday, also planned to tweak the land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement Act for fast execution of projects.

The ministry has also emphasised on evolving transparent implemetation mechanism for all flagship programmes in coordination with states.

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Gujarat to show the path

Author: Ankur Paliwal

Piyush Goyal, minister of state for power, coal and new and renewable energy has not said much so far, other than that his priority is to light up every house in the country. As renewable energy is high on his agenda, he plans to visit Gujarat to get first-hand experience of how the state turned its energy sector around and become a solar power hub. "Gujarat has very successful renewable energy sector," said Goyal after assuming charge of his office.

Question raised in Lok Sabha: Environment clearances to projects

Report: Consideration of proposals for TORs/Environment Clearance/CRZ Clearance

Report: Report of the high level working group on Western Ghats (Kasturirangan Western Ghats Report)

CSE Study: System of green clearances not working for environment and people and clearances not the impediment to growth

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