The five-yearly examination for the mega prize is round the corner but the Congress’ preparations are not up to the mark. The lapses are showing up in the evaluation tests. By preparations, we don’t mean rallies or figuring out the right mix of candidates, but how the Congress-led UPA fared on the implementation of its policies over the last 10 years. On this count, the party’s performance has not been sparkling.
According to the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), which was set up by the UPA in 2010 to undertake an ‘impartial and objective assessment’ of the public programmes and improve the ‘effectiveness’ of such interventions, two of its much-publicised programmes — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) — have not worked on the ‘ideals for which they were initiated’.
The IEO has found that the MGNREGS has not been able to create rural infrastructure to boost local economy even though the Centre has spent over Rs. 2,00,000 crore on this flagship scheme. The JNNURM, another of UPA’s flagship programmes, that aims to help cities to cope with urbanisation, has also failed to deliver because of design flaws. As a result, 1% of the housing projects and 18% of urban infrastructure projects were completed till 2012.
That public programmes like these have a bearing on the minds of voters is well known. The Congress itself had attributed the success of the MGNREGS as a reason for its return to power in 2009 and so this evaluation should be a wake-up call for it. From 2004 onwards, the party has come up with schemes and legislation that focused on rural India, often at the cost of urban India, and now this gambit seems to have gone wrong. Fed up with price rise, corruption and slow growth, people seem to be looking at other options. As far as the JNNURM is concerned, which was launched in 2005-06, there have been some good projects like the bus rapid transit system in Ahmedabad. Yet the overall impact on other cities has not been significant. Even though the IEO has not said anything yet on the Right to Education Act, the flaws in its implementation are well known.
However, there have been enough warnings about these expensive schemes: Many reports have brought out large-scale corruption in the MGNREGS, there have been many cases of missed deadlines in the JNNURM, and several reports have talked about high enrolment and low learning levels in the RTE. Yet, there was no course correction or improvement of their implementation. This slothful behaviour of the UPA and its lack of vision in taking these schemes to the next level could cost the Congress dearly in these elections.