To its admirers, the Vasundhara Raje government has had a good year – sound governance, strong growth and some tentative steps towards economic reforms.
Those are among the achievements the government will showcase when Raje holds a special event to mark the first year of her government on Saturday. HT has a copy an official pamphlet detailing the achievements of the government.
But to her critics, the government has floundered on creating new jobs, struggled with infrastructure and managed a flagship financial empowerment scheme so badly that it dented the administration’s credibility in delivering complicated social projects.
In her most striking achievement since winning a second term, Raje took her government to the doorstep of villagers under the ‘Sarkar Aapke Dwar’ offsite, raising hopes of running an administration sensitive to the needs of the poorest.
Even so, some of the government’s most controversial achievements involved painful structural reforms -- shaking up land, labour and welfare policies that have been hailed by free-market flag-bearers as necessary for employing a fast-growing workforce and a benchmark for the rest of the country.
Using its four-fifths majority, the government amended the Industrial Disputes Act, in July to allow companies to lay off up to 300 workers without government permission, up from 100 before.
“It was long overdue,” said Mr Anand Singhal, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Rajasthan chapter, arguing such moves alone could fire growth and create jobs.
Next, a bill to expedite land acquisition was approved, tackling a chronic obstacle to investments sorely needed for the state to achieve its target of 12 percent growth and creating 1.5 million jobs. This is still to become a law.
But such moves, hailed even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have also come in for sharp criticism for being anti-people.
"She (is) only trying (to) repay her election obligation to the corporates," said Prem Kishan Sharma, former general secretary of the leftist trade union CITU, referring to Raje.
Allegations of bungling abound the Bhamashah Financial Empowerment Scheme, in which the government was to deposit Rs 1,500 into the saving accounts of 5 million rural Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, small and marginal farmers and targeted SC/ST families.
The government has appeared clueless about how many Bhamashah cards have been prepared.
Views have also been mixed over the government’s efforts to streamline welfare policies, including scaling down the previous Congress government schemes such as the CM Free Medicine Scheme and Pension Scheme.
In signs that some schemes have been half-baked, the merger of government schools that affected more than 15,000 of them ended up denying an education to many of those reluctant to move out of their neighbourhoods.
To be fair, though, the past year has been one of back-to-back elections, limiting the scope for the government to announce policies because of the model code of conduct. Political firefighting also took Raje’s time, delaying the expansion of her council of ministers. She held as many as 47 portfolios for 10 months of the year.
That included several ministries directly connected to creating jobs and skilling people, a key election promise of Raje. The opposition says she had failed to deliver on both fronts.
Congress spokesperson Pratap Singh Khachariawas said to fulfil the promise of 1.5 million jobs in 5 years, it needed to provide 25,000 jobs every month, but so far not even a single job has been provided.
“They made the job promise only to get votes,” he said.