2 yrs of Virbhadra Singh government: So far not so good

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Himachal Pradesh
  • Updated: Dec 25, 2014 14:23 IST

Holding too tight the dying year was tough for chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who drove the Congress to power in the state single handedly two years ago. His party lost all four parliamentary seats (Shimla, Mandi, Kangra and Hamirpur), including that of his wife. A grim fiscal position slowed down development, yet the government where he is also in charge of finance managed to pay its employees, even if by raising loans. The opposition guns for him, controversies dog him, detractors plot against him, yet Virbhadra remains hard to dislodge. HT analyses whether or not he was able to deliver on promises in key sectors.

Health: First state to create Health Commission

Promises: Free medicines at all health centres; super-specialty services at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla, and Dr Rajinder Prasad Medical College, Tanda, Kangra; posts of doctor, member of paramedical staff, and technician to be filled; Free medical facility for the BPL (below poverty line) families, single women, widows, and destitute women; all BPL families to be brought under National Health Insurance Scheme; specialty services to be made available at the state and district levels; AIIMS (All-India Institute of Medical Sciences) status for Tanda medical college.

Performance: The state is spending Rs 1,050 crore on the health sector in the current financial year; and the budget for the IGMC, Shimla, and Tanda medical college has been enhanced from Rs 7 crore in last financial year to Rs 30 crore now. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to create Health Commission to prepare a health roadmap for the state.

The Tanda college was provided with the AIIMS status, and a super-specialty hospital block costing Rs 150 crore was inaugurated. Two nutritional rehabilitation centers were made functional at IGMC-Shimla and RPGMC-Tanda for the treatment of malnourished children up to the age of 5. Tele-stroke Management Programme was launched in collaboration with AIIMS-Delhi.

At IGMC-Shimla, a new OPD (outpatient department) with a budget of Rs 56.20 crore, and new administrative block with a budget of Rs 7.93 crore are under construction. Two tertiary-care cancer hospitals at IGMC-Shimla and Mandi have come up, besides the Centre has approved the building of a medical college each at Chamba, Hamirpur and Nahan. The government flagged off 50 rescue vehicles under the free 108 national ambulance service and came out with 102 drop-back ambulance service for expectant mothers and infants.

It claims to have brought 1.5 lakh families under National Health Insurance Scheme; and spent Rs 16.5 crore on the 100-bedded-lock project at Kamla Nehru Mother and Child Hospital, Shimla. Another 100-bedded hospital project at Zonal Hospital, Mandi, is worth Rs 5 crore. The government claims to have filled 200 posts of doctor, 200 of nurse, and more than 100 of pharmacist; and left with a 250 vacancies of doctor and 360 of paramedical worker. Record says it has opened 50 health institutions. It reintroduced free-travel facility for cancer patients, facility that the previous BJP regime had withdrawn.

Fast check-up

Rs 1050 crore spending on health sector in thecurrent financial year
1.5 lakh families brought under National Health Insurance Scheme

Tourism:Bad roads stand in the way of tourism growth

Promise: The government will train 5,000 tourist guides, make tourism policy

Performance: The Rs 5,000-crore Himachal Pradesh tourism industry that contributes 10% to the GSDP (gross state domestic product), remains far from sunrise. The state that earns about Rs 30 crore a year from tourism industry taxes has nearly 500 tourist guides. In its election manifesto, the Congress had promised to train 5,000 youth as tourist guides; and the official record suggests its government has, so far, trained nearly 1,000. When the Centre blocked monetary assistance because the state had failed to submit utilisation certificate, it derailed this employment-generating scheme.

The promised new tourism policy with separate action plans for different areas is also not delivered yet. Bad roads have hampered the growth of tourism in the hill state with insignificant train and air connectivity. Tourism infrastructure is inadequate. There are 2,769 hotels in the state with total bed capacity of 61,497. In addition to it, there are 500 home-stay units with another 1,350 rooms. Even popular tourist resorts that remain congested lack basic amenities, what to talk of developing new destinations. Seven ropeway projects are left hanging, while the much-hyped helicopter taxi service also has failed to take off. Tourist arrival in the state declined 6.30% in 2013 and has remained lean this year as well.

Rs 30 crore earning every year for the state government from tourism industry taxes
6.3% decline in tourist arrival as the road network in many areas remains poor

Education: Schools still cannot smell toilets

Promise: Education will be quality-based, with toilets in every school and free transport facility to the students.

Performance: Over the past two years, the government opened or upgraded 731 educational institutions. It opened 99 primary schools and 14 colleges; and upgraded 159 schools to the middle level, 234 to the high-school level, and 225 to the senior secondary level. It did manage to check the exodus of students from the government to the private schools. Notwithstanding its claims of quality education, 2,300 posts of primary and trained graduate teacher, 328 of school principal, and 132 of headmaster remain vacant.

The universities and colleges have 500 teaching and non-teaching vacancies, because of which, the universities failed to declare the results of different examination in time. An open independent journalism university remains a promise. The government launched RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan or National Higher Education Mission) but violent protests forced it to constitute a high-powered committee to review the proposed fee structure, on which the report is still awaited.

It did provide the students with free transport to the school and re-notified more than 130 schools that the previous BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government had de-notified. About creating toilets in each school, the CM had sought a report about four months ago. He is yet to receive the data. Of the 10,886 notified primary schools, 10,739 are functional; and of the 2,357 middle notified schools, 2,349 are running.

731 educational institutions opened or upgraded
500 posts in universities and colleges still empty

Agriculture/horticulture: Grapple with apple has not been fruitful

Promise: Subsidies will be given to increase the area under, agriculture, horticulture, and irrigation; and on anti-hail net, law to check spurious chemicals, cold chains, and post-harvest infrastructure for horticulture. Import duty on apple will be increased three times.

Performance: Agriculture and horticulture contribute about 15% to the GDP (gross domestic product) of the state, where 80% area is rain-fed and a lot remains to be done to achieve the target of 40% area under irrigation projects.

The proposal to build cold stores at every market yard is still pending with Agriculture Produce market Committee (APMC); while in the horticulture sector, the work on controlled atmospheric store is on in Parwanoo.

The government has launched Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar self-employment programme with a target of building 4,700 poly houses in the current financial year.

Farmers will get 85% subsidy under Horticulture Technology Mission to set up poly houses. The project will be phased over three years and is expected to create 20,000 jobs.

After promising to increase the import duty on apple by three times, a major commercial fruit crop in six districts, the government failed to convince the Centre about it.

Against the promise of 80% subsidy for anti-hail net, it gives only Rs 50,000 to each farmer. The major achievement of the horticulture department is Rs 1,000 crore World Bank assistance, the first instalment of which will come in September 2015.

Farmers wait for the government to fulfil its promise of enacting a law to deal with spurious chemicals.

For quality apple produce, Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry signed a deal with Italian company Griba Nursery that prepared nearly 40,000 cultivars in the state.

15% contribution of farming to state’s gross domestic product
Rs 1,000 crore World Bank assistance secured

Employment: Neither job nor plan, training centres mushroom

Promise: Unemployment allowance will be given and new jobs created.

Performance: It was for the first time that any party had promised doles to the jobless in the state—Rs 1,000 a month to all who had finished Class 12. However, after taking over the reins, the Congress changed it to skill development allowance of Rs 1,000 to every youth enrolled in some skill development course. It led only to the mushrooming of training centres the operators of which flouted norms.

Record says that between May 2013 and this October, nearly 59,500 youths got unemployment allowance. The highest number, 14,240, was in Kangra, and the lowest, 58, in Lahaul and Spiti. The state has spent Rs 25 crore of the promised Rs 100 crore on this scheme ( Rs 52 lakh on advertisement, Rs 80 lakh on administrative expenses, and the rest on allowance). The government was short of employment-generation plan, as industry has stayed away since the Centre cut short the period of special package, while the state incentives failed to lure investors.

The lack of connectivity was the major hurdle in building units, even as the sites were identified. More than 10-lakh youth are registered as jobless. Unemployment rate has increased by 10%, with the addition of 1.61 lakh in two years, yet hundreds of government posts are vacant, with no record to prove that the regime guaranteed 70% jobs for Himachalis indeed in the units that came up in the state.

Job not done

59,500 youths given unemploymentallowance, says record
1.61 lakh youth added to 10-lakh joblessarmy in last two years

Fiscal health/economy: Begging Union govt for assistance

Promise: Efforts will be made to lower the fiscal and revenue deficit to increase revenue receipts.

Performance: Poor fiscal health was the biggest challenge that the Virbhadra Singh government faced in 2014. It lobbied hard for the central assistance package to redeem the situation. In the current fiscal, it has revenue receipt of Rs 16,522 crore and revenue expenditure of Rs 19,783 crore. In the Rs 23,613-crore budget, the salary bill alone is more than Rs 9,000 crore, pensions more than Rs 3,500 crore, and interest payments about Rs 4,500 crore. Debt and liabilities have risen to Rs 31,000 crore for the state that in the last fiscal had borrowed Rs 2,448 crore and this year against a loan cap of Rs 2,800 crore borrowed Rs 1,900 crore and applied for another Rs 200 crore as loan from the Reserve bank of India to pay salaries to 2.61 lakh employees.

In the 2013-14 fiscal, the state received Rs 1,350 crore as central assistance, and in the year 2014-15, the Centre allocated it funds based on the recommendation for the previous fiscal. Implementing the seventh pay commission recommendations will put an extra burden of Rs 3,000 crore on the state’s fast emptying coffers. The state pinned hopes on the 14th finance commission, but the new government at the Centre scrapped it. The prices of petroleum products dived, and the government increased VAT on petrol, hoping to collect Rs 50 crore. A cabinet subcommittee led by senior minister Vidya Stokes to cut wasteful expenditure considered generating more money from hydroelectricity, forest and mining but, so far, has yet not given any recommendation to.

Account book

Rs 23,613 crore total state budget
Rs 9,000 crore is just salary bill outof the total budget

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