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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Yogi Adityanath has laid the foundation for a new UP

Yogi Adityanath has laid the foundation for revitalising UP through Execution – of a strategic development plan and welfare measures, Efficiency in allocation of state resources and Enforcement of rules (3 Es)

analysis Updated: Oct 27, 2018 17:33 IST
Saket Misra
Saket Misra
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya nath in Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya nath in Lucknow(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT PHOTO)

He wore saffron with confidence – signifying renunciation – but it made the Left “establishment” see red. He spoke what he believed, discarding political correctness. Then,Yogi Adityanath in one of his first acts as CM, fulfilled a promise: waiving off thousands of crores worth farmer loans. The Cassandras were quick – Uttar Pradesh would be lawless, go bankrupt, become more backward.

Eighteen months later, a different reality is emerging. Yogi Adityanath has laid the foundation for revitalising
UP through Execution – of a strategic development plan and welfare measures, Efficiency in allocation of state resources and Enforcement of rules (3 Es).

Uttar Pradesh has suffered from poor execution – where funds were returned to the Centre unutilised or overly narrowly focused execution of schemes to benefit particular vote banks. There is now a broad-based push along all key aspects of UP’s socio-economic set up. District administrations have been buttressed by a senior nodal officer from Lucknow as well as an “area” minister to monitor execution and help cut red tape. District level reviews are not small, closed door meetings with little follow up, but a vibrant, cross-functional “town hall” involving all key officers – be it irrigation, or police or education. Local representatives – MLAs, MPs – are present to validate, question and be questioned. There is no scope for ducking and “we will get back to you”. In fact, in a recent meeting, attempts to paper over shortcomings were quickly discovered through the eagerness to avoid taking responsibility. Underscoring the impactful monitoring is the CM – his grassroot understanding allows him to break through the “static” and take a call on course corrections.

The effect is a reduction in inertia and almost secular improvement across most parameters. 1.4 crore toilets constructed, nearly 1.5 crore new children joining primary education, over 5 million new electricity connections and approaching 1.1 million in homes for families all indicate real, ground-level change. More important for sustainable development is the emphasis on giving people tools like soil health card, access to “seed” financing for entrepreneurs and farmers. Simple steps, but revolutionary in the context of what UP’s residents have become accustomed to.

Waiving farm loans was easier than funding it. The answer was found in improving efficiency. Removing duplicate funding was a major step. A glaring example were stretches of UP roads that were supposedly financed with central, MP, state and village funds – yet were pothole-covered within months. Responsibility is now divided for infrastructure investments – releasing resources and better fixing accountability for work done, or not done. State investment has been dovetailed into central schemes – instead of operating in isolation. Another element was to build on the momentum for Aadhaar and direct benefit transfers.

Revalidation of BPL cards, direct transfers to farmers for procurement, removing “proxy” employees, especially teachers from payrolls have helped. They are also successfully breaking the cycle of cost overruns. Whether it was the Gomti riverfront, stretches of state highways, or flood prevention works, almost nothing was completed on time and almost everything saw huge cost overruns. The CM and his team have dug deep into these overruns and almost magically, requests for additional funding have been reduced by half or more. Potential savings are in the thousands of crores of rupees. One suspects, erstwhile beneficiaries of the “leakage” economy are not thrilled. When Yogi presented a budget with no new taxes, the impact of efficiency was self-evident.

Enforcement has been the Yogi government’s third pillar. Not just police action but the broader rule of law. Strong action was initiated against criminal gangs – especially in western UP. There has been huge success in reducing the scourge of cheating. Centralised examination locations and CCTV monitoring has worked wonders. One hears of instances where invigilators receive calls from the monitoring centre to check on particular students in particular rooms trying to cheat. Similarly, there has been an effort to make community leaders especially MLAs/MPs conscious of their duty to push for action rather than complain. For simple issues like pumps not working in villages – Yogi exhorted MLAs to hold sarpanchs responsible – and if there was a hint of misappropriation of funds then lodge a FIR. Baby steps, but in the right direction.

A strong base for a new UP has been prepared. Much remains to be done – sustainable improvement in law and order needs time, the cancer of corruption needs to be dealt with and the administrative machinery has to be modernised and energised. Most of all, the basics needs – health, education and livelihood must be provided to all. 325 seats were a vote of hope. Yogi Adityanath may be converting people’s hope into a rediscovery of faith in governance and development.

Saket Misra is an investment banker

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 17:33 IST