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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Show how key infrastructure projects impact lives: PMO tells ministries

Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, PMO wants officials to find out if programmes have benefitted people.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2018 08:49 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with self help groups (SHG) Sahiya workers during the launch of Health Insurance Scheme in Ranchi, Sunday, Sept 23, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with self help groups (SHG) Sahiya workers during the launch of Health Insurance Scheme in Ranchi, Sunday, Sept 23, 2018.(PTI)

The Prime Minister’s Office has asked ministries in charge of key infrastructure projects and schemes to not just ensure the completion of these between August and March next year — the next parliamentary elections are due shortly after— but also showcase how these have changed lives for the better, according to the minutes of a August review meeting of the projects by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The unprecedented outcome monitoring points to one of the main election plans of the Bharatiya Janata party-led National Democratic Alliance government in next year’s elections. On August 2, the PM reviewed the status of rural and urban infrastructure projects, and other schemes across ministries — highways, houses for eligible families, railways.

The decision to focus on outcome based monitoring comes amidst frequent criticism from opposition parties that many projects and schemes have failed to deliver on the ground.

According to the minutes, the deadlines set by the PMO come with “action steps”, which aim to not just assess measurable outcome of schemes, like spending or asset creation, but their impact on beneficiaries’ life and living standards. For instance, all ministries have been told to carry out a study about the “positive impact on the environment” of various schemes of different ministries by October 31.

Besides, ministries have been directed to conduct internal workshops about the “good governance, innovation and efficiency increase which has been implemented in ministries and the benefits these have brought for improving the life of a common man.”

The PMO has also told all ministries to balance the budget in terms of “regional coverage” and that it should be “outcome oriented.”

Amitabh Kant, CEO of federal think tank NITI Aayog said such outcome-based monitoring has led to reforms in many key sectors including education and health. “Such monitoring helps to check if what is said in review meetings about a scheme is actually getting translated on the ground. This also ensures that the Centre, states and districts works in tandem,” he said. Kant was among the about two dozen officers who attended the August 2 meeting chaired by Modi.

Public policy experts, however, are of the view that an outcome based monitoring won’t be of much help as long as the government does not address gaps in implementation.

“This government is in a hurry to get the various schemes and programs off the ground. It has opened up far too many programs, some of which have episodic impacts. The reason is poorly designed policies and schemes, which makes their implementation problematic,” said Sebastian Morris, professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.  He said the real failure is the top down approach of the government where inputs from those with their feet on the ground, stakeholders, civil society are not encouraged.

“This is despite the success of the Jyoti Gram Yojna in Gujarat, since the problems at the national level cannot all be projectised but require innovations in design and the right organisations, besides coordination across multiple departments,” Morris said. Among the infrastructure ministries, the main focus areas of the government are roads , housing, railways, aviation, and ports.

For instance, the rural development ministry has been directed to expedite provision of land to 3.94 lakh landless eligible beneficiaries by December while the housing ministry has been told to finalise the national urban rental policy and model tenancy act by October.

Rajiv Kumar, NITI Aayog’s vice chairman said this kind of outcome-based monitoring helps in improving not only delivery of service but speedy implementation on the ground.