Several civil society groups are stepping up pressure on the government for what they call its failure to honour most of the key promises made in the National Common Minimum Programme (CMP).
In a sharp indictment of the government’s implementation of CMP in the past three years, the groups said it had failed to back up its commitments in education, health, employment and security with resources or clear accountability. The Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, or the Don’t-Break-Your-Promise campaign, a front for 19 civil society groups, will follow through with an extensive report card for the government, put together by over 500 such groups. “It is clear that the progressive elements of the alliance have been sidelined and henceforth, the agenda would be decided by the champions of privatization, liberalization and globalization,” said Amitabh Behar, convenor of the front and executive director of the National Centre for Advocacy Studies.
He claimed that the government was also diluting its few progressive initiatives such as the Right to Information Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Recognition of Forest Rights Act by encouraging regressive and revenue-exempting schemes such as SEZ, which was “a euphemism for shameless land grab by private interests”.
In the rural employment scheme that started in February 2006, only 55% of the funds have been utilized and a total of 39 days of work generated on average in 250 districts. It is a pity, said Anindo Banerjee of the front, that even when 8-9% of rural people don’t have work every day and 66% of rural women are landless labourers, states can’t find a way to spend the money.
Assessing the commitment to basic services such as education and health, Yamini Mishra of the Centre for Budget Governance and Accountability said it was clear that the government would miss its target of education and health spending reaching 6% and 3% of GDP. The average for the past three years was only 2.8% spending by the Centre and states for education and 1.4% for health.
The education cess, launched to supplement the government’s plan spending, has ended up substituting it, said the centre. The government’s allocation has declined from 68% of total expenditure on education in 2001-02 to 35% in 2007-08. By deciding to use the additional 1% cess introduced this year for funding higher education, the government is also seen as having left primary education to the private sector, said the centre.
As for the ASHA (accredited rural health activist) scheme under the National Rural Health Mission, the groups found that only 10 lakh health days (days when health services were given out) were created in six states by 4.35 lakh of ASHAs. This year is important for the government as it is at the mid-point on three counts, said B. Muralidharan of Oxfam GB, the UK relief and development organization: It is a mid-point for the millennium development goals target year of 2015, the mid-point of the 12th finance commission (2005-10) as well as of the current government’s term.
Yet, the government’s performance has changed the mood of the common man and civil society from enthusiastic to one of despair and struggle, said Muralidharan.