Soon after it took charge, the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) launched, or rather re-launched, flagship schemes in five key areas—financial inclusion (Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana or PMJDY), sanitation (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan), cooking fuel (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana), skills (Pradhan Mantri Kasushal Vikas Yojana or PMKVY), and rural electrification (Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana or DDUGJY)—even as it boosted spending on the rural roads programme (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana).

Four years down the line, how does the government’s record look?

If one goes by the headline numbers, the record looks very impressive on most counts. A closer look at the numbers suggests that the picture may be less rosy. Nonetheless, the government’s overall record on flagship schemes, despite the caveats, appears more impressive than its macro-economic record. Whether it is enough to convince voters or not will be known only in the 2019 general elections.

The financial inclusion initiative, PMJDY has perhaps been the most ambitious of all the flagship schemes. The PMJDY has emerged as one of the world’s largest financial inclusion programmes, and we have independent evidence showing that 80% of adults and almost all households now have access to banking in the country.

Yet, the share of people with inactive accounts is also the highest in the world, as a recent Plain Facts column pointed out, suggesting that not all beneficiaries of the scheme have been able to reap the full benefits of the scheme.

Data and ground reports lead us to similar conclusions about the Ujjwala scheme as well. While the scheme seems to have raised the number of households with LPG connections, its impact on LPG consumption has been far less.

On some schemes, the data quality raises concerns about the extent of the progress made. For instance, the most recent data on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan from the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) conducted in 2017-18 shows a rapid rise in rural toilets, almost all of which are being used by the beneficiaries. However, several experts have raised questions on the numbers, especially those relating to usage.

There are questions about the rural electrification numbers as well. While the focus of the electrification programme has rightly shifted to increased coverage (or intensive electrification) from mere access earlier, the data on the number of households have a number of inconsistencies, as a Plain Facts column earlier this year pointed out.

Four of the five states which reported the biggest rise in the rural household electrification rate between February 2017 and December 2017 as per DDUGJY reports actually saw a decline in the total number of households, inflating the metric. Further, ground reports indicate that there may be biases in the reported numbers.

Finally, in some schemes such as the rural roads programme, while there has been impressive progress, the rate of progress is not unprecedented. During the first term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the pace of rural road-building was faster.

The one big failure has been the skills initiative, PMKVY, which has failed to make much of an impact. Job placements under the scheme has been poor even as the scheme ended up enriching private institutes which offered, or claimed to offer, vocational training to youth, a 2017 report set up by the government said. Had this scheme worked as promised, the government would have been able to show a better record on the jobs front.

This is the concluding part of a two-part data journalism series on the performance of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government over the past four years.

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