S P E C I A L  R E P O R T

Had a plot, lost it to scams
As the UPA goes to the voter, it has a long list of achievements, from poverty alleviation to the land Bill, yet the only question from the people is going to be on corruption and the economy. The Cong will struggle for an answer.

So the time for the voter to do a reality check on the current Central government’s five-year tenure is here. Whichever way she looks at it, she’ll be confused. A quick sum-up, as The Tribune has done here, would show that barring economy, UPA 2 did reasonably all right, ‘fair’ you may call it, and yet the lead ruling partner, the Congress, is expected to reap one of its worst harvests. The irony stems from the overwhelming presence of the ‘mega scams’ that buffeted the government at regular intervals.

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Specific sectors had their ironies too. The MGNREGS was attacked for leakages, yet it continued to be an effective tool of wealth distribution. Women faced some of the worst outrages, yet the tenure saw the most momentous changes in law for them. Food output increased steadily, and yet farmers are at a crossroads. Telecom saw the biggest scams, and also the most growth. Pressing the EVM button will require one clear head!

Stains that will be hard to hide

File photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

2-G licences

Licences for the allocation of second generation of wireless telephony, ‘2-G spectrum’, were made on the first-come first-served basis. The allocations were done in 2010 when mobile telephony in India did not require ‘help’ and there was need for open bidding. A Raja, Telecom Minister and UPA partner DMK MP, avoided that and hid behind a policy formulated 10 years ago. The Telecom Regulatory Authority figures for September 2010 say India had 68 crore mobile connections — a huge market — when Raja decided to allocate additional spectrum. The CAG estimated a loss of Rs 1,76,000 crore.

Coal blocks

Policy was misused under the garb of doling out licences to extract coal. The CAG in March 2012 estimated that during 2004-2009, coal blocks were allocated to companies without looking at revenue earnings. There was ‘windfall gain’ to the person who got these blocks, estimated at Rs 1,85,591 crore. The CBI probe is on.

Commonwealth Games

There were allegations of wrongdoings and corruption in the holding of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Organisers led by Suresh Kalmadi, a Congress MP from Pune, had made purchases at outlandish prices. A sum of Rs 28,000 crore had been budgeted for various works and paid by the government. A toilet paper roll that would cost Rs 20 a piece was purchased at a cost of Rs 3,757. Air-conditioners were rented at Rs 4 lakh a piece. The organising committee tried to defend it instead of correcting the wrong. The CBI has registered 19 FIRs in the case.

Black money

Hasan Ali Khan, a businessman charged with money laundering, has reportedly $ 8 billion (Rs 48,000 cr) of unaccounted money stashed in foreign bank accounts. His was just an example. A foreign bank gave out names of Indians who had been depositing huge amounts in European banks. A committee was set up to uncover black money. But there is little to show.

Devas-Antrix deal

The allocation of precious S-band spectrum of wireless communication without any bidding to Devas Multimedia, a private firm, in a deal between Antrix Corporation and the commercial wing of ISRO, led to a furore. The government scrapped the controversial deal to avoid a loss of Rs 2 lakh crore to the exchequer.
Ajay Banerjee

Half-hearted approach

The good
Lokpal Bill: PM will be under its purview. Will have power over CBI prosecution wing.

Whistleblowers: Whistleblowers Protection Bill lends a protective armour to whistleblowers.

Not white: A high-powered committee has been set up to track black money.

The bad
Bills on hold: Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations; Prevention of Corruption; Public Procurement; Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances; and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.

The bottom line..

Lokpal was brought in too late. It failed to change public perception. 

Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs
Grain production up, troubles remain

The good
Food security: Eligible households will get 5 kg food grain per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1 per kg, respectively, for rice, wheat and coarse grains.

Sugar decontrol: Sugar prices remained under control.

Revolution: Efforts are on to take Green Revolution to the North-east.

Nutri-farms: Stress on new crop varieties rich in micro-nutrients.

MSP up: Increase in MSP by over 100 per cent between 2004-05 and 2013-14.

More credit: For 2013-14, the target of agriculture credit flow increased to Rs 7,00,000 crore.

Enough grains: The 11th Plan saw an increase in grain production of over 173.38 million tonnes over the 10th Plan period.

Silos: Creation and modernisation of scientific storage capacity increased. The FCI storage space increased from 238.94 lakh tonnes in 2008 to 384.97 lakh tonnes in 2013.

GM crops: Field trials of GM crops have begun, much to the disappointment of activists.

The bad
Grains rot: Storage losses are down by 99 per cent from 2.5 per cent to ‘just 0.006 per cent of the total production during the past five years’. The storage capacity of FCI is 76.79 MT. An RTI query revealed 17,500 tonnes of grain in its godowns were destroyed in the past three years.

PDS loopholes: The government claims improvement in grain management but measures taken so far have not plugged loopholes in the system. Half of the PDS grain is siphoned off, say sources.

Dependence: Dependence on monsoon, and imports to meet the demand for pulses and oilseed continues.

The bottom line

When the economy was in the doldrums, agriculture managed a decent growth rate, largely due to hardworking farmers. Against a target of 4 per cent growth over the 11th Plan period, India managed around 3.64 per cent. The UPA may consider the Food Security Act an achievement but it failed to control widespread pilferage of grains in the PDS. The government admits 25-30 per cent leakage and pilferage in the PDS. Storage has increased but there have been a lot of issues in the states like Punjab, where due to lack of facilities, tonnes of grains have rotted in the past.
—Vibha Sharma

Amending laws to keep women safe

The good
Harassment: The historic Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2012 Bill passed covering even domestic workers. The Bill made it mandatory for all firms with 10 or more workers to set up complaints committees.

Getting tough: Criminal law (IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act) amended to make punishment for sexual assault and offences stringent and enhance the definition of rape to include new crimes.

In the net: Under the new legal framework, prominent people were held accountable for sexual assault including former Tehekla editor Tarun Tejpal, former Supreme Court Judge AK Ganguly and ‘godman’ Asaram and his son.

Protecting kids: Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act was passed to protect children at homes, in custody and in care.

The bad
Gay rights: The Supreme Court upheld Section 377, IPC, which declares homosexuality as a criminal act. A review petition of the government was rejected.

Khaps untamed: Khap panchayats continued their diktats to regulate the behaviour of young couples, ordering the gang-rape of a girl in West Bengal to punish her for loving a man from another community. The Centre lost the opportunity to pass a separate law to deal with ‘honour’ crimes. A group of ministers was set up and disbanded silently.

Girl child: About 30 to 70 million girls are ‘missing’ since 1950. The PNDT Act is not working efficiently. So far, only 93 convictions have taken place under the Act which came into force in 1994. Hardly any doctor has lost licence though the MCI is supposed to act.

The bottom line

The last five years of UPA rule were marked by brutal crimes against women. The shocking gang-rape of a 23-year-old in Delhi led to a national outcry that resulted in amendments to an archaic criminal law. The definition of rape and sexual assault was widened and life term prescribed for sexual crimes. New crimes like stalking were acknowledged. A law to prevent sexual harassment of women at workplace. The law is deficient as it was not gender neutral. A low point was the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Section 377.
—Aditi Tandon

Slow, but on road to self-reliance

The good
Nuclear missile: INS Airhant is set for sea trials.

AGNI-V: Nuclear-tipped missile AGNI-V has been tested.

Aircraft carriers: One aircraft carrier from Russia and the other is under construction in India, indicating a rise of the Navy.

Indigenous: Tejas is ready for induction into the IAF. Arjun tanks have also been inducted

Naval satellite: Dedicated naval satellite Rukmini has been launched.

Warships: An increasing number of naval warships are being built.

Strike corps: Mountain Strike Corps has been formed to ward off threat from China.

Fighter aircraft: Fifth-generation fighter aircraft designs are being worked with Russia.

Coastal radars: A chain of 46 coastal security radars have been installed.

Pension sop: The much sought-after one-rank one-pension demand for retired personnel has been accepted.

Airfields: Modernisation of airfields is being undertaken.

The bad
Fighter jets: Over five years delay in the purchase of 126 fighter jets from France (Rafale) is a sore point. MiG-21 should have been phased out. No jets have been bought other than 42 Sukhoi 30-MKI from Russia.

Artillery: Not a single gun has been bought since the 1980s. Artillery guns are so short that Bofors guns are being cannabalised to meet spares.

Helicopters: No decision on buying attack or heavy-lift helicopters.

Rifles: No decision on the purchase of new rifles for troops, who continue to use 20-year-old design INSAS.

Submarine: Delay in submarine construction plan. No vessel has been built in 15 years.

Air defence: The induction of air defence guns and radars is slow.

The bottom line

AK Antony has been the longest serving Defence Minister but his overcautious approach is not helping. He is accused of stalling purchases on anonymous complaints. His focus on indigenous machinery will help India decrease its dependence on imports. Relations between the top brass of the forces and the MoD not congenial. While Gen VK Singh dragged the government to the Supreme Court over his age row, Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation stunned everyone. Questions are being asked why Antony accepted the resignation immediately.
—Ajay Banerjee

Bottomed out for now

The good
Lehman crisis: Many developed and emerging economies struggled since the 2008 Lehman crisis. India did better in comparison.

Less poor: About 140 million people pulled out of poverty.

Getting richer: Per capita income has risen almost threefold.

The leap: India produced 213 million tonnes of grains, now it is 263 million tonnes. Installed power capacity was 1,12,700 MW, today it is 2,34,600 MW. Coal production is up from 361 million tonnes to 554 million tonnes.

Direct transfer: Aadhar-based direct benefit transfer a big rollout.

The bad
Growth down: From 8-9 per cent, growth down to around 5 per cent.

GDP low: The slowdown in GDP began in 2011-12. The growth rate declined from 7.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 4.4 per cent in 2013-14.

Inflation: Inflation has been high due to fiscal expansion and rise in prices of food, oil and services or lack of capacity addition in manufacturing.

Investment: Lack of clearances, policy paralysis, fear factor in bureaucracy and activism on corruption delayed projects. Last year, Cabinet Committee on Investments cleared Rs 6.6 lakh crore worth of projects but it was too late as projects have a gestation period.

Shady deals: Allegations of scams and crony capitalism hit decision making. CAG reports and activists spooked business confidence.

Gas plans: The LPG subsidy plan has been put on hold.

The bottom line

There was a lull in policy making and disruption in business confidence. The UPA acted towards the fag end of its tenure, but it was too late. Fiscal instability and high deficits depreciated the rupee.
—Sanjeev Sharma

Foreign Policy
Getting it wrong, mostly

The good
Trade link: Economic and trade relations with Pakistan have improved.

Border pact: Border Defence Cooperation Agreement has been signed with China; Land Boundary Agreement inked with Bangladesh; and Strategic Partnership Agreement signed with Afghanistan.

Binding ties: Strived to consolidate ties with major powers like the US, Russia and France; initiated ‘Look Middle East’ policy; and strengthened India’s engagement with Africa, East Asia and Latin America.

The bad
Going sour: Pakistan has made no sincere move to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Relations with Islamabad plummeted to a new low in 2013 due to repeated ceasefire violations and killing of Indian troops on the border. There has been an increase in transgression from the Chinese side. Ties with the US cooled somewhat and Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest in New York only increased tension.

N-deal: Initial euphoria over civil nuclear deals with major powers ebbed away due to strong reservations over India’s Civil Nuclear Liability Law. The N-deal with the US has hardly made any headway.

Wary investors: Prospective investors stayed away from India due to perceived policy paralysis.

Elusive seat: A permanent seat at the UN Security Council remains a distant dream.

The bottom line

Expectations were high from the UPA-II on foreign policy. However, India’s ties are far from satisfactory, not only with Pakistan or China, but also with the US, its strategic partner. Tension over the boundary dispute came to a head when China’s People’s Liberation Army pitched tents in the Ladakh sector in 2013. The issue was resolved after tense diplomatic negotiations. The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two Asian giants has not helped matters because of deep mutual suspicion. Relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are also strained. The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for India’s security are a cause of worry. The new government will be confronted with multiple challenges on the foreign policy and security front, considering NATO troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by the year-end.
—Ashok Tuteja

Polio-free India shows the way

The good
Polio out: In 2009, India reported 740 polio cases, half of the global burden. By 2011, polio infections dropped to zero. In 2014, WHO gave India a polio-free certificate.

Indigenous technologies: In 2010, the first indigenous HINI vaccine called Vaxiflu-S launched. In 2013, indigenous technologies for detection of thalassaemia, diabetes and screening of cervix cancer launched.

New vaccines: Hepatitis-B vaccine and second dose of measles vaccine included in universal immunisation programme in 2012. Pentavalent vaccine (combination vaccine for DPT, Hep B, Hib) introduced in eight states as preparation for India-wide launch.

More AIIMS: New AIIMS-like institutes set up in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur and Rishikesh.

Trials: Policy formulated for clinical trials by pharma firms and payment of compensation to volunteers in case of adverse effects.

The bad
NEET: The national entrance-cum-eligibility test in 350 medical colleges did not take off.

Health cover: Universal health coverage was promised, but could not be fulfilled.

Free medicine: The scheme to issue free medicines to patients in government hospitals failed to take off.

Neo-natal deaths: Over three lakh babies die within 24 hours of being born annually from preventable causes.

The bottom line

The UPA will be best remembered for its ability to free India of polio. Several indigenous low-cost technologies were developed for detection of medical conditions, including an H1N1 vaccine. Japanese encephalitis vaccine was launched this year but not until the infection claimed thousands of lives. New AIIMS-like institutes were set up and new MBBS and PG seats created, but medical education remained mired in corruption. The MCI’s elected character was restored with the Board of Governors being disbanded but transparency was lost when Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad transferred Union Health Secretary K Desiraju from the ministry this February. Desiraju had opposed the re-nomination of the tainted former MCI chief.
—Aditi Tandon

Green at the cost of growth

The good
Centre stage: In the past five years, the ministry became ‘the’ ministry from being ‘one of the many government departments’. Before Jairam Ramesh took over, ministers collaborated among themselves on mega projects, reducing the MoEF to a rubber stamp.

Awareness: Greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon became the talking points.

Transparency: Decisions put on the ministry’s website, bringing in transparency.

Talks: Consultations on environment-related issues recognised forest dwellers' rights. Niyamgiri is a case in point. In the bauxite mining project case promoted by the Vedanta group in Odisha, the ministry recorded ‘violations too egregious to be glossed over’.

Visibility: India’s global presence has increased.

Going green: The National Green Tribunal was set up.

Western Ghats: The Kasturirangan committee report was accepted. The report recommended ecologically sensitive area over 37 per cent of the Ghats under the Environment Protection Act.

GM crops: Veerappa Moily took over the charge and cleared field trials for transgenic crops.

The bad
Cover down: Forest cover down. The National Mission for a Green India has been launched.

Easy prey: Tigers and elephants continue to fall prey to man’s greed and lack of sensitivity.

Industry prevails: Environment impact assessment issues not addressed. No balance between development and economic issues and green concerns. Despite Jairam and his successor Jayanthi Natarajan ‘obstructionist’ attitude, industrialists won in most cases.

Not in tune: The ministry was out of sync with the government’s desperate attempts to push up the economic growth rate.

Red tape: Jayanthi was accused of causing ‘immense harm’ to the economy. Among the worst-hit in clearance delays is Coal India Limited, affecting 241 projects of the company. When Moily took over, clearances for 3,827 projects were pending and around 372 projects related to coal, mining, and infrastructure building awaiting clearance.

The bottom line

The working of the ministry depends on extraneous factors. Along with the passion for green issues, the country’s growth needs equal attention. The ministry can’t take extreme positions. Jairam’s ‘environmental activism’, demarcation of forests into ‘go and no-go’ zones for coal plants won him accolades from activists but invited flak from industrialists and his Cabinet colleagues. He had to clear steel, coal and N-power plant projects. To undo Jayanthi’s efforts, Moily had to be got in.
—Vibha Sharma

Social welfare
Will strong, structure weak

The good
MNREGA 2.0: The ‘game changer’ employment scheme of the UPA-I got a facelift. Asset creation was linked to the job scheme for rural poor, bringing sanity to the programme. MGNREGA had come under criticism from many quarters, including the CAG, for building no assets, creating useless work, increasing corruption and negatively affecting agriculture. MGNREGA 2.0 included 30 new works for creation of durable assets and improvement in rural productivity. The food and rural development ministries collaborated and the scheme was linked with construction of food storage godowns in rural areas.

Land Bill: The Land Development Bill was passed. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, was passed by Parliament, replacing the archaic 119-year-old legislation.

Road map: The second phase of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) catered to the states’ demands for increase in entitlement.

Naxal areas: Focus increased on Naxal-hit areas. Roshni, a placement linked skill development scheme targeting 50,000 rural men and women — mostly tribals — was launched in 24 worst-affected districts. The ministry supported the shift of additional Rs 1,000 crore from the second phase of the rural road project for road constructions in these areas.

Youth initiative: Himayat was launched in Kashmir in the face of hostile conditions created by Kashmiri separatists. Himayat initiative envisaged nearly 15,000 youth trained and placed in different jobs in the public and private sectors in a fiscal.

The bad
Suicides: Corruption in MNREGA could not be curbed. A recent report indicated that delay in the payment of wages led to suicides in Maharashtra. Apart from creating useless works, MNREGA continues to be charged with creating freeloaders and encouraging rampant corruption, including creation of fake pay rolls by unscrupulous elements in all states.

Unused funds: Utilisation of funds not completed in schemes like PMGSY. The ministry had to surrender the funds.

Non-starter: Himayat got poor response in the Valley. Officials lament ‘poor’ private

sector response to the programme. Only around 5,000-6,000 persons could be trained since the programme’s launch in 2011.

The bottom line

The ministry can be credited with good intentions. Efforts were made to plug rampant corruption in schemes like MNREGA through computerisation, but problems remain. The ministry’s efforts in Naxal-hit areas were encouraging.
—Vibha Sharma

Taking learning to different levels

The good
Mandatory accreditation: The UGC notified regulations making it compulsory for institutions imparting higher education to seek accreditation within six months.

RTE: The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 implemented from 2010. As many as 2,14,561 primary and 1,76,361 upper primary schools sanctioned; 96 per cent operational.

Higher education: 16 new central universities, IITs, IIMs, IISERs and NITs set up.

JEE: Single entrance test for Centrally funded technical institutions called JEE Mains started by scrapping AIEEE. IITs go in for an add-on JEE Advanced. Only top 1.50 lakh scorers eligible to take it.

Evaluation: Class X boards made optional; CBSE introduces continuous evaluation instead.

Test for teachers: Teachers must clear test to be eligible to teach.

The bad
RTE loopholes: The government drew flak for making a law that bars detention on grounds of non-performance. A government committee recommends end of the policy, saying lack of accountability leading to poor performance. Amendment not brought in.

Aakash blues: The low-cost access device Aakash failed to take off. Grounded: No big-ticket legislation proposed by former HRD Minister Kapil Sibal took off.

Confusion: The tenure of HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju was eclipsed by anti-Telangana protests. He resigned from Cabinet, bunked office for months and returned, keeping policy matters pending.

Deadly meals: Midday meal programme took a hit as 11 children died after consuming food at a school in Bihar.

The bottom line

The focus of higher education was to expand institutions to improve access. The RTE Act enabled entry of students to schools though targets have not been achieved. Access has improved, but quality issues remain. The Planning Commission stressed learning outcomes and quality and urged the government to create assessment systems. A single test for entry to all central technical institutions brought relief to students but IITs got away with an add-on test JEE Advanced. Major reform Bills could not be passed.
—Aditi Tandon

Could have grown faster, but for delays

The good
Tar track: Ten years ago, there was 51,511 km of rural roads, but now it is 3.89 lakh km; and 3,928 km of national highways. The National Highways Authority of India built or upgraded 17,394 km road. Investment in roads saw a 10-fold increase.

Power: There has been a push for infrastructure with addition of 29,350 MW of power capacity.

Rail link: About 3,343 km of new rail track and 217.5 million tonnes of capacity per annum in ports have been added. Railway network now carries 8,224 million people and more than one billion tonnes of goods every year. Fares rationalised for the first time in a decade.

Oil blocks: 19 oil and gas blocks have been given out for exploration.

Airports: Seven new airports are under construction.

Tele-density: In rural areas, tele-density went up 25 times. India has one of the lowest telecom prices in the world.

Diesel: A gradual correction of diesel prices has been initiated.

Licences: New bank licences and power distribution companies have been restructured.

Special zones: Eight national investment and manufacturing zones have been announced along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Nine projects have been approved. Three more corridors connecting Chennai-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata are in the pipeline.

The bad
Left idle: A lot of power capacity was idle due to lack of fuel linkages.

GST Bill: It remained in a logjam.

FDI: The policy on FDI in retail has been a non-starter.

Production: Industrial growth has hit decadal lows in the last one year. The manufacturing sector is challenged with lack of investment, affecting jobs. Imports from China have hurt small and medium industries.

The bottom line

The sector could have grown faster had it not been for several projects that got stuck due to delays in clearances, difficulty in land acquisition and allegations of crony capitalism and scams. The star performer was telecom with mobile connections crossing 90 crore (second biggest user in the world). This was made possible by increasing competition in telecom but allegations surfaced which led to what is called the 2G scam. Coal was hit by similar allegations.
—Sanjeev Sharma

Some efforts lost to disorder

The good
Input agencies: The Multi-Agency Centre has been set up to collate inputs of all agencies.

Database: A NATGRID has been formed to assemble information from 21 databases and keep an eye on black money.

Naxals: A series of steps have been taken to tackle Naxals. In the war against Naxals, the Home Ministry has an upper hand right now.

Terror: The National Investigation Agency and Intelligence Bureau have prevented terror attacks. They will face a challenge in the forthcoming elections especially in view of the threat by Pakistan-based Maullana Masood Azhar’s outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed to disrupt the polls.

Most wanted: Indian Mujahideen’s Yasin Bhatkal nabbed in Nepal. Saudi Arabia was convinced to hand over Abu Jundal, one of the masterminds of 26/11.

Blasts: Samjhauta train blasts accused were nabbed.

Crime: The Crime and Criminal Tracking Networked System has been put in place. The move has been welcomed by state police forces.

Border trade: More border trade facilities have been introduced with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The bad
Counterterrorism: A pan-India National Counterterrorism Centre could not be set up.

Probe: Could not extradite 26/11 mastermind David Coleman Headley from the US.

Talks: Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s visit to India was a disaster.

Marine case: The case of Italian marines was wrongly handled. The imposition of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act, 2002, was incorrect.

State panel: Failed to create a state reorganisation commission to address the demands for the creation of more states.

The bottom line

Anti-communal incidents have been reported from UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Communal Violence Bill, which would have empowered the Centre to send in forces in case of communal riots, was not tabled. The CBI-IB tussle could have avoided with deft handling. Former Home Secretary RK Singh accused Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde of interfering in the working of the Delhi Police. Shinde denied the charge and a spat ensued.
—Ajay Banerjee



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