Debate I Six Months Not Enough to Judge Adityanath’s Performance
Farmer loan waiver and curbing corruption are among the major highlights of Yogi sarkar’s six-month report card.
(As the BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh completes six months, The Quint debates whether the Yogi Adityanath-led government has been able to fulfil its promises. This is the Counterview. You may like to read the View by Juhie Singh here)
Yogi Adityanath inherited a limping state on 19 March 2017, a state where debt had risen two-and-a-half times in the past 10 years, where collective losses of 65 PSUs in 2011-12 stood at Rs 29,380.10 crore and rose to Rs 91,401.19 crore in 2015-16; where law and order situation was bad; roads were marred by potholes; 24X7 power was just a dream and corruption was rampant.
After the fiercely fought Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, when psephologists were busy predicting electoral results based on caste, religion and regional equations, I had predicted that - Whoever Wins On 11 March, Beware, UP Is A Big, Big Mess (published in Swarajya, 1 March 2017).
House-Keeping Has Begun
Every state has a historical governance capacity of its bureaucracy and polity. Poor governance and abysmal development indices of Uttar Pradesh still force the age-old BiMaRU (diseased) tag, even as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have successfully forced themselves away from this label.
When the house is in such a mess, what do you do? You first clean it. Initial six months of the Yogi sarkar were spent largely in house-keeping and setting the rules straight.
Reaching office on time, keeping offices clean, banning pan-gutkha at government offices, leaving the luxury of lazing around in camp offices, etc., hogged the lime light in the initial weeks. The technology platforms which are normal for any other better-governed state, were absent in UP.
Yogi, An Able Administrator
In today’s press conference, Yogi said that fifteen years of misrule can’t be undone in six months. In my book, The Monk Who Became Chief Minister, I have observed that even the detractors are pleasantly surprised by his administrative skills, focused moves and diligence in governance.
In the first month, all the ministers of the Yogi government spent time in learning about each other’s department in detail like studious students, with the chief minister himself being present during all the departmental presentations. These rigorous presentation sessions proved to be very productive for all the ministers, as they got to know each other, their strength, departments and most importantly the priorities of their boss – Yogi Adityanath.
During these presentations, to everybody’s surprise, Yogi displayed an amazing administrative knowledge, deep understanding of budgetary processes and government procedures.
Yogi’s teammates and the bureaucracy have realised that his two decades of tireless interventions in the Parliament, his ground work in his constituency and administration of various large scale institutions of the ancient Gorakhnath Mutt, made him a natural leader and an able administrator.
Cabinet Meetings: Mayawati-Mulayam vs Yogi
Mr SP Singh Baghel, one of the senior ministers in the Yogi cabinet, who has spent years in the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, when asked during the Aaj Tak Panchayat interview about the differences he saw in the governance style said that during Mayawati’s government, the cabinet used to sit for 3.5 to 7 minutes, during Mulayam’s time, the cabinet used to sit for 15 minutes and now let alone the cabinet meeting, even for departmental presentations, all the ministers and senior officers are sitting till late night.
On a lighter note, Mr Baghel added that a very few of them may have seen back-to-back shows at 6 pm and 9 pm of even the super-hit movies, but they all sat from 6 pm to 12 am for a month to understand each other’s department and to learn about the government.
Farm Loan Waiver, a Judicious Move
The media spent initial weeks in massive reporting and mis-reporting. Anti-Romeo squads were misunderstood as moral policing and banning illegal slaughterhouses was reported as beef ban and an anti-minority step. But public support continued to pour in for Yogi’s moves. Like cricketer Mohammad Kaif’s tweet:
With public acceptance of these moves, the media moved on to more serious issues.
The farmer belts of west and east UP voted heavily for BJP in the Assembly elections of 2017. Farm loan waiver and timely payment of sugarcane dues, were two important promises for the large farming community of Uttar Pradesh and true to their word, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to waive farm loans totaling Rs 36,359 crore, in its very first cabinet meeting on 4 April.
Loan waiver got good reception from farmers, barring a little embarrassment faced by the government by the list published in new papers topped by 9 paisa farm loan waiver.
But little investigation revealed that it was a legitimate leftover unpaid amount of some farmers, who have repaid major part of their loans. Moreover, out of 86 lakh farmers who were benefitted through this loan waiver, there are only some 4,500 odd cases where these small amounts were reimbursed.
I am personally not a big votary of farm loan waivers, but when a patient is crying on the road after a brutal accident, we have to take him to a hospital first, and later spend time designing better road safety solutions.
But this farm loan waiver in Uttar Pradesh may open a Pandora’s box of similar demands from other farming states.
Fulfilling Poll Promises
Similar speed was shown in fulfilling other poll promises made by BJP to the sugarcane farmers. Mills were given a stipulated time to clear the arrears and what followed is history. More than Rs 5,000 crore was paid by the mill owners in a matter of few weeks. Suresh Rana, UP’s Sugarcane Development Minister proudly tweeted:
Transparency in purchase of 37 metric ton of wheat through 5000 buying centres was also well-received by the farmers.
The Yogi government had set a target for 100 days. They completed many and missed a few. Yogi government promised to make over one lakh km of road as pothole-free, but missed the target and was able to complete only 80,000 km.
Yogi inherited a state with bad law and order condition. UP has a very low police to population ratio owing to 1.5 lakh vacant police vacancies. The Yogi government pursued persistently with courts and initiated the process of recruitment of 46,000 police personnel.
We have observed far better synchronization of implementation of central schemes like PM Awas Yojna and others under the Yogi government. Through technology and basic first level scrutiny, some 33 lakh bogus ration cards were cancelled. Minister for food supply, Atul Kumar took a special team to Chattisgarh to learn from their much talked about PDS model.
Kudos for ‘Power for All’ Mission
What attracted even the detractors’ attention was mission ‘Power for all’. No one should miss cabinet minister Piyush Goyal’s viral video (1 April 2017) of taking UP power department’s officials head-on against any possible corruption. People in the power corridors of UP started joking – the gunda-gardi of Samajwadi Party has returned again, but in a different format; now the corrupt are at the receiving end.
Noted journalist, Swaminathan Aiyer, who went to UP, with a single agenda of exploring possible problems among minorities due to ban on illegal slaughter houses, was forced to report on the innovative steps taken by the Yogi sarkar. He dedicated one Swaminomics to the UP Power phenomenon. In his article, Swami said:
Following Modi’s footsteps, Yogi is also cracking down on power theft, raising tariffs appropriately, planning to provide meter and power supply to almost all villages, and bifurcating electric feeders to villages. As a result, in April-June quarter, electricity supply rose by 18 percent while revenue jumped 30 percent, reflecting better collection.
Gorakhpur’s BRD college tragedy has shown the pathetic condition of health apparatus, which the Yogi government has inherited. After initial mayhem around the supply of oxygen, the media and opposition realised soon that Japanese Encephalitis is the cause and not lack of oxygen. When debaters from the opposition parties were not even able to pronounce ‘Japanese Encephalitis’ properly, Yogi led from the front and showed the world how he has fought against the menace over decades, and made it part of the necessary vaccination list in the region. What Yogi government failed to do is to communicate the issue in the best possible manner to the people.
Ministers are Completely In-Charge of Situation
In a state marred with blatant corruption, Yogi’s ministers were seen conducting various unannounced surprise checks around the state and many small and big enquiries were set up. Rally expert-turned-transport minister, Swatantra Dev Singh, was particularly seen catching unauthorised private buses, stopping and seizing overloaded trucks, taking bus rides and cleaning toilets himself at bus stands.
All ministers were made in-charge of one or more districts (zila prabhari mantri) and regular monitoring is slowly becoming part of the system. It’s only six months since Yogi and his ministers took charge of their ministries. Many of them are first timers and may have initial troubles. It’s too early to give a verdict, but initial months look quite promising.
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