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A Year of Suicides, Drought and Scams

Luck seems to be running out for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as parts of Maharashtra reel down amid drought and farmers’ suicide, writes Vivek Srivastava.

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Jan 11 2016 7:23PM | Updated Date: Jan 14 2016 3:03PM

A Year of Suicides, Drought and Scams

 A year ago or so when Bharatiya Janata Party rode to power in Maharashtra, corruption, courtesy Congress and its ally NCP, was a major issue. It had greatly helped the NDA to win the Assembly elections. Now as Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP steward of the State, completes a year in office, the chronic issue has once again bounced back. 

 
In the last one year the Fadnavis Government has been rocked by one scam or the other.
Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde has been accused of favouring a firm without following the rules. The Minister had allegedly cleared purchase of Chikki (a jaggery-based-peanuts-strewn snack), mats and books for Rs 206 crore without floating tenders. The same Minister was later embroiled in a ‘biscuit scam’ where it was alleged that she awarded contracts for its supply to a company without inviting tenders. 
 
Pankaja wasn’t the only Minister who faced corruption charges. Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde has been accused of awarding contract for fire extinguishers for schools, allegedly without a tender. The contract was worth Rs 191 crore. 
 
Failures of Fadnavis Government
 
Maharashtra continues to dogged by farmer suicides. According to reports Maharashtra reported highest ever farmer suicides in 2015. More than 2,500 farm hands have committed suicide since January 2015, the highest number of suicides since 2001. The State Gvernment recently announced a Rs 10,512 crore package for farmers. Agriculture sector suffered the most under the Fadnavis Government and registered negative growth of 12 percent in 2014-15.
 
The State has now accumulated debt of a whopping Rs 338,730 crore. It is largest in India among all states. The debt burden has forced Maharashtra to be one of the highest interest paying states in the country. The State Finance Minister has said that the Government might take loans at 4 percent interest from foreign nations for developmental purposes. Slowdown in the realty sector has also affected the revenue collection of Maharashtra Government. The State GDP growth fell to 5.7 percent in 2014-15 as compared to 7.3 percent in the previous year and manufacturing growth too fell drastically from 2.5 percent to mere 0.5 percent.
 
The Fadnavis Government received severe criticism after it issued a circular that can invoke sedition charges for criticising political establishment. The decision was later withdrawn by the State Government. 
Despite Maharashtra government coming under Opposition attack for the rising crime rate in the State, the centralised women helpline number 181 has failed to assist women in Mumbai as it is functional only between 10 am and 6 pm. Crime rate under Fadnavis Government has gone up by 17 percent. 
 
What worked for Fadnavis Government 
 
In order to tackle the drought in the State, Fadnavis Government has undertaken a Jalyukt Shivar initiative (a water conservation programme) that will make 25,000 villages drought-free in the next five years. This time Maharashtra Government was forced to declare drought in 14,708 villages. 
 
The State Government has also cut down the number of approvals required for setting up industrial units. Permissions required to set up businesses have been brought down from 75 to 25.  Time-bound single window approvals and incentives to manufacturers are some of the few measures that the Government has taken to promote industry in the State. The State secured one of the biggest Foreign Direct Investment projects in the country when it inked a $5 billion deal with an electronic manufacturer. 
 
The finance department has revised Government procurement policy and now e-tendering is compulsory for every purchase above Rs 3 lakh. This has been done to curb corruption in Government departments. 
In a citizen friendly step, the Government has begun the implementation of the Maharashtra Guarantee of Public Services (MGPS) Act, known as Right to Services. This will enable the citizens to avail services in time bound manner. The other people friendly step that the State Government took was to abolish toll tax. The Government has so far shut down as many as 12 road toll plazas.