Head­ing to­wards a cliff

As In­dia elects new govern­ment, the 12th Five Year Plan may no longer be pro-poor

Down to Earth - - FRONTPAGE - KUN­DAN PANDEY

MUCH hope is pinned on the 12th Five Year Plan that was de­clared as the first health Plan by Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh. The United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance ( UPA) govern­ment, while draft­ing the Plan, also termed it “pro-poor” and promised the max­i­mum budget for so­cial wel­fare schemes. But as the Plan comes into force this fis­cal year, two years af­ter it was to roll out, un­cer­tain­ties shroud its key agenda.

In­dia is elect­ing new govern­ment. In case of change of govern­ment, the terms of ex­ist­ing Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­bers will come to an end. The new govern­ment with its new team will look afresh at the Plan. If it finds UPA’s flag­ship safety net pro­grammes, such as the Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Scheme ( MGNREGS), the Food Se­cu­rity Bill, Na­tional Health Mis­sion ( NHM) and Right to Ed­u­ca­tion, as bur­den, it may change the fo­cus of the Plan. Be­sides, the Plan rolls out at a time when it is set for mid-term re­view.

Pos­si­ble changes

The new govern­ment will not be able to scrap any scheme be­cause these have the ap­provals of Par­lia­ment and the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil. “But it can re­design the schemes,” says Saibal Gupta of the Asian De­vel­op­ment Re­search In­sti­tute. “The na­ture of change will de­pend on the party that comes to power be­cause a govern­ment im­ple­ments its man­i­festos through five year plans,” he adds.

The Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) in the op­po­si­tion, which, ac­cord­ing to exit polls, is emerg­ing as the sin­gle largest party, has in­di­cated that its fo­cus will be on the eco­nomic growth of the coun­try. Past per­for­mance of BJP- led Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Al­liance ( NDA) shows that the party has never pri­ori­tised is­sues like poverty, hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion. Even for de­liv­er­ing ser­vices, the party is likely to rope in pri­vate play­ers. This has proved prob­lem­atic in past.

If the UPA is re-elected to power, it is likely to con­tinue its flag­ship pro­gra - mmes, but, ex­perts say, then qual­ity of de­liv­ery of these pro­grammes may de­te­ri­o­rate. The per­for­mance of re­gional par­ties— if they at all get a chance to lead the govern­ment—will be no bet­ter.

A key rea­son be­hind this is re­duced funds. The slow eco­nomic growth and con­se­quent less rev­enue may res­train govern­ment spend­ing. Ex­perts say the fo­cus of the Plan may un­dergo dras­tic changes to fit the re­duced budget.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­ber Arun Maira ad­mits that money will be a chal­lenge for the new govern­ment to run safety net pro­grammes. “The gap be­tween the re­quired and avail­able money, which is set to widen in fu­ture, has started af­fect­ing these safety net pro-

Redesign­ing of schemes un­der the 12th Plan is the need of the hour. The new govern­ment can use the op­por­tu­nity and im­prove the un­der­per­form­ing schemes — N C SAX­ENA, FOR­MER MEM­BER SEC­RE­TARY, PLAN­NING COM­MIS­SION The gap be­tween the re­quired and avail­able money has started af­fect­ing safety net pro­grammes. It will only widen in fu­ture — ARUN MAIRA, MEM­BER, PLAN­NING COM­MIS­SION UPA’s ini­tial enthusiasm to­wards so­cial wel­fare schemes is miss­ing. The sit­u­a­tion will worsen if NDA comes to power — ANANT PHADKE, JAN SWASTHYA AB­HIYAN, PUNE The na­ture of change will de­pend on the party that comes to power be­cause gov­ern­ments im­ple­ment their man­i­festos through five year plans — SAIBAL GUPTA, ASIAN DE­VEL­OP­MENT RE­SEARCH IN­STI­TUTE

grammes,” he told Down To Earth.

N C Sax­ena, for­mer mem­ber sec­re­tary of the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, elab­o­rates this: NHM, a govern­ment plan to merge the Na­tional Ru­ral Health Mis­sion with a sim­i­lar scheme for ur­ban people, failed to take off be­cause of fund crunch. In­te­grated Child De­velo pment Ser­vices Scheme still ex­clu des chil­dren un­der three de­spite the fact that mal­nu­tri­tion sets in at birth.

So any govern­ment will be­gin its term with more fo­cus on rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, for which it is likely to pro­mote in­dus­try and in­fra­struc­ture.

Civil so­ci­ety wary

Civil so­ci­ety groups who con­trib­uted to the Plan are dis­sat­is­fied with the way UPA han­dled the Plan. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion con­ducted an ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with civil so­ci­ety to make the 12th Plan in­clu­sive. As many as 900 or­gan­i­sa­tions had con­trib­uted to it. But the UPA govern­ment’s ini­tial enthusiasm to­wards so­cial schemes has gone miss­ing, ac­tivists say. In­stead, it tried to min­imise the fis­cal deficit by curb­ing so­cial ex­pen­di­ture.

A re­view of the last budget by non­profit Cen­tre for Budget and Gov­ern - ance Ac­count­abil­ity shows that the dif­fer­ence be­tween al­lo­ca­tions and ex­pen­di­tures in 2013-14 was ` 6,483 crore. The Cen­tre’s share in Cen­trally spon­sored schemes had de­clined by 17.4 per cent. The budget es­ti­mate for the Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment was ini­tially pegged at ` 74,478 crore for 2013-14, but it was slashed to ` 59,356 crore in the re­vised es­ti­mate for this year.

Anant Phadke from Jan Swasthya Ab­hiyan, an In­dian chap­ter of People’s Health Move­ment, says ini­tially while pre­par­ing the Plan, Plan­ning Com­mis sion chair­per­son Mon­tek Singh Ah­luwalia quoted rec­om­men­da­tions of the High Level Ex­perts Group ( HLEG), but did not in­clude those in the Plan. HLEG rec­om­mended in­creas­ing pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture on health to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP, but the Plan doc­u­ment rec­om­mends in­creas­ing the ex­pen­di­ture from 1 per cent of GDP at present to 1.58 per cent. The much awaited Uni­ver­sal Health Care is nowhere in the scene. Phadke says the sit­u­a­tion will only worsen if NDA comes to power.

Civil so­ci­ety groups are sus­pi­cious of new govern­ment’s moves. Sachin Ku­mar Jain from Vikas Sam­vad, a Bhopal- based non- profit, says, “The UPA govern­ment has for­mu­lated rights­based leg­is­la­tion but ex­pen­di­ture on schemes un­der the laws is low. The new govern­ment will fur­ther de­crease its fo­cus on these schemes.”

Find­ing the op­por­tu­nity

Sax­ena says po­lit­i­cal par­ties can use the op­por­tu­nity of redesign­ing pro­grammes to make non-per­form­ing pro- grammes deliver. Jhark­hand, Odisha and Bi­har are un­able to use funds un­der MGNREGS. It needs redesign­ing to max­imise the ben­e­fits it pro­vides.

Food Se­cu­rity Bill that prom­ises food grains to ben­e­fi­cia­ries at sub­sidised rates is an­other such ex­am­ple. Alakh Narain Sharma, di­rec­tor of In­sti­tute of Hu­man De­vel­op­ment, says im­ple­ment­ing sche mes un­der the law is a chal­lenge. So, the new govern­ment will have to pon­der over the model to make it sus­tain­able. Maybe the govern­ment can link the price of food grain to mar­ket price and pro­vide it to ben­e­fi­cia­ries at half or two-thirds of the rate, depend­ing on the need of the ben­e­fi­ciary, Sharma sug­gests.

Be­sides, while redesign­ing, the new govern­ment may opt for the pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship ( PPP) model for ser­vice de­liv­ery. So far, this model has gen­er­ated only de­spair where people feel all prof­its are taken by pri­vate play­ers at the cost of com­mon man. Mi­hir Shah, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion mem­ber and for­mer mem­ber of Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil that was set up to ad­vise the prime min­is­ter, em­pha­sises on the need to fix ac­count­abil­ity of pri­vate play­ers to make PPP mod­els ef­fec­tive.

The 12th Five Year Plan recog­nises in­clu­sive growth. If the new govern­ment ac­knowl­edges this fact, the only op­tion left is to re­design these schemes and make them sus­tain­able.

BUDHACHANDRA SINGH

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