Virbhadra Govt

The Himachal Pradesh CPM has termed two years of incumbent Congress led state government as dismal and accused it for following the footsteps of its predecessor BJP.

CPM leader Tikender Panwar, in his press communiqué, said the Congress had come to the power in state on the promises to provide good governance, corruption free administrative set up, fair inquiry against land and forest mafia, generating employment opportunities in the state, improving financial health of the state etc, however, it did exactly opposite to what it promised.

On the state of the economy

Probably the state is passing through its worst period and is reeling under a debt of Rs 30,000 crores. Even the salary of the employees is being paid by taking loan from the different agencies like the RBI, World Bank and by borrowings from the open market. It was felt that the government would raise its demand of having a greater share in the equity in the hydro power projects to get more revenue however the condition happens to be more miserable. The states economy is unable to provide a minimum level of employment, unemployment is on the rise. It has jumped from 3.03 % to over 23.13 % in a decade. Earlier 68.64% of the registered unemployed were provided a job; now the number has sharply declined to just 0.34% in 2011 which is actually nothing. This shows the basic crisis of the state and which has an inter linkage with the services being provided to the people.

The depth of the crisis can be understood from the fact that the state has become one of the most debt stressed state in the country. The state’s debt to GSDP ratio in the year 2012-13 is at 39.18% which is almost double in comparison to the all India’s i.e. 20.51%. This high debt is affecting the state’s developmental expenditure as a large chunk of the budget is usurped by the non plan part as interest and loan repayment and pre empting resources for development. The situation is so grave that the government in order to meet its committed liabilities of salaries, pensions, DA etc is forced to resort to various kinds of borrowings. It is even exhausting the entire amount of authorised debt which is Rs 2477 crores that is 3% of the state GSDP. This shows that the per capita debt would increase to Rs 79, 957 /-.

The CPM has stated these two years review on the fiscal front shows not only a grim picture but also the ineptness of the government to meet this crisis where a multi pronged approach is required. Without addressing this basic contradiction the government is a mere municipality even worse than that where the non plan part is guiding the economy of the state without any scope for the plan revenue expenditure to advance developmental activities.

Neo Liberal path: An attack on the services

Now, in absence of the government’s capacity to meet up the demands of the people, the state government has resorted in fact strengthened its resolve to the neo liberal agenda, which means passing on the buck to the private under the guise of PPP.

The Himachal Pradesh unlike others had a relatively developed services sector but the previous years and especially the last two has seen the severest attack on this sector. In the Irrigation and Public Health department 21% of the posts of AE’s, 26% of JE’s , 14% of pump operators, 19% that of fitters and 18% that of Beldars are lying vacant . it is shocking that in a situation where in the rural areas water is being supplied at times just once a week, the government has declared 391 posts of pump operators, 2568 posts of helpers , 371 posts of fitters , 8041 posts of Beldars as dying cadre. A majority of these employees will retire in next five years resulting in aggravating the already acute position. Not suffice with this the government has already handed over the pumping and distribution of drinking water management to private parties in 8 cities.

Crisis in the services sector especially the electricity board:

The state, which was known for 100% electrification in 1980s, is in a deep crisis. Instead of building the hydro projects itself or ensuring equity in them the government has worked with another formula of having one time upfront premium on sale of power. The state has already allocated projects with aggregate capacity of 22551 MW against the total harnessing potential of 23000 MW. Thus almost entire upfront premium has been received and very little revenue will accrue on this account in future which has been utilised for the non plan outlay.

Thanks to the government policies that have reversed the trend of public spending. It is for everyone to understand that even after 10 days of snowfall which was just moderate, electricity has still not been restored.

The state electricity board has 18% of JEs 54% of clerk/meter readers and 38% of T-mates lying vacant. With this inadequate staff it is impossible to provide timely services and to restore electricity in those areas where LT and HT line are snapped due to snowfall in the winters. One of the reason why we still grope in dark in Kullu district!

The position is equally bad in the HRTC where in each of the 23 depots on an average 10 bus routes stand suspended, six permanently and four temporarily. The corporation is short of 203 drivers, 682 conductors and 730 mechanical staff in a fleet of 2100 buses.

In the health sector the situation is more precarious. There is an inadequate staff in this sector as well whereas the patient intake has increased substantially. There is a vacancy of 14% of doctors, 13% of staff nurses, 32 percent male health supervisors, 24% of female health supervisors, 42 percent of male health workers and 9 percent of female health workers. There are two trends prevalent which have been further advanced in the last two years; the first one pertains to the weakening of the public spending on health and dilution of the higher medical education. The patients are forced to pay more for their health. The other trend is mushrooming of private health institutions especially in the in the field of higher education. The case to the point is that of MMU University in Solan district where all law of the land has been kept at bay and the entire fee structure has been arbitrarily decided in the interests of the university at the behest of the government where there is a strong connivance in between the government and the private management. The government failed to enhance its seats in MBBS whereas the MMU was given a go green signal where the government badly faltered.

Land: Much trumpeted hullaballoo, but little on ground

Land happens to be one of the important issues in the state where a strong land reform and tenancy act was enacted. Successive governments have diluted the provisions of the act. It was presumed that those who have violated the norms would be taken to task. However it has come to the fore that in the last two years both the benami transactions and the land mafia has prospered in the state where the government has become akin to its predecessor a facilitator for land sale. In fact the government has promised to dilute the provisions of the act to benefit the industrial houses in the state. The real estate sharks have further enhanced their pangs of loot not just that the forests too have been chopped in thousands under the able and efficient government especially the forest minister. Though FIRs have been registered only after a strong furor made by the people and the press, still the people at the helm remain at large.

The growth of industries and the working class condition

After the industrial package there is a decline in the industries in the state. The trend in the small scale sector has been on the decline after 2010. These industries have declined from 963 in 2010 to 630 in 2014 and the workers decreased approximately 50%. The nature of employment too is on contract basis where the workmen are not directly engaged but a labour contractor hires them for the job. There is greater exploitation of the workmen where minimum benefits too are not guaranteed like ESI and such other benefits.

Education; One of the worst performance areas in the last 2 years

Education, especially the higher education, has been the worst performance sectors of this government where the government has acted in the most stubborn manner and has increased the fees structure of the students from 20% to 2000%. Even the report of the committee formed under the chairmanship of the retired High Court judge is licking the dust in the shelves of the secretariat. The government has gone for hedgehog commoditization and commercialization of education in the state.

On top of that they have implemented RUSA which will and has ruined the future of thousands of students studying there. Is it not a scandal that a large number of students who have not even appeared in the exams under RUSA have been awarded A grade.

There is complete chaos in this sector and the government wants it deliberately so that the higher education in private sector prospers. The private universities too are exploiting the students with no control of the government or the regulatory body that has been deliberately diluted with little power given to them. What does this mean that out of 8000 seats in the private universities only 3000 have been filled? Actually a large number of these Private universities happens to be real estate companies who have entered the state in guise of providing higher education where as they are waiting for a rider and will soon metamorphosis into real estate.

The CPM has further stated these two years have meant more hardship for the people, poor governance and a trend of passing on the buck to the private under the guise of PPP which is the new model of governance under the neo liberal regime.