R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”
After winning freedom in 1947, even the children born after a decade of independence have become grandparents. During these 68 years of spring that we witnessed in free air, have brought many changes in the form of development and progress on a large scale in many spheres of our social, economic and scientific life. India now manufactures big machines and equipment like aeroplanes, computers, radars, ships, submarines, Konkan Railway line connecting two important port cities of Mangaluru and Mumbai, constructed through very difficult geographical terrains and which posed tough engineering challenges and Delhi Metro constructed in the most populated city of India, despite huge traffic running side by side and many other big things.
India’s first unmanned mission to Moon, was launched successfully on 22nd October, 2008 from Sriharikota. The spacecraft, after covering a long journey of 3.84 lakh kms., is now successfully orbiting around the Moon at a height of 102 kms. from the moon and makes detailed exploration of moon’s surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon. The spacecraft carries 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria. With this successful launch (which is a brainchild of late Shri APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India) and after reaching the moon’s surface India has become the fifth nation of the world to reach moon. India also plans to launch Chandrayaan-II by the end of 2017 and first manned mission to moon in 2020.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan was successfully launched on the 5th Nov., 2013 and it reached Mars orbit on the 24th Sept., 2014. It is successfully orbiting the planet Mars since then and transmitting Mars photos and data and with this ISRO has become fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet Space Program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. Before this success, India had already launched a large number of space vehicles into space in the series of PSLVs.
But one thing which often gives headache to many scholars and people concerned with patriotic citizens is that, the pace of progress and development which we have achieved so far does not match our resources and capabilities that we have at our disposal. India is a big country with vast range of resources and manpower and after 68 years of getting freedom, we should have walked at par with USA, UK, Australia, Germany, France and Russia as well. But then what are the constraints or hindrances which put hurdle in our way to making fast pace of progress, development and prosperity?
In Lok Sabah we have 545 Members of Parliament; Rajya Sabha has 250 MPs. In all the States and Union Territories put together, we have 4044 MLAs. Each MP is entitled to get Rs. 5.00 crores every year as MP Local Area development Fund. Each MLA is also entitled to get Rs. 2.00 crore every year to spend in their constituency on various works for the welfare and benefit of common people. Apart from this we 6.38 lakh villages in our country and each village Panchayat also gets Rs. 20 lakhs to spend on developmental works for their people. And if we calculate these funds, we get an astronomical figure of Rs. 12,88,063 crores per annum. Not only that, even in cities we have municipal corporations functioning for providing many types of facilities for the welfare of the people living in those cities. One wonders as to with such a huge amount of budgeted funds being provided every year for making and executing thousands of schemes and facilities for the citizens, the degree of development and progress which we should have made by now, that is not at all visible on surface. Then, where does such a big amount of funds go, if it is not channelized for the welfare projects for the social, economic and scientific development of the citizens of India ?
When we sit together and start to take a stock of funds being placed at the disposal of our leaders and also development and progress achieved with those funds, often comparisons are made with our neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bangla Desh. No doubt, Pakistan is our neighbour and it got freedom on the same night as India did, but these comparison falls short of some big pitfalls as, the entire world is also aware that even though on papers, Pakistan is also a democratic nation, but practically it is guided by its army and ISI. Its political leadership is not free from these two big stumbling blocks in their successful functioning of democratic system. The same is also true about Bangla Desh and as far as Afghanistan is concerned, it has been beleaguered by the extremists’ turbulences for the decades together. And any country which has to fight such a strong and continued forces of terrorism ad extremism, is not at all free to utilise its resources for the welfare of its people.
We also remember that when late Shri Rajeev Gandhi was Prime Minister of Inda, he conducted a survey and found that – out of every hundred rupees which are earmarked and disbursed for some project or scheme for the people, only fourteen rupees are actually spent on that scheme, the rest all get lost in corruption and embezzlements at various stages which are connected with the expenditure of those projects. It is really a big irony of fate, which tells its story as to how such a large amount of funds are lost in transit from budget level and actual expenses incurred on those schemes and projects. Even if we presume that this rough calculation of corruption prevailing at various stages of funds seems to be somewhat on the higher side, but the work done on those projects also cries that not more than 20 to 22 % funds are really spent on the estimated projects.
Here lies the crux of the matter as to why India has not made such a high degree of development and progress which it should have after 68 years of gaining freedom. Honesty is a virtue which we can’t expect from dishonest and cheap people who govern us and sitting at the influential places of decision making and also making funds available for those schemes. The result is that, crores of people suffer due to this chronic malady of corruption, almost in all states. Series of scams and misappropriations of funds have taken place from time to time, many commissions have been set-up to investigate these scams etc., but neither the lost funds are retrieved nor the guilty have been executed. Such a big and confusing quagmire of series of scams which the people of India have witnessed and suffered since it got freedom.
The result of these nasty scams and misappropriations of funds is that, even after such a long period of independence, we have just around 70 to 75 % villages which have been electrified so far. Pakka approach roads leading to the villages also tells almost the same story. Even though manual scavenging has been made illegal in our country, streets in innumerable villages are not made pakka and street lights are also missing there, still we have 7.50 lakh families who are working as manual scavengers even though manual scavenging has been legally banned way back in 1992. 53.1 % of the households don’t have toilets to make use of them and their females have no other option but to go in the open fields to attend to the call of nature which sometimes, creates a big problem for them in form of molestation and rapes taking places etc. More than 60 % of homes in villages still don’t have access to clean drinking water, and due to lack of it, people often fall sick as they are forced to drink hard or contaminated water. 55 % women in rural areas are forced to take bath in the open as their low family incomes don’t allow them to make bath rooms. Around 20 % of women have to walk more than half a km. daily to fetch water required for their families.
Just a few days, ago, I was watching a small video where a lady doctor (Mrs. Mala Sibbal) was telling the story of lack of funds and facilities at the government hospitals. She admitted that no doubt, funds are sanctioned for the purchase of costly machines and other equipment for the hospitals, but more than 75 % are just lost in the deep pockets of big officers and we are left with depriving patients from poor families of the medical facilities which they should have otherwise got. She quoted a very harsh example that once a patient had died in her hospital just in front of her due to lack of proper machines in the hospital, and that when that body of the patient was to be handed over to his family, the hospital did not have even proper medical facility to stitch the body after post-mortem. Such is the pitiable condition of some of the government hospitals. Many precious lives are lost because of lack of good machines required for their treatment.
Adequate number of qualified teachers and professors are not appointed in government schools and colleges etc., railway stations, dispensaries, hospitals, roads, providing street lights, clean drinking water, police stations etc. also calls for a lot required to done and provided there. Innumerable complaints and representations made to the officers and leaders who are responsible for administrative set-up and upkeep of their systems, just fall flat on deaf ears.
Almost all big leaders / ministers have a large number of security guards to protect them and their families, but law and order situation for common people is lacking miserably. Many big countries like USA, UK, and Australia etc. provide free education up to school level; it is very costly in India. If some buffaloes of a minister are stolen, entire state police gets involved in searching them, but if a child from the poor family is kidnapped, sufficient efforts are hardly made to trace out him. Cases in courts continue to linger on for decades together, but justice continues to play hide and seek with common people. If a small clerk or assistant is caught getting a bribe of even Rs. 1000/-, he shall be dismissed from service, but politicians involved in scams worth cores of rupees still continues to rule. Politicians can contest election from MLA or MP from 2/3 different seats, but movement servant can’t apply from more than one place. To conclude, it is rational to say that all rules and regulations are practically tilted to the maximum advantages of the political class.
What can be done to change the system : As we are well aware that there is hardly any shortage of funds required for the proper maintenance of public facilities, only we need to devise some means and improvement in the system and plug the loop holes. If the government is really interested to improve the system and ensuring transparency, the funds allocated and disbursed to the MPs, MLAs, MCDs and village Panchayats etc. should be audited by the Controller and Auditor General of India. If any pilferages and misappropriations / fraud etc. are detected in execution of the big projects / schemes, suitable punishment should not only be awarded to the responsible person, but he should also barred for rest of life to contest elections. Not only this, all his family members should also be barred, as the entire family enjoys the higher pedestal of life style out of the money received through illegal gratification. Lost funds should be retrieved from him / his family and utilised for the purpose for which they were originally allocated.
In case the government feels that CAG is already much burdened, then another commission should be set-up on the pattern of CAG and CEC, which should function independent of government control, exclusively to auditing and keeping a track of MP LAD and MLA LAD, Panchayat funds, MCD funds etc., allocated to the these authorities. This commission should also devise some means to make suggestions to government as to how the huge funds allocated for various schemes and projects should be monitored in a better manner so as to ensure that nobody dares to play havoc with the public funds and ordinary citizens really get benefit out of those funds, after all, all these funds are allocated out of the taxes and revenues collected from the public only.
It is also a matter of huge pity and shame that even a small Jawan in Army or BSF who gets a meagre salary of Rs. 25,000/- or so, pays income tax, but MPs and MLAs’ entire salaries and perks and facilities are exempted from the purview of tax? This special escapist provisions for politicians amounts to cheating the public. Secondly, it is also strangely gathered that the central government has asked ordinary customers to surrender their LPG subsidy, but it did not first scale down the large range of perks and facilities which all the MPs and MLAs are getting at the cost of tax payer’s expenses? Moreover, everybody is also aware that they also get food and beverages items at the Parliament canteen at the highly subsidised rates, despite the fact that they are drawing salaries more than one lakh a month, plus a lot of other perks and facilities? Therefore, it becomes imperative for the government to scale down this large number of perks and facilities for MPs, MLAs and Municipal Councillors and set the example for ordinary citizens? After all, example is certainly better than precept, central government should realise this principle and then ask all state governments also to follow and reduce unnecessary burden on government exchequer.
It is also observed many a time, prevailing in most of the states that – as and when some atrocities & excesses and some acts of oppression and suppressions are committed by the upper caste people on Dalits, law enforcing agencies generally blind eye over those matters, as if it is not their duty to protect them. They are treated as second rate citizens. As Dalits and some other people from lower castes are also the people with meagre means and they can’t forcefully follow up their cases in courts as well, justice is not imparted to them. This is very wrong and cruel, and the officers placed at important positions fail to realise that if a section of our society lags behind, it impacts on whole of the nation. All law enforcing agencies deserve to be very careful and sensitive to their causes so as to ensure that they are also treated at par with other citizens of the country. Lapses committed by the police in their dereliction of duty towards Dalits, should be made a punishable offence.
According to a report published in ToI in Nov., 2014, Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis are three of the most vulnerable sections of Indian society, and they make up more than half of India’s prison population (4.20 lakh prisoners). Although the proportion of these three communities in India adds up to 39% only, but their share amongst prisoners is considerably much high at 53%. Most experts opine that this disturbing trend is not because these communities commit more crimes than other people. Rather, it arises because they are economically and socially under-privileged sections and unable to fight court costly cases or often even pay for their bails. Other experts also say that these communities are often targeted with false cases.
If all these regulatory provisions are made and allowed to function independently and honestly without any interference by the politicians, then I am sure, it will certainly go a long way in improving the social-economic scenario of our country, comparable with other developed nations around the globe. Common people shall also take pride in having taken birth in this great country, rather than cursing themselves as they often do as of now, where they are often deprived of some ordinary welfare measures and benefits entitled to them..