Phony fiscal management in Madhya Pradesh
Posted July 3, 2009on:
One of the arguments advanced by the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh for not bringing the regular budget was that the Central government, too, had presented only a vote on account.
Seventy-two- year old Raghavji, finance minister of the State, is a BJP veteran. He has been either in Lok Sabha or in Rajya Sabha or in the State Assembly since 1977. He was appointed minister of finance by chief minister Uma Bharati after the BJP victory in 2003 and has continued to look after the State’s finances since then.
When he drew the parallel of the Centre in his reply to the discussion on the vote on account in the Assembly, he was either showing the symptoms of the age-related senility or was being deliberately dishonest. The term of the present government at the Centre expires in less than two months and the Manmohan Singh government no more had the mandate to present the full-fledged budget estimates for the whole year. That is the job of whichever government replaces it after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
That is not the case with Madhya Pradesh. The BJP received a fresh mandate in December last year to rule the State for another five years. The new government consists, more or less, the same set of people who had been at the helm of affairs during the past five years. Particularly, Raghavji has been holding his present position since December 2003. Even Shivraj Singh Chauhan has held the post of chief minister for more than three years.
The government could have easily brought the full-fledged budget, if it wanted to. After all, the Chhattisgarh government has presented a full-fledged budget in the Assembly. There, too, the BJP government had received a fresh mandate for five years at the same time as Madhya Pradesh.
Raghavji is never tired of patting himself on the back for what he calls “skilful fiscal management” in the State. This was all the more reason that he should have prepared the budget estimates for the next financial year and his party could have gone to the electorate clearly telling them what it planned to do in the State during the next year.
Deceit and lies
But the facts narrate a different story: the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh has been ruling through deceit and lies, apparently in connivance with the Congress leaders who, having been fully acquainted with the ways of the government, have never made a concerted effort to expose the frauds of this government.
If some lesser luminaries in the Congress prepare themselves to take on the BJP government’s lies in the Assembly, they hardly get a chance. The government has gradually been reducing the periods of the Assembly sessions. Even during these brief sessions, Speaker Ishwardas Rohani has never allowed a meaningful debate on a subject of vital import if the government was likely to be caught on the wrong foot.
Raghavji’s “skilful” fiscal management is, in fact, the result of cutting down the expenditure on planned developments. The papers presented by the finance minister in the three-day “vote on account session” of the Assembly reveal that the cuts on social services during 2007-8 have been up to 100 per cent in relation to the previous year. (The papers contain the actual figures of expenditure during the two years, 2006-7 and 2007-8).
The government, for instance, reduced the plan expenditure on education by 11.64 per cent, on technical education by 24.27 per cent, on public health and medicines by 58.84 per cent, on urban development by 23.17 per cent, on small irrigation by 7.91 per cent, and on public works by 100 per cent.
What was supposed to be the budget session of the Assembly was reduced to a five-day session, for presenting the vote on account and supplementary budget estimates. The government could not face the elected representatives of the people even for five days and got the session adjourned sine die on the third day itself.
The issues which the members wanted to discuss in detail and had given due notices thereof included the prevailing acute drinking water crisis, irregularities in the government-run water shed projects, unauthorised collection of mandi cess, use of medicines of expiry dates in government hospitals, tampering of government documents, non-payment of compensation to the farmers for their lands acquired for setting up industrial centres, death of several persons in the Betul district hospital for want of proper treatment, and kidnappings by dacoits, et cetera.
The decision of the Chauhan government not to bring the full-fledged budget and abruptly end the Assembly session on the third day itself was apparently aimed at avoiding a discussion on the failures of the government as well as to escape public exposure of the bad finances of the State on the eve of polling for Lok Sabha. The people should expect a heavy doze of taxation in the budget, to be presented after the elections.