Afternoon Voice

PM’s priorities going haywire

Rupee is touching fresh all-time lows daily since the last few days and India is having the highest retail prices of petrol and diesel among the South Asian nations alongside the fuel prices reaching its peak crossing Rs 90 per litre on Tuesday in Maharashtra. While the falling rupee may not have an instant impact on the lives of the common man, the rampant fuel hike has compelled the commoners to bear the brunt and the lives of the poor people, who work hard to earn square meal a day, has become paralysed. But, wait! All these seem to be far away from being enough to grab the attention of the Indian Prime Minister who overpowered the previous UPA government, especially on the same issues.

Marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched ‘Swachhata Hi Seva Movement’ from September 15. The mission too celebrates the fourth anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the most ambitious cleanliness campaign in the Indian history that promised me to give the country a transformation in sanitation and waste management. As per the government, people from all walks of life will take part but what’s next? Since 2014, the same is happening every year when eminent personas take up brooms with hundreds of cameras around. Though all these end up filling their social media pages but the country finds no respite from its improper waste management.

Mahila Pradesh Congress General Secretary and Advocate Manisha Rote said, “Modi government is always into making big announcements but its practical implementation is nowhere. Such announcements are an emotional tactic to attract the citizens. BJP’s IT cell is trying to misguide people while BJP says that Congress is spreading lies about fuel price hike.”

“Any new scheme for cleanliness makes no sense when Swachh Bharat Mission already exists. Such cleanliness movements existed since the Congress regime, BJP has just changed the names without checking its proper implementation,” she added.

The PM and its team tried every way possible to make ‘Swachh Bharat’, launched by PM Modi on October 2, 2014,  the flagship programme of BJP; but unfortunately, barring the shine of big advertisement boards, little else can be seen to make the project a success. As stated by the health and sanitation experts, the government’s claim of SBM success is a jumla so far — productive use of the fund (0.5 per cent cess was levied on the taxpayers in 2015) and the mechanism to verify groundwork — both are uncertain.

NCP MLA Prakash Gajbhiye stated, “BJP has no plans set for the implementation of their schemes. They have forgotten their ideology. They have not done anything so far and will not do anything in the coming time. The BJP government created inflation in the country. They are trying to polarise people on the basis of caste and their intent is to maintain a fear among the common man.”

He further added, “The country has many burning issues like inflation, women safety, or unemployment, but the government is not looking after them. BJP must clean its mind first before cleaning the country.”

But who cares about the success of any campaign as far as it has a grandeur marketing strategy! The wheel has come a full circle now; the election is just a year away, all 2014 promises are hovering nowhere around to meet its expected outcome and it’s the turn of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be at the receiving end. The government boasts of being successful in building toilets in every corner of the country but in reality, the reports reveal that only 33 per cent of the toilets built are sustainably safe, while the rest are barely usable or highly unsafe. Those toilets built in different places are left with being a waste piece of Swachh Bharat project with no proper plumbing for clean water and removal of waste.

It seems that the Indian Prime Minister is failing to set up his priorities! It also seems that the government prefers to intervene only when it is at their comfort or politically expedient. If we put the Swachh Bharat Mission aside, burning issues like unemployment, rapes, farmers’ suicide, red-hot fuel prices, falling rupee are at present the reason for distress for the country and its people. During his 2014 election campaigns, Modi aggressively attacked the Manmohan Singh-led government for its inability to contain the falling rupee against dollar. The then Gujarat CM said that India will not be able to stand in the global trade if the fall continues. The same question has now come back to haunt PM Modi. Though he has kept mum, his ministers believe that the government has nothing to stop the fall and it is due to “external factors”.

BJP spokesperson Shivray Kulkarni asserted, “If there are barriers to solve the problem of inflation, are we not supposed to do other works for the public welfare? The Swachh Bharat Mission was started by PM Modi to emphasise on creating awareness for cleanliness. It is wrong to assume that the PM has changed his priorities. Cleanliness movement is a continuous process and unstoppable. It will consume some time but our country will definitely change. PM Modi is the most communicative Prime Minister and he always directly interacts with the common man.”

“Massive hike in #petrol prices is a prime example of the failure of Congress-led UPA. This will put a burden of hundreds of crores on Guj” — this was tweeted by Narendra Modi on March 23, 2012. His party called a Bharat Bandh the very next week and a few months later, when fuel price hiked for the another time, BJP disrupted the Parliament. BJP targeted the UPA saying, “Had the UPA government followed the right policies (to keep economy strong), it would have been in a position to provide oil subsidy.”

But what happened after the countrymen chose him in the government? The excise duty on petrol and diesel saw an increase 12 times between May 2014 and September 2017 and was cut by Rs 2 a litre in October last year. The rising global crude oil prices are affecting the domestic market. Moreover, even when the crude price was in a lenient phase, the Modi-led central government kept increasing the excise duty to maintain the existing petrol and diesel prices. As taxes account for half of the pump rates for each litre of petrol and diesel, as per the financial analysts if the demand of bringing petrol and diesel under GST is fulfilled, we might get petrol at Rs 38 a litre.

Shiv Sena MLC Dr. Manisha Kayande said, “The Modi government has no interest to talk on the main concerns of the nation. They are more interested in cosmetic issues like Yoga Day, Swachh Bharat, etc. BJP wants to keep citizens busy feeling thrilled with such ideas of cleanliness and so on. While in opposition, BJP used to criticise such issues and now they don’t have answers to solve unemployment, fuel price hike, the abolition of Article 370, or Ayodhya issue.”