Successive Governments have failed to address the issue of rising inequality and inequities: Lalit Shastri

Anusha Narain

It is the responsibility of the State to guarantee the distribution of goods and services across society by treating the people as equals. Over the years, despite lofty claims by political parties, fact remains that governments at the Centre and in the States, including Madhya Pradesh, have failed to address the issue of rising inequality and inequities. -Lalit Shastri

Lalit Shastri, Editor-in-Chief Newsroom24x7, is rattled by the fact that successive governments have failed to recognise the importance of equity and how it is linked to development.

In an exclusive interview, Shastri said in categorical terms that it is the responsibility of the State to guarantee the distribution of goods and services across society by treating the people as equals. Over the years, despite lofty claims by political parties, fact remains that governments at the Centre and in the States, including Madhya Pradesh, have failed to address the issue of rising inequality and inequities. Instead, what the previous UPA -1 and UPA -2, headed by Manmohan Singh, did was that they aped the cash transfer policy that was being followed in Brazil and Mexico without bothering even an iota about its pitfall and the impact it would leave on the middle class wage earners and the economic growth of the country. The same strategy has been mastered by the present NDA regime at the Centre and also the State Governments. The cash transfer scheme has been institutionalised and perpetuated even further by them.

Another problem, according to Shastri, is that those manning the government’s administrative set up have neither been trained nor motivated to be pragmatic. When it comes to the government’s working, what’s generally missing is justice with fairness and moral rectitude. This spirit is mostly absent when the ministers or officials put down their noting, issue orders or pass on instructions to their subordinates for implementation

Shastri spoke at length on the deteriorating law and order situation, people’s growing concern about national security, black money and the menace of money laundering.

Focusing on the issue of rising inequality and inequities, Shastri said, we have to recognise equity as a central goal for programming and framing policies. Political parties should be committed to all-round economic growth, speedy and sustainable development. There should be focused attention on human welfare and people’s happiness. This can be achieved with focused thrust on human resource development – from the primary to higher and technical education level, coupled with development of the economic infrastructure (for all) in mission mode.

Addressing the problem of rising inequity should be the agenda of anyone in power, Shastri emphasised. We are aware that due to gaps that successive governments have failed to fill, it is difficult to rapidly bring about equity but those in power should not lag behind when it comes to working on a time-bound manner to overcome this challenge, Shastri observed.

Shastri further said:

Politics in Madhya Pradesh has been polarised between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party right since the formation of Madhya Pradesh. After the BJP came to power in the State in 2003, the Congress has lost much ground due to obvious rivalry and cut-throat competition between national level party leaders from the State and the regional satraps known for their divided loyalties. What has added to the Congress’ woes and sealed its fate in Madhya Pradesh is the rock-bottom credibility of the Sonia-Rahul leadership which has gone into a tailspin.

Taking advantage of the Congress party’s weaknesses, the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh succeed in ensuring its support base grows in geometric progression and fortunately for the BJP in the last elections -first the Assembly and then Lok Sabha – it’s level of support increased phenomenally and was almost bursting at the seams -the second time more due to the hype generated by Shri Narendra Modi during his campaign as the prime ministerial candidate. Due to the charges of corruption against UPA-1 and UPA-2 and the sagging image of the Congress party, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh did not face the anti-incumbency factor and returned to power for the third time in a row in 2013 with a thumping majority.

Next year, when the State goes to polls, too much water would have flown through the Narmada. The State has witnessed the worst farm crisis in many years and farmers also have died in the recent police firing. The officers and employees, hundreds of thousands of them belonging to the unreserved category, are up in arms against the State BJP government and more particularly the State Chief Minister, who has chosen to defy the Jabalpur High Court order of 2016 declaring as unconstitutional the Madhya Pradesh rule for Reservation in promotion for officers and employees belonging to the SC/ST categories. On the chief minister’s direct intervention, the State Government has gone to the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order and hefty fees is being paid to the Supreme Court lawyers representing the State Government against the interests of officers from the unreserved category, who have been denied promotions despite their seniority and merit, whereas their junior SC/ST officers, even with negative remarks in their confidential reports, have been promoted above them. This has lowered the morale of officers with merit and seniority. As a result even administrative efficiency has been compromised against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Corruption is on the rise in MP. The VYAPAM scam linked with medical admission exams and recruitment of employees in several government departments, which has sealed the fate of so many bright students is a national shame. Illegal mining has played havoc with the ecological system. The forests have been depleting at a rapid pace in the State and consequently, the rapidly falling water table is also matter of deep concern. Joblessness, poverty, maternal and infant mortality, poor standard of education and health care are issues that have not received focused attention under successive governments in the State.

People have the right and they deserve a choice to pick a political alternative if the ruling party fails to come up to the their expectations.

The people’s fate should not revolve around doles and too many welfare schemes. It is high time, people are empowered at the socio-economic level, and also politically, so that they can hold the ruling party accountable by voting it out during elections when it fails to guarantee good governance, which is so essential for improving the quality of life of the people.

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