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(Image Courtesy: PIB)
The NDA Government is set to get into chest-thumping mode next month. The word had last month gone to all ministries to list all achievements for inclusion in the NDA’s report card for its 3rd year. Modi Government would complete three years in office on 25th May 2017.
A news story dated 31st March 2017 stated that Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu has urged all ministers to garner all attainments and communicate them to masses. 
The story quoted Mr. Naidu’s note to ministers as stating “We need to transform ourselves into mission mode to present to the people the three-year report card ... we must prepare concrete action plan and be ready with facts, figures, data to propagate the government's achievements in a big way”.
The most interesting part of news is that two editors-turned-MPs have been assigned the task of countering “any possible negative narratives”.
Should self-certified, sterling performance of Modi regime overshadow its alarming governance deficit. Bhakts might well ridicule even whispers about governance deficit as outlandish and irrelevant. They believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies are repeatedly getting thumbs-up from voters. This is a fallacy. 
Have voters endorsed increase in unemployment rate for three years in row? Has electorate voted for continued paralysis in framing National Employment Policy (NEP), which is key to reforming labour markets and growth? Have citizens voted against BJP’s 2014 poll promise of “Zero Tolerance on Terrorism, Extremism and Crime”? This resolve is articulation of Modiji's forgotten quote: “Terrorism and Modi cannot coexist in country”. The ground realty is contrary with Mr. Modi rocking and terrorism rocketing. 
Have voters voted against anyone reminding BJP stalwarts about their jibes and promises that they made in their quest to capture power at the Centre? Is it a crime to judge BJP leaders by their own words?
The other day Mr. Modi told civil servants: “Political will is required for reforms. I don’t have any problem with that. Perhaps we have extra political will”. If that is indeed the case, why so many reforms are on the backburner? A case in point is improving substantially transparency and accountability that would enhance Modiji’s popularity.
Will PM thus demonstrate his ‘extra political will’ be assigning an independent institution, say, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the job of preparing India’s first ‘State of Governance Report (SGR)’?
As put by Framework for Assessing State of Governance (FASG), “Governance and its measurement is as complex as it is contentious”. Released in March 2009, FASG is a joint initiative of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Greievances and Hyderabad-based Centre for Good Governance and AC Nielsen ORG MARG.
Without getting into technicalities of measuring governance, one can rely on layman’s yardsticks of assessing performance.
Ironically, Modi Government has wound up Cabinet Secretariat’s Performance Management Division (PMD) with effect from 31st January 2017. PMD evaluated performance of each Ministry. The evaluation riveted around Result Framework Document (RFD), which each Ministry prepared listing its priorities and targets and the milestones to achieve them.  
Last year, the Government scrapped RFD mechanism, which had also cast obligation on Cabinet to fulfill prerequisites/cooperation to achieve ministerial targets. No official statement was issued explaining the rational for trashing PMD-RFD mechanism, which was UPA’s good governance initiative.   
If an SGR were to be prepared, it would assess Government’s achievements against BJP’s poll promises, its vitriolic criticism of the UPA on contentious issues and BJP leaders’ political narrative over the years. 
Questions that SGR should address are: Has Modi Government made an average citizen’s life more secure? Has Modi Government reinvented governance? Has Modi Government broken the back of terrorism including naxalism and omnipresent goondagardhi? Has Modi strengthened the institutions including central public enterprises (CPEs) and regulatory bodies? Has it done anything credible for national integration? Has it ended policy paralysis fully?
One can add dozens of such questions. We can focus on jobs and terrorism to underscore the fact ruling parties’ report cards are always biased & thus lack credibility. The common thread between UPA report cards and NDA report cards is trumpeting & oversight of unpleasant facts. 
Take jobs first. According to 5th Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey (EUS) released by Labour Bureau in September 2016, the unemployment rate (UR) at national level was 5.0 per cent under Usual Principal Status (UPS) approach. Put simply, 5.0 per cent of the persons aged 15 years and above who were available for work could not get work during the reference period.
UR has increased with each EUS. The 4th Annual EUS estimated UR at 4.9%, which marked 0.2% rise over 4.7% UR computed by 3rd EUS. If Government can brag about GDP growth, why cannot it do the same for joblessness? 
The EUS numbers don’t capture the severity of under-employment. As put by 5th EUS, “It is pretty well-known that many of the persons who are reported as ‘employed’ or ‘workers’ in official publications do not get work for the entire duration of their stay in the Labour Force. And even those who get some work or the other for the entire duration may be getting work for only a small fraction of the time they are available for work. This apart, some may be working on jobs which do not allow them to fully utilise their abilities or from which they earn very low incomes. All this constitutes under employment which remains a worrying aspect of the employment –unemployment scenario in the country”. 
The survey results show that with the increase in education level, UR has also increased in the age group 18-29 years. The UR for the persons aged 18-29 years and holding a degree in graduation and above was 18.4 per cent under UPS approach.
As for quality of employment, 5th EUS says that 46.6 per cent of the workers were self employed, followed by 32.8 per cent working as casual labour. Only 17 per cent of the employed persons were wage/salary earners and the remaining 3.7 per cent were contract workers. EUS has many more worrying facts.
Has EUS stirred conscience of the Government? Certainly not. This is borne from inordinate delay in finalizing NEP, whose first draft was unveiled by UPA Government in August 2008.  
See how smartly Modi Government has rationalized the delay in NEP. Ministry of Labour & Employment (MLE) says that in February 2013 when UPA was in power, it submitted a Cabinet Note on NEP. The Cabinet Secretariat advised MLE to “upscale and update the document”.
It continues: “The Ministry had subsequently entrusted the work of drafting the National Employment Policy to VVGNLI (V.V. Giri National Labour Institute) and while preparing the same, it emerged that the policy had wide ramifications and required inputs from various stake holders, ministries, departmental trade unions, research institutions, State governments, etc. Accordingly, an Inter Ministerial Committee was constituted on 4th April, 2014 and a concept note circulated to stake holders to seek views and suggestions.”
MLE adds: “The draft policy has also been discussed with the State Ministers on 29.08.2014. Another brain storming session was held on 04.06.2015 with key stake holders to discuss the contours of the Proposed National Employment Policy. A meeting was held on 1.07.2016 to discuss the approach papers on NEP. Based on the discussion, follow up action is being taken. Drafting of the National Employment Policy is under process.”
Government’s lackadaisical stance on jobs market can also assessed from the fact that a private economic research agency has taken a lead in this arena. CMIE, in collaboration with BSE, is estimating monthly UR, which is crucial economic & governance indicator in certain countries such as the United States
CMIE-BSE’s UR is based on an extensive and representative household survey. The duo says: “The degree to which society can provide employment to those who seek employment is one of the most important indicators of the wellbeing of any society. Therefore, the unemployment rate, which measures the inability to provide such employment becomes the most important indicator to measure the health of a modern economy”.
The Government, on the other hand, is still struggling to get off the ground its maiden quarterly employment & unemployment survey. Named Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), it forms part of 12th five year plan (2012-17) of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI). 
Now shift focus to terrorism, naxalism and diverse crimes such as mob violence, rapes, road rage, etc. Modi Government’s deficit in fighting terrorism is monumental. 
Can anyone in Modi Cabinet recall what Home Minister, Rajnath Singh stated on 2nd November 2008 when he was BJP President.
He stated: “It is shameful that despite the recommendations of Virappa Moily Committee (Administrative Reforms Commission) which underlined the need for anti-terror laws, the UPA Government wants more time to study the need for tougher anti-terror laws in the country. It shows the UPA Government’s indifference towards the gravity of the issue and it also exposes its gross inaction”. 
In its 8th report on ‘Combating Terrorism-Protecting by Righteousness’ submitted in June 2008, ARC underscored the “Need for a Comprehensive Anti Terrorist Legislation”.
It recommended: “A comprehensive and effective legal framework to deal with all aspects of terrorism needs to be enacted. The law should have adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse. The legal provisions to deal with terrorism could be incorporated in a separate chapter in the National Security Act, 1980”.
ARC also recommended that definition of Terrorism should include five type of criminal acts which can be construed as being terrorist in nature. 
Why Modi Government could not remove UPA’s shame in three years by publishing an action taken report (ATR) on ARC’s 8th report? Has it also forgotten what BJP stated in 2009 manifesto for Lok Sabha elections?
It stated: “Our first priority will be to take stern steps against terrorists, cross-border or home-grown. An improved POTA-type law will be introduced.” Even the Party 2014 manifesto has articulated this resolve as “Revive the anti-terror mechanism that has been dismantled by the Congress”.
POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was enacted by NDA Government in 2002 and repealed by UPA Government in 2004. This blunder must be undone by Modi Government at the earliest.
As regards naxalism, NDA government is merrily pursuing UPA’s anti-naxal approach without even redefining naxalism as terrorism. Naxal violence is officially dubbed as Left Wing Extremism (LWE). 
Terrorism as an offence does not figure in the Indian Penal Code. The term ‘Terrorist Act’ is currently defined under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 through a 2004 amendment. 
ARC found this definition wanting and recommended inclusion of five type of criminal acts in the legal definition of terrorism. As put by ARC, “while the laws of some countries (e.g. the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia) speak of the intention behind the terrorist act being for the purpose of advancing a ‘political, religious or ideological cause’, the Indian laws have avoided any such intention or purpose being incorporated to define or describe a terrorist act. The definition of terrorism is an important aspect of the legal framework to deal with terrorism”.
ARC cited two reasons for defining the word ‘terrorism’. First, definition helps understand the problem. Second, a definition is needed to have special laws for tackling terrorism within the country and to get terrorists extradited from abroad.
It is amusing to see Mr. Modi finding fault with United Nations for its inability to define ‘terrorism’ and simultaneously keeping silent on his Government’s delay to act on ARC’s advice. 
As Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Mr. Modi had lambasted UPA Government for holding only meetings even as terrorists and naxals killed people. On 31st May 2010, he posed certain questions which are more relevant today.
Modiji had asked: “Doesn’t the common man deserve security? Shouldn’t the common man live a peaceful life?
Modi Government should also recall what BJP stated in its 1998 manifesto. It claimed: “The security of each citizen is of utmost concern for the BJP, which is committed to a riot-free and terrorism-free India. Whether on the streets or at home, every Indian must feel safe and protected from violence in any form. The BJP will squarely and purposefully address the deteriorating law and order scenario in various parts of the country.”
Will forthcoming NDA’s report card assess Government’s failures/inaction on this front? 
There are many more issues which the Government should see in the mirror on the wall. The Government needs extra political will to introspect and to serve the people better.
Published by taxindiaonline.com on 29th April 2017
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