UPA-II ministries fail to keep their assurances

The UPA-II has been marred by policy paralysis and poor governance.

Pankaj Sharma & Ajay Vaishnav/ZRG

That UPA-II is marred by policy paralysis and poor governance is a given. But now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has earned yet another dubious distinction of failing to keep up ministerial assurances given inside Parliament. A Zee Research Group analysis unravels that UPA-II is the worst performer among all governments since independence in delivering on official assurances.

In its annual report for 2011-12, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the nodal agency to oversee that ministries deliver on their promises, has reported an implementation rate of only 15.08 per cent and 10.60 per cent of the assurances given on the floor of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively during 2011. That is pretty dismal by any standard.

But, constitutional expert and former secretary general of Lok Sabha, Subhash C Kashyap is not amused with such alarming numbers. “Nothing seems to be alarming anymore. Breaking promises are a usual practice nowadays,” he said grimly.

On the other hand, Congress MP and a member of the Standing Committee on Government Assurances in Lok Sabha, Avtar Singh Bhadana is not ready to trust such numbers. He told ZRG, “The government has done its bit to deliver on promises. However, some technical issues became a roadblock.”

As per the Parliamentary procedures, each minister needs to fulfill the assurance, undertaking or promise given on the floor of the House while replying to questions, within a stipulated period of three months. However, if any delay is anticipated by the ministries or department in any promise, they can request Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha Secretariats for extension of time or dropping of an assurance.

Kashyap clarified, “The Indian Constitution doesn’t provide for any serious action against the ministers’ failure to deliver on their promises. However, they can best be issued a notice for breach of privilege of the House.”

For instance, in the recent Budget Session, the Opposition moved a Breach of Privilege Motion against Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. Azad has allegedly given wrong facts on his ministry on 15 occasions in the last three years. Similarly, Singh was issued the notice for making policy statement on Air India strike outside the House when Parliament was in session. So far, no action has been taken against either of the ministers by the Speaker.

The ZRG analysis also shows that UPA-II ministries and departments were not even able to meet half of their promises. Out of a total of 6,734 assurances, UPA-II was able to deliver only on 3,226 of them, which are just 48 in percentage terms. At year end, the government failed to fulfill 3,508 promises, which is more than 50 per cent of the total target.

In fact, the UPA should take cue from its previous avatar which performed exceedingly well. Between 2004 and 2008, the government delivered on 9,538 promises out of a total 10,356 commitments made in the August House, a whopping 92 per cent of the total. In contrast to 2011, the remainder was merely 818.

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