BJP, Congress spar on welfare programmes

BJP and Congress sparred over welfare programmes with opposition charging policy paralysis of government has affected economic growth while the ruling party claimed state governments are at fault.

New Delhi: BJP and Congress on Friday sparred over welfare programmes with the opposition charging policy paralysis of the government has affected economic growth while the ruling party claimed state governments are at fault for having failed to implement them properly.
"When Vajpayee became the Prime Minister in 1998, the growth rate of India was 4.8 per cent. When he demited office in 2004, it was 8.5 per ent. During this period, we faced the sanctions of the world due to Pokharan II, East Asian currency crisis and Kargil war. We never took an alibi. We worked our best," said Ravi Shanker Prasad, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

"But today, the growth rate is 4.8 percent. For a good economy, one needs good polity and the only link between the two is good governance. FDI in infrastructure..Any party will welcome it. Power, roads, telecommunication and real estate..All four are in limbo today because of corruption, instability and policy paralysis," he said.

Taking a jibe at the government`s Right to Education measure, Prasad said RTE as well as making it a fundamental right at primary level was a good idea but questioned the sheer expenditure in it.

"There has to be a cooperative federalism or disconnected one. The Right to Education and making it a fundamental right at the primary level is a good idea. But see the sheer expenditure today. The expenditure on creating the infrastructure in big states like Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, AP and others is to the tune of Rs 45,000-Rs 70,000 crore. Where will the money come from?"

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said there is poor quality of school teachers in and poor quality of health services in the country.

"If you don`t have quality teachers, how will one improve the education in the country? We have teacher absenteeism in schools, doctors not prepared to go to rural areas..." he said during the panel discussion in the same conclave.

"The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is a fine programme but it again depends on state governments. The quaity of training of Asha is the key to its success. In a federal system like ours, the government of India cannot drive the development process. It has to be done at the state level and much more lower level, he added.

Singh said Congress has not been dogmatic in its approach
as far as economic policy of the country was concerned and was very pragmatic.

He maintained if one sees the term of UPA 1 and 2 and even before it during Congress rule, the party has been keeping its eyes open and also trying to fit into the global economic structure.

"In this country which is still very low in human development indicator, can we ignore the poverty and the malnourished in this country? We cannot think of an economic policy keeping the freebies or subsidy out of the sight. Post 2004, we got Food Security, NREGA, increase our spending in education," he said during the discussion.

Answering a question, Singh said the identification of BPL was the responsibility of state governments. He said identification was not possible through Gram Sabhas because everyone in it would say they are poor.

"We tried it in MP in 1994-95 and suddenly found BPL numbers shoot up by three to four times. One of the most important factors in identifying BPL families is the incidence of malnourishment. What this country needs is closer targeting of subsidies. Cash transfer would be the most efficient forms of transfering subsidy to BPL," he said.

Replying to another question, Singh maintained India was
a country where the population suffering from hunger is the highest and which is why one cannot wish away withdrawing the PDS system from the policy.

"At the same time, the combination of rural employment and PDS has contributed towards decline in poverty levels. Therefore, the issue is how best we can plug the leakages. There are two ways -- one is a direct cash transfer scheme and the other is to empower the stakeholder to run the PDS system," he added.

Prasad said it should be a cooperative endeavour and the states had to be taken on board. He also said although his party was not opposed to Aadhar, it has lodged certain cavits which even the Supreme Court is considering.

"If you give Aadhar, it must go to bonafide Indians. We are faced with a serious security issue as well," he added.

He also questioned that when the country`s growth rate is 4.8 per cent, why and how is it that state after state is notching 10 per cent rate in the same atmosphere of gloom and global crisis and this issue needed to be addressed.