Nuggets on Governance from Parliament
Every session of parliament presents data which illuminates state of affairs, the gap between what is needed and what is delivered — from doctors at hospitals to teachers in schools to vacant posts to bad loans recovery.
By Shankkar Aiyar | Published: 25th December 2022 01:36 AM |
Every session of Parliament brings with it nuggets on the state of affairs, particularly in the states. The information, when perused and parsed, reveal answers which often trigger questions on the context the collective consciousness dwells in. Here are a few factoids on governance from Parliament.
Covid19 is back in the discourse following the headlines from China. For sure allocation for health is up — from Rs 47,353 crore in 2017–18 to Rs 83,000 crore in 2022–23. Add the Finance Commission grant of Rs 70, 051 crore to local bodies for health infrastructure. Money though has not eradicated shortage. Of the 74813 posts for doctors sanctioned for 11 major hospitals and institutes across the country managed by the Centre 30512 are vacant — mostly in the new AIIMS hospitals outside Delhi. India currently has 13, 08,009 allopathic doctors (and 5.6 lakh Ayush doctors) for a population of 1.4 billion and two nurses per 1000 persons.
And the gaps in capacity affecting access to health care are most stark in rural India. Over 18900 posts of doctors are vacant in district hospitals and health centres– 362 in Odisha, 340 in Karnataka, 271 in Chattisgarh, 140 in Uttar Pradesh and 131 in Madhya Pradesh. Also vacant are posts of paramedics, pharmacists and technicians. The promise of converting primary centres into wellness centres is yet work in progress.
The issue of unemployment is a constant debate in India’s political narrative. Despite the debate India continues to witness the paradoxical coexistence of vacant posts and need for jobs. Citing a report of the Pay Research Unit the government revealed that 9.79 lakh posts are lying vacant in the departments and PSUs under the Central Government — defence, home, railways, posts and revenue ministries account for over 5 lakh of the vacant posts.
Clearly the gap in capacity is showing up in the processes and outcomes, in design of policy and in its implementation, across levels of government — more vividly in state governments. To counter this, in October 2022, the Prime Minister launched a rozgar mela to recruit 10 lakh persons in 18 months. The target is challenged by systemic apathy — despite questions and circulars, in the past five years the central government filled a total of 3.77 lakh posts, that is roughly 62000 in a year.
Like it is known that during the pandemic millions of children could not go to school for two years. This week, the government informed parliament that between 2021–21 and 2021–22 over 20000 schools have closed down and that the number of teachers has declined by 1.89 lakh across India’s schools. This is bound to have grave repercussions on an already broken education system — for the students and for India in the long term.
A growing economy needs skilled persons. The success of any skills development programme depends on successful placements. This week the Standing Committee of Parliament for the Ministry of Labour provided a vignette of the uphill task. As of June 30, 2022, of the 3.99 lakh certified candidates trained under the PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana-3 only 30,599 got placed in jobs. In the previous versions of PMKVY barely a fourth or 21.32 lakh of 91.38 lakh certified candidates got placements.
Besides PMKVY, skills are also imparted at Industrial Training Institutes. Fact is training at these ITI’s is affected by the availability of faculty. The Committee overseeing policy and implementation of the Ministry of Labour discovered (from data by the National Council for Vocational Training) that as of May 2022 out the 1.99 lakh sanctioned posts of professionals across ITIs in the country as many as 1.29 lakh posts were lying vacant.
The enactment of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was heralded as a milestone in economic reforms. Success in cleaning up bad loans in banks via the IBC 2016 however is haunted by a rising number of pending cases at the National Company Law Tribunal. Data revealed to Parliament shows 12,871 cases were pending at the NCLT as on October 31, 2022.
The gap in effective and speedy resolution is reflected in the data. As of December 2021, in 444 cases Rs 2.5 lakh crore out of Rs 7.54 lakh crore has been realised through the IBC process. Meanwhile in the past five years banks wrote off bad loans to the tune of Rs. 10,09,511 crore.
Development of rural India depends on the empowerment of Panchayats. The Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan is the flagship scheme. The Standing Committee on rural development discovered panchayats have been starved of funds critical for construction of Panchayat Bhawans, computerization and technical manpower. In 2020–21 only Rs 499.9 crore of the Rs 3337.8 crore approved was released and in 2021–22 Rs 518 crore of Rs 4480 crore approved was released. The reason: non-compliance of norms by state governments.
It is said that what is identified and measured can be improved. This is not necessarily the case in India. The death of industrialist Cyrus Mistry underlined the dangers of travelling on India’s highways. One of the causes of accidents is badly designed roads. The government was asked for data on accidents caused by road engineering defects. The response: the Transport Research Wing of the Ministry of Road Transport ‘does not compile road accidents data on the basis of road engineering defects.’ Why wouldn’t black spots be recorded and made public for motorists? Mind you this is a country where over 1.5 lakh persons die in road accidents every year.
For years successive regimes have advocated disallowing vehicles older than 15 years on Indian roads. The issue is a political quicksand given the implication on the cost of owning new vehicles. In November 2022 the government issued a notification prohibiting the renewal of registration of all government vehicles older than 15 years. The number of vehicles likely to be scrapped: approximately 1.28 lakh. It begs the question: how many vehicles do governments own? Meanwhile the decision to scrap vehicles has been left to the departments!
Finally here is wishing the very best for the New Year. We do live in interesting times.
Shankkar Aiyar, political economy analyst, is author of ‘Accidental India’, ‘Aadhaar: A Biometric History of India’s 12-Digit Revolution’ and ‘The Gated Republic –India’s Public Policy Failures and Private Solutions’. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ShankkarAiyar. His previous columns can be found here. This column was first published here.