While I join others in congratulating Chief Minister Bahuguna for completing one year in office and wishing him the very best for the remaining period I would like to avail this opportunity to log in some priorities for his considerations for the remainder years in office.
Lest I am misunderstood by some let me hasten to add, for me, any and every elected government completing its full voted period in office, is something we all should celebrate, as every passing day of an elected government is a vote for democracy. Irrespective of the ideology of the government of the day so long it is a duly elected government and has implicit faith in good governance, it is good enough for the likes of me. Many a times people have asked for my opinion about what good has come the way of this new state I have repeated stated that the fact that both the elected governments, first of the Congress and later, the BJP, in Uttarakhand have had the good fortune to last their full terms, is easily the best blessing that we have received. It is quite akin to independent India having had several elected government lasting their full terms that has indeed laid our foundations, the benefits of which we have just started reaping.
Twelfth Plan Priorities
First year of the Twelfth Plan ( 2012-17 ) is going to be over in a few days time and soon we will start feeling the operationalization of the various newly commenced Flagship Programmes which are going to have long term impact and unless we quickly put our systems in place we are going to lose not only funds which should have come our way by now but also the opportunities which should have been knocking at our doors by now. By the shape of things I do not think that we even aware of the loss we are going to suffer, especially our rural and needy remote mountain regions and the poorest of the poor community. Here what I mean to bring to Chief Minister’s notice the delay which has unfortunately been caused in putting in place the State Rural Livelihood Mission ( SRLM) and the down-stream districts and block rural livelihoods teams. The Twelfth Plan acknowledges the disability which our mountain regions suffer from and also regional disparity in development from which regions like Uttarakhand suffer. What have we made of such acknowledgments at the highest levels?
Rural Livelihoods Mission or Aajeevika Mission
Alarmed by the existing situation and the fact that even after two years time since Mrs Sonia Gandhi launched the ambitious Rural Livelihoods Mission in Banswara, Rajasthan in Uttarakhand we had not even set up the basic structure! I personally took time off and met Chief Minister Bahuguna, at his residence one fine morning, and requested him to effectively intervene. He did take quick notice, the stuck up file was extricated from the jungle of Finance department. But I am sorry to say the kind of attention that should have been bestowed to setting up this all too important Rural Livelihood Mission, is far from satisfactory. It would do Mr Bahuguna and his new Government a world of good to spare their precious time to attend to activization of national Flagship Programmes like the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, mainly focussed on groups of the poor villagers, mainly rural poor women, enabling them to get involved in income generating activities through their Self Help Groups ( SHGs ) and their Federations. Had there been an effective Planning Commission in this State they would have informed Chief Minister Bahuguna that in the national budget as much as Rs 10,000 crores have been kept only for this Mission. I have repeated highlighted the tragedy of our State that we have miserably failed to put in place a pro-active and forward looking Planning Commission in this State. I still bemoan this great deficit, which we must immediately fill up. States like Rajasthan, Kerala and particularly Andhra Pradesh have stolen considerable march over states like Uttarakhand in this field and they are repeating huge benefit from being in the fore-front. It is not as if we cannot do better but first we have to aware of what needs to be done first. I have no quarrels with what Commission like Bhati or now Tripathi do or do not do, let them do all that, but what about rolling out Rural Livelihoods Mission, what about working for the groups of the poorest of the poor. Why don’t these lapses head the newspaper headlines? Mr Bahuguna please do spare some thoughts on such crucially important governance points and do make concerned officials ensure that they also brief you and your senior colleagues in the Cabinet, progress on these Missions.
National Skills Development Mission
For a poverty stricken, out-migration-prone but highly literate state like Uttarakhand, the importance of yet another National Mission can not be understated. This is the National Skills Development Mission ( NSDM). The absentee Planning Commission of Uttarakhand would also have pointed out to Chief Minister Bahuguna and his able Cabinet colleagues that this is one Mission we should have seized with our both hands. What have done about it, or do we even know that it exists and does require a huge amount of due diligence and co-ordinational efforts. Mercifully, the National Skills Development Corporation has suo moto commissioned several studies and majority of such Skills Gap studies have either been completed or are nearly completion. Finding the Skills Gap is one thing and making practical use of the same quite another. The other day we had a look at the Draft Report and I must say that it is has a lot which deserves to be immediately acted upon. Uttarakhand Study follow up would call for immediate gingering up of our various Commodities Boards, Corporations, Cooperatives and Technical Education Institutions and even various private sector technical institutions. In short through this Skills Mission we have the capacity to revive our slackened development scenario, both rural and urban. The Chambers of Commerce and Industries ( CCI ) and the huge private sector now ensconced in this state can also be given a big challenge to galvanize action through this Skills development Mission. But, do we have time, inclination and the will to get up once again and move ahead, freed from petty politics and engagements in wasteful activities?
First things First
Having spent most of my public service years in rural and social development sectors, working for the rural poor and marginalized groups in remote mountain regions I can say with certain amount of confidence that Uttarakhand is extremely lucky in having several not for profit organisations, otherwise called the NGOs and very often target of public ridicule, which have done far more for uplifting the economic conditions of the rural masses than the government departments, and add to that an outstanding range of institutions like the Pant Nagar Agriculture University, with its battery of Colleges, scores of premier R&D institutions, now a wide range of institutions in the private sectors and then a range of Universities and Technical institutions, which together have a capacity to haul of the state from its current state of sloth and inaction.
While putting together his political cadre and political agenda in place if Chief Minister Bahuguna could also spare his time for closely monitoring the two National Missions that I have just mentioned, the National Rural Livelihoods Mission and the National Skills development Mission, these two Missions alone have the capacity to achieve far more than any other alternative he can possibly think about. Year 2014, which comes near every passing day, is going to be a year of reckoning for all political parties, and in particular when our politician go to the interior and remote areas seeking the blessings of the poorest, it is the rural poor who are going to confront them as to what has been done for them, what has happened to these ambitious Missions, and what is there to show in evidence. I guess there is still time to catch up, and catch you must Mr Bahuguna.
Mind these Missions, Mr Bahuguna !