LUCKNOW: Six months is not a long time in politics but the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh seems to have come to the end of its honeymoon period after the spectacular mandate it received in the Assembly elections. Hard questions are being asked about the government's priorities and the chief minister's administrative acumen.
The government started off with a bang on March 19, 2017, setting short-term goals, fixing deadlines for projects, hearing late-night presentations by department heads and installing biometric checks in offices. Over 60 retired officers working on long extensions were shown the door.
However, the momentum has slackened gradually. And the change is palpable in the bureaucracy.
After he swept out the retainers of the old regime and brought in a boatload of his own men, Adityanath's administrative skills are now being questioned with the government not sustaining the pace it cut in the first two months in office. Some attribute the loss of momentum to a hostile bureaucracy which seems unwilling to reorientate itself to his way of working, having got to used to the laidback mode for the past decade and a half.
The big question being asked of Yogi Adityanath is whether he has the real will to check crime. He started off with a flourish in the first month, setting up anti-Romeo squads and helplines for women, launching a crackdown on anti-social elements. They all served to send out a signal that the new regime means business but once the initial fervour subsided, the crime graph has spiralled up. Incidents of robberies, rapes, loots, murders and abductions began to dominate the headlines.
It was the Saharanpur caste conflagration in April-May that stopped the momentum dead. The opposition, looking for just such an opportunity, cornered the chief minister over his allegedly loose grip on the police and bureaucracy and demanded his resignation.
However, in the past one month, the police became pro-active again by adopting an 'eye-for-an-eye' approach to criminals across the state. The crime graph has been showing a downward trend in recent weeks.
At the same time, some decisions betrayed the administrative inexperience of the chief minister and the lack of wise counsel to him. One typical example was the outlandish promise to make the state's roads pothole-free in three months. At the same time, a ban was clamped on mining. This led to a paucity of construction material and contractors could not accomplish the task as promised. Official records show that only 66 per cent of UP's potholes are filled.
The BJP government's signature promise of a Rs 36,000-crore crop loan waiver for farmers was implemented to some rather also came in for some searching scrutiny under the scanner amidst reports about some beneficiaries getting loan waiver certificates of amounts less than Rs one, while the government had announced waiver loans of up to Rs one lakh though it showed its readiness to by making the provision of the amount of Rs 36,000 crore required in the state budget. However, after some glitches, it could fulfil the promise.
Promotion of religious tourism and implementation of new industrial policy have been the highlights of the government. Besides, a turnaround of the electricity sector through the change in working culture at the discoms, reduction in losses, costs and infrastructure improvements, with central government support has brought about a noticeable improvement in the power scenario of the state.
But incidents like BRD medical college tragedy tarred government's image leaving behind questions on its seriousness to spruce up state's health sector which is in a shambles.
Now after entering the state council, he seems set to revive his tough image with a posturing on public platforms and also during his media interfaces.
The BRD scourage
Despite its claim to spruce up health services in the state, the BJP government received a major blow in the form of shocking Gorakhpur tragedy, in which several children died over alleged oxygen shortage. While the official machinery went into a usual denial mode, the media spotlight on the BRD Medical College hospital in CM Yogi Aditynath's constituency, where this tragedy took place, put the state in a poor light. This was not all, the claims of good governance started looking hollow when post-BRD-crisis, scores of children's deaths were reported from Farrukhabad and Hamirpur only to eclipse the health scenario of the state.
Shocking incident of a dog mutilating a body in the mortuary of RML government hospital, Lucknow, fire in trauma centre of the prestigious King George's Medical College, Lucknow also pointed a finger at the state of Uttar Pradesh's public healthcare system.
There are many villages devoid of proper medical facilities under National Rural Health Mission. Primary and community health systems, which are the backbone of rural health sector are in a shambles. The rural population has to travel more than 20 to 30km to get access to proper medical facilities. Corruption is prevalent from top to bottom in the medical health sector. BRD Medical College tragedy is a testimony to this fact. There are factors like shortage of doctors, shortage of PHCs, CHCs, needs to be tackled on priority to improve healthcare in the state.
Over to Dirty Harries
On completing the first milestone of 100 days in office, UP CM Yogi Adityanath was a worried man, especially, with regard to state's law and order scenario. After smooth sailing for a month, state's crime graph soared. The CM had attributed it to the state's work culture which had allegedly gone for a toss in the past one and a half decade wherein criminals were being politically patronised, FIRs were not being lodged and heinous crimes were being swept under the carpet during the previous regimes. He vowed to bring the crime graph down as a commitment to the people.
Now as his government completes six months in office, Adityanath's firebrand persona is emerging gradually. Living up to his image of a hard taskmaster, the CM has equipped the UP police with the freedom to answer criminals in their language to check the crime rate. Consequently, policing has been intensified.
As per the official data, state police neutralised 15 notorious criminals in 420 encounters between March 20 and September 14. 868 criminals carrying rewards on their heads were arrested and in encounters, 88 cops were also wounded.
Additionally, UP government has also increased the quantum of cash rewards on heads of wanted criminals, which could be announced at different levels of police and state home department hierarchy in order to incentivise cops in working out cases of heinous crimes and boosting the morale of field policemen.
The state principal home secretary or home secretary (police) are now authorised to announce a reward of Rs 5 lakh on a wanted criminal against their authority of `2.5 lakh cash reward earlier. At the lowest level, the senior police superintendent or police superintendent in charge of the district can now announce a cash reward of Rs 25,000 against Rs 5,000 earlier.
Working on development agenda
While many of the projects started during previous regime's hit a rough patch and are under scanner over alleged financial irregularities, Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has introduced and implemented its new industrial policy to kickstart the development agenda.
However, the meat industry received an initial blow due to government crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses resulting in huge revenue losses, a marked improvement in power scenario, subsidized electricity and fiscal incentives to draw investment by creating an industry-friendly environment by addressing the security concerns of the corporate houses may take the state ahead on development agenda promised by BJP during Assembly polls-2017.
The new 'Industrial Investment and Employment Promotion Policy of Uttar Pradesh 2017' implemented by the state government recently is a leitmotif of what is there on cards for UP's economic development in the days to come. UP is the third largest economy of India contributing 8.4 per cent to country's GDP.
While the first phase of Lucknow Metro service has become fully operational, plans to create new land banks, promoting country-specific industrial parks to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and helping set up private industrial parks around Lucknow-Kanpur, Kanpur-Allahabad and Varanasi-Allahabad zone are high on agenda. Besides, a separate State Investment Board is also on the anvil.
The investors are slowly getting interested in the UP story, long considered to be a laggard state with an abysmal law and order track record. A case in point being the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which announced its commitment to invest Rs 1950 crore in UP to improve road infrastructure.
Apart from a new metro rail being planned at Kanpur, Meerut, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Ghaziabad, the focus is on developing Bundelkhand, Poorvanchal and Madhyanchal. Also, the state government intends to develop new airports with the help of private sector participation.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to prepare an elaborate work plan to establish the largest business incubator in the country near Lucknow airport.