Kerala floods gave plenty of poignant tales and lessons to learn. Do not ravage nature and do not tinker with eco system are the basic truths, which we fail to realise during such disasters. What one sows is what one reaps, is a blow given with telling effect.
A very heart-rending picture was that of a poor family carrying whatever belongings they could retrieve including an old mat, couple of vessels without forgetting their faithful dog. The dog on its hind legs with the two under-privileged women holding other two legs, waded through chest-level water. Coming as it did on the eve of Independence Day, the picture conveys a message on the condition of the Nation.
Even after 72 years of independence, there is abject poverty and the poor in times of calamity are left to fend for themselves.
Each and every Government formulates high sounding schemes and policies within a timeline to fulfil. On the ground they percolate slowly, however, by the time they reach the last mile much of the steam is lost. The avowed objective with which the policy was conceived fails to deliver with desired impact.
Kerala has number of dams. It either releases water for irrigation or during floods. However, the protection of the dam is always mired with controversy. Blame game starts and discussion on who is responsible for inundation continues. Sad part is on the eastern side of Western Ghats that includes Theni district, parts of Virudhunagar and Madurai district in Tamil Nadu. These regions are totally dry. Part of the rain water drained by Western Ghats would flow to bordering TN districts. This flow has been diverted to fill check dams on Kerala side. Hence, one side of the hill is flooded and other is arid.
Water resource is a national asset and has to be equitably shared. It is unfortunate that political feud is coming in the way of working out a solution for larger good of the people. A grandiose scheme of Ganga-Cauvery project was conceived in 1970s but has been executed only on paper. The Telugu Ganga project of sharing Krishna water between Andhra and Tamil Nadu took nearly 20 years to be completed. Even now a lot of field level issues and problems of diversion of water en-route with only less quantity of water reaching TN, than what was envisaged in the scheme remain to be resolved.
Implementation of decisions is a huge challenge and this can be seen in every field of activity. This is the main reason for stagnation in many of the fundamental essential programmes.
Demonetisation and its aftermath had some unsettling time but people cooperated. Now, the RBI has released a report that all the money deposited in banks has tallied with the notes printed in the security press. Earlier there was so much of negative reports by activists that fake notes were deposited as demonetised currencies and that notes deposited has exceeded the number of notes printed. After two years since demonetisation we are getting the status report. Governments should be hailed for the multipronged efforts to plug loopholes in the system causing generation of black money. Now there is transparency in transaction and better compliance to tax laws.
Another significant development is the introduction of uniform tax structure for goods and services in the country from July 1, 2017. Again there were hiccups in implementation with unreasonable taxes for certain commodities, but the Goods and Services Tax (GST) council has rationalised many of the anomalies.
The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017, passed by Parliament allowed the RBI to direct banks to initiate insolvency resolution proceedings against defaulters. The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017 was introduced. It seeks to monitor banks and resolve them in case of failure. These two are significant reforms aimed at reining in fly by wire companies mismanaging the company incurring huge loss and piling up irrecoverable debt to banks.
The Indian economy is estimated to grow at 6.6% in 2017-18. The Ministry of Civil Aviation proposed strategic disinvestment of Air India by way of transfer of management control and sale of 76% equity share held by the central government. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) released rules for handling of unruly passengers. It also released draft regulations on civilian operation of drones, a much needed road map as demand for Drone usage.
Amendments to the MSME Development Act, 2006 to change the basis of classification of enterprises from investment in plant machinery to annual turnover has been approved to give further fillip to the sector closely following liberalisation of credit facility to MSME sector. Privacy debate and digital security were causing concern with astronomical growth of transmission of data though electronic devices. The SC has held the right to privacy to be a fundamental right, indeed a landmark judgment. Another issue engaging the attention of social scientists was the practice of Triple Talaq. The court has held the practice of instant triple talaq invalid and LS passed a Bill to make it punishable. The court also permitted passive euthanasia, subject to certain conditions. Another reform implemented from last year was combined budget doing away with 92-year-old practice of separate railway budget. During British time, the railway budget constituted nearly 84% of the GDP but with growth in other sectors this need is no longer there .The Rail Development Authority(RDA) has been created to frame guiding principles for tariff determination for freight and passenger segments.
In the Health sector The National Medical Commission Bill, 2017 was introduced which seeks to replace the Medical Council of India. National Health Protection Mission to provide annual health insurance cover of up to Rs 5 lakh per family is a major initiative to provide health cover to nearly 10 crore families. National Nutrition Strategy, 2017 was released which aims at reducing all forms of under-nutrition by 2030. In pursuance of SC ruling Cauvery authority has been constituted to ensure equitable sharing by the riparian states.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed by Lok Sabha. It seeks to address issues around road safety and sets up a National Road Safety Board.
Bharatmala Pariyojana is a centrally sponsored and funded road and Highways project. In Phase I of the project a total length of 34,800 km of roads has been approved, a vital infrastructure addition.
Significant initiatives taken in the last one year but how it gets translated on the ground needs to be seen.
Our tryst with destiny is entering 72 years, but miles to go before we can rest on our laurels.
— The author is an MLA from Mylapore and a former DGP