Senior leaders and party workers of Congress and NCP must have heaved a sigh of relief after the state government announced reservations for the Maratha and Muslim communities, as was being demanded to secure the political future of the ruling Democratic Front. For them, it was the only hope after a dismal show in the Lok Sabha polls.
Even senior leaders such as Sharad Pawar had, soon after the poll outcome, demanded reservations, along with relief to traders from the local body tax (LBT).
Both reservations and LBT have become politically significant issues for the ruling Congress-NCP, as the combine can woo Maratha and Muslim voters as well as the trader community which controls the markets.
The ruling alliance seems to have made up its mind that it has nothing else to offer to the electorate. It also strengthens the belief that political parties in a democratic setup can succeed simply by promising concessions and facilities for the larger sections of society.
Certainly, there are many more things that can potentially bring changes in the life of the average citizen. And those are the crucial decisions pending implementation. One of the important ones among them is creating a housing regulatory authority that aims to provide relief to the common man, who is mostly taken for a ride by the influential builder lobby.
The state, particularly Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who also heads the housing department, is delaying issuance of a notification, apparently, for no reason. Even the President assented to the state law that intends to penalise and jail errant builders three months ago.
If the state notification is issued today, it will take at least two months for the housing regulatory authority to come into existence. Why is the state dithering on the issue when the CM had personally taken it up with the then union housing ministers, Ajay Maken and Girija Vyas, since the central ministry had certain reservations over the state legislation?
Now, everyone who matters in the government is silent and the common buyer who wants to invest his hard-earned savings to buy a decent house is left at the mercy of builders. Another issue of vital public importance that the state has neglected is the implementation of Fee Regulation Act, which also received the President’s nod recently. The state says that the act will be implemented from the next academic year, that is, 2015-16.
The question is, who prevented the government from acting on it when the President’s assent was received before academic year 2014-15 had even begun? The state education department says it had little time to begin the implementation because a fee regulation mechanism comprising regulatory bodies at regional and state level needed some time.
Why did the state not do its homework to set up regulatory bodies, when it was aware that the Presidential assent was to come some or the other day? Has the state no concern about the plight of parents who are forced to admit their children in expensive private schools? These parents don’t send their wards to the schools run by local bodies because the quality of education there is shoddy.
And will the state clarify as to how most of the high-end schools cropped up in newly developed townships meant for the middle- and lower-middle classes? It is purely because plots reserved for primary or secondary schools were doled out to developers, who formed charitable trusts with their kin as members.
Bowing to the pressure tactics of traders as well as alliance partner NCP, the CM is rethinking his stand over the LBT, while ignoring the plight of civic bodies across the state. How do civic bodies in places where no octroi or LBT is collected survive? How do they pay their employees? How do they offer amenities to citizens? How is it the citizens’ fault? Does anyone have answers?
The state is not interested in discharging its constitutional duties to provide an equal playing field for its citizens by creating an atmosphere conducive to growth. Legislators from the ruling as well as opposition parties have failed to question the government as to why issues most dear to common people such as housing, fee regulation, setting up of new Lokayukta as per the central act, de-listing of fruits and vegetables from APMCs have not been resolved. For failed governance, reservations cannot just be the sole panacea.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day
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