Sound financial health and good administration are perhaps the two basic requirements for a state to even stay afloat. Sadly this seems to be a utopian dream for the state of Maharashtra now. The state is now steeped in a financial crisis that has forced it to apply a 20 per cent cut on overall expenditure.
Worst hit are the development projects, followed by daily expenditure needed to run the administration.
The state government has not been able to deliver some of the most basic things that are promised to its people in the Constitution. For one, it has failed to protect the people’s right to life and property. The successive building collapses with their high death tolls have exposed the state’s utter ineffectuality.
Now that the overall revenue income has dipped, the state may not keep all its promises. Its primary focus now seems to be timely distribution of salaries and perks to its 19 lakh employees and pension to over six lakh retired employees. The next priority for the Democratic Front government is to make available Rs 3,500 crore as special funds to MLAs and MLCs, to facilitate local works. This is, of course, to boost their chance of retaining their seats in the next elections.
In spite of its resources being so thinly stretched out, the government did not think twice before offering a generous hike in pension to its ex-legislators recently, which further burdened the state treasury. Soon, it will have to make available over Rs 1,900 crore to Vidarbha as a promised special package.
Sensing clear and present danger, the government has decided to apply 20 per cent cut to the special funds for legislators, which, of course, may invite their wrath in the approaching winter session of the state legislature.
The central government, which is also passing through a financial crunch, has offered 10 per cent hike in dearness allowance to its employees. Since Maharashtra is committed to match the salaries and perks given to the Central government employees, it will have to make a provision of approximately Rs 3,000 crore, which, of course, will add to the burden. State employees have already threatened to go on strike.
A layman would certainly want to know why the central and the state governments dole out such hikes, while the private sector works strictly on the basis of its financial conditions. Do the rulers feel they are exempt from these considerations?
The implementation of the fifth and sixth pay commissions has completely failed to root out corruption from government offices. On Friday evening, three babus from the state urban development department were caught red-handed by the ACB.
Incidents of building collapse and the government’s failure to prevent them is also a sign of state failure. Politics is taking priority over the protection of life.
Instead of debating over illegal buildings and early solutions, political parties have been trying to cash in on the anarchy. After each building collapse, inquiry committees were appointed to reveal the reasons for the catastrophe and the culprits. But such reports have been left to gather dust in Mantralaya cupboards. No political party has asked what happened to these reports.
The report on the Lucky Compound building collapse in Mumbra is yet to come, even though a few months have passed since the deadline. No political party wants to stop construction of illegal buildings, even though they are aware of their existence of many in their areas. Recently, a prominent NCP leader asked why Shiv Sena did not stop construction of illegal buildings in Thane, where it has been in power for decades. A Sena MLA asked in return why the senior government officials and the commissioner appointed by Congress-NCP government did not anything about it. Such allegations and counter allegations only show that there is little hope for anything better for the state and its 11.23 crore people.
It’s pertinent to note here that political parties are keener on the issue of redevelopment of crumbling structures in Mumbai and Thane, out of sheer love for the construction industry, more than public concern.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY