224 seats in the 403 member house. The Samajwadi Party, through its poster boy Akhilesh Yadav, had swept the 2012 UP Assembly elections. His followers from every district and nook of the state rejoiced. On the other hand, some of us who still had live memories of the infamous ‘Gunda Raj’ during his daddy’s tenure were horrified.
My dad, who is a practicing doctor, just sighed. “His party workers will again start coming to the hospital and get themselves checked without paying any consultation fee.”
My mom just worried for my safety. “You are not going to go out alone now, understood?”
This was the intensity with which we feared his Government. In fact, this panic and fear had gripped most middle class families like us who had no affiliations with the ruling party.
Fast forward to 2016 – What is the status quo? Has the youngest Chief Minister of UP managed to carry out the overwhelming development which he promised? Have the middle class families stopped fearing the party and its party workers? What is UP, and consequently, the SP’s future?
Uttar Pradesh, ladies and gentlemen, is the most populous state of India accounting for 16.4% of the population and the fourth largest state in the country. In fact, UP would have been the sixth most populous country in the world if it were a country. So, as anyone can see it, governing UP is not an easy business, which is why the Government in power should be extremely efficient.
We shall try to examine what the government has done in various aspects related to the state.
The Yadav-Muslim identity politics played by the SP has already been discussed in this article on this site; so, I shall not delve into it here.
It is interesting to note that 77 percent of UP’s population lives in rural areas and only 22 percent of the people live in urban areas. Consequently, the state’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture for its growth. This can be proved by two facts. Firstly, out of a total working population of approximately 66 million, about 39 million work as cultivators and agricultural labourers accounting for almost 60 percent of the total work force. Secondly, in 2013-2014, agriculture contributed more than 20 percent to the Gross State Domestic Product. Thus, any wise government running the state should keep agriculture as their priority, right? And how can we understand if this government did the same? The best way would be to directly consult the most affected stakeholders- the farmers and the cultivators.
Unfortunately for the SP government, the farmers are blaming them mercilessly for their failure to control the continuing deterioration of agriculture in UP. Farmers are in extreme distress as more than 75 districts of UP have suffered varying degrees of drought. The situtation in Bundelkhand has aggravated as a significant number of farmers in that region committed suicide in the recent months. Even Western UP’s sugar cane farmers, who had always enjoyed prosperity(especially during Mayawati’s regime), are extremely distressed. They are particularly annoyed that sugarcane prices have not been increased by this government for the past few years.
Farmer’s outfits like the Bhartiya Kisan Andolan and the Bhartiya Kisan Union have even gone to the extent of praising the previous Mayawati-led BSP government in public, stating that during her rule the sugarcane prices were raised every year and sugar mills functioned more normally and thus have openly given their preference for the BhartiyaSamaj Party. Moreover, Jat farmers of western UP and the local Jatav community, usually at loggerheads, may vote together for the first time in the coming polls.
This is clearly a warning sign for the SP and demonstrate that the government has not done an impressive job in the agriculture sector.
If there is something the Akhilesh Yadav government needs to be appreciated for, it is the work his government did for the issue of women’s security. UP has always been very notorious when it comes to women’s safety, and anyone who has ever lived or even visited UP knows that being eve-teased and stared at is a part of life there. In fact, I am a resident of UP and now I get surprised on the days when I go out and don’t face these things!
The 1090 women helpline, which is well known across the country now, has been massively successful. The helpline was established on 15th July, 2012 and since then, about 2,35,902 cases of harassment have been reported (up to 9th July 2014) from across the state out of which 2,16,797 cases have been solved. The helpline works through telephonic counselling. The staff of the helpline are all police officers, who work diligently. One visit to their office and you will know that it is devoid of the apathy and disinterest always prevalent in government offices. People are efficient there and you can see that actual work is being done. Moreover, another helpline is going to be launched by the government, which will work in the form of field counselling.
I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the 1090 helpline, and my own experience has told me how well it is doing for the women of the state.
However, although these initiatives are good, much more has to be done for reducing crime against women. This cannot happen just by the opening up of helplines. The state machinery like the police and other law and order enforcement agencies and the education level of the inhabitants of the state, all play a part in determining how safe the women of a locality are.
UP still continues to be notorious for women’s safety due to these other factors.
LAW AND ORDER
The law and order situation has never been a highlight of UP, but it further deteriorated during the regime of SP. The events occurred during their tenure clearly demonstrate the lack of control which the government has over the law and order of the state.
In the recent years, UP faced the maximum number of communal clashes and riots. Ever since the government came to power in 2012, the riots began. Mathura, Bareily, Pratapnagar, Ghaziabad, Faizabad, Lucknow, Allahabad – you name the place and it would have witnessed a communal clash. The government demonstrated a total lack of efficiency and power to control these riots. The police could not curb anything, and violence was at its peak. The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 was a classic example of how the state government completely failed to control the situation. Furthermore, while families were displaced, humans were left to languish on the roads, the entire Yadav family had the time of their lives at ‘Saifai Mahotsav’. For those of you unaware about this grand event, this is an annual cultural extravaganza organized at the expense of taxpayer’s money at the paternal village of Mulayam Singh Yadav and his kin. So Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif shake a leg and Yadav family whistle and clap, all through the money the residents of UP pay.
Another reason why the law and order situation in UP today is in shackles is because the guardians of this law and order- the police – are extremely inefficient. Despite the fact that the UP police is the largest police force anywhere in the world with more than 3,60,000 personnel, the ever-increasing crime rates in the state indicate that there is an inherent flaw in the entire police structure of the state. There are manifold reasons for this. Some of them are that the salaries of policemen are extremely low, so most of them do not take their work seriously. Another is that there is a gap between the sanctioned police strength and actual police strength. Moreover, there is a total lack of distrust for the policemen in the minds of the residents of the state, and the police dances on the finger-tips of the ministers.
A report titled ‘State Security Commission: Bringing Little to the Table’ made by the Commonwealth of Human Rights, stated that the nature of subservience of the police to the ministers has reached ludicrous levels in the state. Recently, Azam Khan, cabinet minister of UP government ordered an extensive police operation which included dog squads and crime branch detectives to find his buffaloes which had been stolen from his farmhouse. Ever heard of such a strong police reaction to any, er, normal cases? I haven’t either. In fact, as if this was not all, three local policemen who were patrolling that night were stripped of their posts for dereliction of duty! Are these policemen or the bodyguards of the minister, you ask. Well, I leave it for you to decide.
In another incident, a journalist was burnt alive in Shahjahanpur by five policemen for writing against the illegal mining activities of a minister. It was later revealed that the policemen had acted on the order of the minister.
On the other hand, SP workers also feel that since their party is in power, they have the right to do whatever they want to and can even supersede the law. Recently, the SP workers opened fire to celebrate the victory of an SP candidate in the local body elections.
All these incidents tell us an alarming tale of the status quo in UP. In fact, governor Ram Naik had delivered a resounding rap on the knucles to the SP government by publicly calling it a failure on the law and order front. A survey conducted by the ABP news also revealed that almost 60 percent of the respondents of the survey felt that the law and order situation in the state had worsened in the last four years of the SP’s regime.
Industrial body ASSOCHAM has announced that Uttar Pradesh has begun outperforming India on various fronts including economic growth, infrastructure development, industry, services sector growth and labour productivity. A survey conducted by the industry group also said the northern state has the potential to achieve more than 10% growth by financial year 2016-17.
Well, this survey was a good news for the government and Akhilesh Yadav has quoted this survey in most press conferences. While the government has made some efforts to bring development into the state, it is lagging behind its proposed promises and plans.
The Agra Lucknow Expressway and the Lucknow Metro Project are some ambitious projects introduced by the government. The former is an under-construction 302 km (188 mi) controlled-access highway or expressway, being constructed by the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority to reduce traffic in the already congested roads and to reduce pollution and carbon footprint. The latter, on the other hand, is being overlooked by the Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation Limited and aims to reduce the use of private vehicles by the city residents, since approximately 94% of the capital’s registered vehicles are private.
The good news is that these very ambitious projects are actually being implemented and a lot of work has already been there.
However, there are some other schemes like the laptop distribution one which do not make any sense in the long run. The government, out of its budget, spends millions of rupees in buying and distributing laptops to meritorious students who pass tenth and twelfth board examinations. If the government spends the same money in creating good higher education institutes and generating employment in the state, both of which are seriously lacking, then that would be something which is beneficial for those students. It is not financially viable for all students to go for higher education outside the state, and thus they end up doing whatever degree they get in whatever place and land up with any or no job. This laptop distribution is just like a subsidy – it might benefit you now, but what about the future? Isn’t developing skill sets and creating opportunities more important than short term benefits like getting a laptop? And how good is it to have a laptop but no job?
Also, almost all the major schemes that the CM may like to count on as his achievements remain in a nascent stage. They need constant monitoring. In fact, he faces the major challenge of ensuring that all the major development programmes are completed before the state goes to the polls in 2017.
Well, to conclude, although the Akhilesh Yadav government has made some efforts and tried to reform the state, it has not been enough. In fact, the expectations that everybody had from a young and dynamic CM have not been fulfilled at all. The law and order situation, the crime rate, the general development of the state – nothing has changed drastically. In most situations, it has been witnessed that the CM has been massively controlled by his Yadav clan and the sole motive of the clan is maintaining their hegemony in the state.
YOU, as the voter, should take into consideration all these factors before casting your vote next year!