2017: A FLASHBACK

2017: A FLASHBACK

Rup J Pater

ITANAGAR, Dec 30: To cut the rhetoric short, exactly a year ago the ‘Lotus’ bloomed in the Himalayan state for the second time after 14 years. Unlike the earlier one in 2003 – that lasted merely 44 days under Gegong Apang – the ‘Lotus’ this time bloomed through the year. With two more people-mandated seats under its belt, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to settle down in Arunachal Pradesh for the moment, at least.

Advent of 2017 saw a BJP Govt in place with Pema Khandu as Chief Minister, arguably the youngest in India, when he switched party lock-stock and barrel on the last day of 2016. At the hindsight, the change has come good for the state. On the last day of BJP’s first year of governance it is but natural for the people to have a relook at its governance that counts to Khandu’s performance as its leader.

Few detractors may raise fingers on financial management of the government, but it has to be viewed from the point of past liabilities. Blame it on financial mismanagement through the years, in 2016-17 the present government had to clear liabilities of over Rs 4000 crore and it did. This year the carry forward burden was reduced to nearly Rs 1000 crore. No mean achievement and this was possible only through strict management of state finances like doing away with distinction of Plan and Non-Plan, merging the departments of Finance and Planning, resource transfers through Public Finance Management System (PFMS) platform, direct benefit transfer mode of payment for all beneficiaries and public procurement of goods and services beyond Rs 1 crore are on electronic platform.

Despite inexplicable, unforeseen and unwarranted hindrances – few genuine at times – that have become synonymous with governance in Arunachal Pradesh, Khandu patiently manoeuvred through and made sincere efforts to bring a transformational change in governance. Today work ethics, work culture and service delivery system in all departments have visibly improved. Several long-standing problems were solved and new initiatives were undertaken to achieve excellence in governance and administration. Sustained action was taken for bringing in transparency, increasing efficiency, eliminating corruption and red-tapism in the whole system.

Notification of the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Act 2016 has been a huge step in this direction. The Act provides for timely delivery of notified services to general public within a stipulated time period. The Act has penal provisions to penalise the erring officers who do not provide service delivery in the given stipulated time.

For long the State had two administrative divisions, headed by a Divisional Commissioner, but only on papers. On November 7, Khandu made these actually functional by inaugurating the Divisional Commissioner West headquarters at Yachuli, the other (East) being headquartered at Namsai. The State Govt has delegated administrative and financial powers to these Divisional Commissioners – Gamli Padu (West) and Bolung Siram (East) – to function independently.

Three of the best initiatives that came this year, by all probability, must be the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Swavalamban Yojana (DDUSY), Chief Minister’s District Innovation and Challenge Fund and the Chief Minister’s Adarsh Gram Yojana (CMAGY).

Hundreds of unemployed youths have benefitted so far from the DDUSY that facilitates bank loans from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore for setting up greenfield enterprises with 30% subsidy. Implemented district-wise top priority is being accorded to projects related to agriculture and allied sectors including tourism and textile and handicraft production. The Chief Minister’s District Innovation and Challenge Fund, with an annual budget of Rs 2 to 10 crore, has been conceptualised to ensure that public investment in the district is responsive to local requirements of the districts with key objectives to fill in vital gaps in public infrastructure available which is not being fully utilised in absence of relatively small investments e.g. Govt hospital with non-functional diagnostic equipment.

On the other hand, the core objective of CMAGY is to provide all physical and social infrastructures to one adopted village in each Assembly Constituency for all-round socio-economic development and ownership of productive assets. It would be upon the respective legislator to adopt one such village in his/her constituency for the scheme that has Rs 1.50 crore earmarked. Emphasis of the scheme is to dovetail with all rural development central and state schemes. It wouldn’t be contractor driven but implemented through involvement of villagers generating rural economy.

Incidentally, Koyu, Motum, Sika-Bamin and Balek villages in East Siang were adopted by Nari-Koyu MLA Kento Rina, Mebo MLA Lombo Tayeng, Pasighat West MLA Tatung Jamoh and Pasighat East MLA Kaling Moyong respectively under CMAGY in September last.

The Digital Arunachal mission actually took off to a flying start this year with launching of the Arunachal eService (Service Plus), a digital platform for service delivery. This has made Govt services accessible to the common man from anywhere through Internet and Jan Suvidha centers in the districts. Initially, six services like obtaining Scheduled Tribe, Permanent Resident, Temporary Resident, Income, Dependent and Character certificates can be availed online at www.eservice.arunachal.gov.in. One of the best step forward has been launch of e-ILP on www.arunachalilp.com that allows visitors and tourists to get their ILP from anywhere outside the state.

Govt departments are slowly being transformed into paperless offices. Several training sessions have been held for State Civil Secretariat officials on digital processing of all office works. The transition has begun from the very top level – the State Cabinet has become the first in the country to go paperless. Arunachal Pradesh made history by becoming the first state in the country to implement e-Cabinet.

Arunachal has made rapid progress – better than many developed states of the country – on another front, the Swacch Bharat Mission. While the Prime Minister set a national target of declaring all rural areas as Open Defecation Free (ODF) areas by 2019, Khandu decided to meet the target by December 2017. The Central Govt provides Rs 12,000 per individual household toilet in rural areas, including state share, which is inadequate to meet the cost requirement. So, the State supplemented this by adding Rs 8000 per toilet, which received an enthusiastic response in rural areas. The PHE department provided support for construction of 20,000 individual household latrines in rural areas, 87 community toilets and 50 solid liquid waste management systems this year under the Mission. Latest updates from the districts confirm Arunachal Pradesh has become 100% ODF state of the country!

Few other remarkable achievements of the Govt worth listing are creation of Kamle district, operationalisation of Lower Siang district with Likabali as its temporary headquarters, approval for setting up of the Arunachal Pradesh State Human Rights Commission (APSHRC) and State Lokayukta, creation of the Department of Indigenous Affairs, implementation of the Chief Minister’s Free Chemotherapy scheme at the Tomo Riba State Hospital and implementation of recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission for State Govt employees.

At the fag end of the year, Khandu decided to take on corruption by the horn. Obviously, not taken lightly by many who must have been thriving on the practice that has maligned the very core of governance. On Dec 21, he nonchalantly ordered cancellation of the regularization of 63 trained graduate teachers (TGTs) and 59 primary teachers (PRTs) with immediate effect. The regularization was effected by the Directorate of Elementary Education on Dec 7, 2017 that came under heavy criticism for alleged irregularities. The SIC has been put into action to enquire into the entire episode. This was preceded by cancellation of recruitment for Junior Engineer posts called departmentally by RWD.

In an equally important decision earlier in the year, the State Govt had unanimously scrapped the practice of ‘interview’ in recruitment for lower level posts in all Govt departments. Objective is to curb corruption, more objective selection in transparent manner and substantially easing the problems of poor aspirants. Further, recruitment for all posts (group A and B) was handed over to the State Public Service Commission.

Only a day earlier, Khandu dropped the bomb – declaring on tweeter that he has recommended the multi-crore PDS scam case to the CBI for investigation. This was in the air for some time but most thought it to be a chest-thumping act of the CM that would flicker away. With the latest announcement, Khandu has set the ball rolling. The unholy nexus of PDS contractors and politicians have toppled many a Govt in the State. Risk it is for Khandu but risk he has taken, befitting a young Chief Minister with a vision and a will to change.

 

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