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Votes ‘prescribed’

Editorial |

Were it not for the excessive hype, and the obvious election-focused undertones, it would be necessary to applaud louder the launch of the massive health-insurance initiative the government has just triggered ~ with, of course, the rider that the devil shall lie in the details. Alas, despite holding office for over four years, this government is so focussed on proving itself a class apart from its predecessors (including the Vajpayee- led NDA-I) that every single move appears directed at the singular goal of perpetuating its rule.

Hence a determination to confuse governance with the event-management in which NDA-II excels: count has been lost of the several schemes in hand to transform Indian life ~ but how many of them actually translate into reality? True that unlike in the past, every scheme is not named after a politician ***a la*** the Congress’ obsession with Nehru or Gandhi. While the impression is created that nothing is possible unless its title commences with “Pradhan Mantri”, there is at least the hope that a successor from a rival political grouping would not junk a scheme merely because of its name; certainly the scheme to build rural roads launched under Mr Vajpayee survived his rule. So is the NDA, as critics contend, a one-man show that cannot exist without the Prime Minister as its spearhead? Certainly this would seem to be the case.

On paper there certainly is much to appreciate in the PMJAY, maybe it is indeed the world’s most exhaustive health-insurance scheme, though comparisons are always odious. For a mind-boggling 10.75 crore economically under-privileged people the project is certainly more than “something is better than nothing”: and the fact that the handful of states who have opted out are devising their own (allegedly better) formulations proves that a long-felt need is being addressed.

That is equally true of many other NDA projects: such as building homes with toilets, smoke-free kitchens, financial packages for small enterprises etc. Listing those schemes would serve as charge-sheet of neglect by earlier administrations. Yet the unanswered query remains how all, or any, or of them actually work on the ground ~ as distinct from the tutored praise broadcast on state-run electronic media.

Are hospital facilities adequate to cater to the expected increase in those seeking treatment (particularly in smaller towns), do the financial packages extended to private hospitals suffice, and will government hospitals prove efficient enough to attract patients ~ so many loose-ends still need to be tied up. If demonetisation is any pointer, the present political leadership is incapable of ensuring bureaucratic dynamism or “delivery”. Still, there can be no denying Mr Modi’s penchant for selling dreams to the masses: but if unfulfilled they can turn into nightmares of disappointment when opinions are required to be expressed via the EVM.