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Madarasas & Sugar Factories: POLL BUG BITES CONG-NCP, By Nikhil Gajendragadkar, 16 September, 2013 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 16 September 2013

Madarasas & Sugar Factories


By Nikhil Gajendragadkar


The recently-concluded Monsoon session of Parliament had shown that the election bug had already bitten the Congress-led UPA, much before BJP announced its prime ministerial candidate.  With “game changer” Bills being passed in a tearing hurry, some States too have got terribly enthused. The Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra is one such example. With Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in 2014, it does seem to have caught the fever.      


The coalition Government, known for its inertia, has surprised many with a some Cabinet decisions taken recently. While these look good on paper (till implemented) the big question being asked is why now? One decision which has kicked a controversy already is to award financial grant to Madarasas in the State. The Government has earmarked Rs 10 Crores for the purpose. This apart, it intends to launch ‘Sukanya Yojana’ a scheme for the girl child from families below poverty line and has decided to ban selling or auctioning of ‘sick’ co-operative sugar factories. 


Maharashtra, propagated as a progressive State, now wants to bring thousands of students studying in Madarasas into mainstream education. To achieve this goal, the Government is offering help to upgrade Madarasas. This includes improving buildings, creating a library, salary for up to three teachers who will teach conventional subjects. The salary is fixed at Rs. 6,000 for a teacher holding Diploma in Education and Rs 8,000 for a teacher with Degree in Education. The plan envisages scholarship for 9th and 10th class students and the amount set aside is Rs 5000 per head for 400 students.


In all there are 2,476 Madarasas in the State, but only 1476 are registered either with the Charity Commissioner or the Wakf Board. Thus, only these can avail the benefits of the scheme launched. Accordingly, 200 Madarasas shall be selected for this financial year, and an amount of Rs 10 crore has been earmarked. The Government has assured that next year the allocation will be increased to benefit more Madarasas.


There can be no two opinions that all children should have access to modern education. So the scheme is not bad in its intentions. But the timing of its announcement has raised many an eyebrow. The Government could have easily made the provision in its Budget, why the six months delay, is a question being asked. Further, why is the scheme not being implemented in selected Madarasas right away, rather than making it voluntary? The Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena along with BJP are clearly upset and have termed the scheme as an election gimmick and minority appeasement.


The timing of another decision -- to ban selling and auctioning of ‘sick’ co-operative sugar factories is intriguing. Cooperative movement started in the State nearly five decades ago, with an aim to empower the small farmer. Sugar factories did make a difference to the lives of such farmers. But soon co-operative sugar factories became bastions of political powers. Farmers/sugarcane growers were supposed to be stake holders in these factories, but it was so only on paper. The leaders pulled the strings. Nearly every Party and its netas used it to create and strengthen a political base in rural Maharashtra. Mismanagement followed and many sugar factories became sick.


The Government states, that of 168 factories 26 have already been auctioned and 22 more are put on the block. This scenario has infuriated farmers. Is this the only reason? For quite some time co-operative sugar industry in the State has been in doldrums. Misappropriation of funds and corruption are root causes for this peril. In the name of protecting the co-operative sector, the Government has put in thousands of Crores in the form of guarantee. That money belongs to the people of the State. How the Government proposes to recover it? Many banks, particularly cooperative or district banks, may also suffer in the process.


The real problem is political. Leaders from the BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party (Gopinath Munde and Ajit Pawar respectively are just two prominent examples) have started private sugar factories leaving co-operative sugar factories to their fate. But they are cautious enough to take care of their constituencies. Congress leaders are being blamed for the plight of co-operative sugar factories. Now they are afraid of losing their voter’s base in rural Maharashtra, so they want to make amends and woo back the farmers.


In comparison ‘Sukanya Yojana’ looks harmless. Sukanya scheme is expected to start from 1st January 2014. The State Government will invest Rs.21, 200 after the birth of a girl child in a plan of LIC and she will receive Rs.1 lakh on completing 18 years of age. The Government will also insure the earning parents’ life at a nominal premium. This scheme follows the Food Security scheme which is being rolled out in December in the State-- both aimed at ‘BPL’ families.


However, implementation is the big question. With more than Rs. 3 lakh Crores of loans, Maharashtra is a heavily indebted State. Debt servicing eats away major chunk of its revenue, with another huge amount being spent on running its administration. Maharashtra supports large number employees (over 20 lakhs) but lacks efficiency in every sector. Electricity is already costly and tariff is going up again soon. Still there is no guarantee of power supply. Due to this problem industries are shifting to Gujarat or Karnataka, where tax structure is also better, so experts say.


In this background, new schemes will put a huge pressure on the State’s already weak finances. How is it going to raise resources? So, the question, why these schemes were not included in the Budget becomes more imperative. The answer is obvious: the election season has already begun and they are sowing schemes to reap votes. Money is not a problem, as it’s the tax-payers money.


Moreover, though the Congress and NCP are constituents of the coalition Government, they are seen to be perpetually at loggerheads. Obviously, both parties want a bigger share of the pie and win more seats to stake claim on power. It is an open secret that many leaders from both sides would prefer to fight elections on their own strength. But nobody is ready to take the risk to break the alliance in the fear that it may only make them lose what they have.  Thus, in this “one-upmanship” game, schemes are designed, launched and implemented -- or not implemented--- to extract maximum political mileage, with both vying to take credit for ‘pro poor’ schemes. Will these new decisions and schemes help hit the jackpot and bring the alliance back in power? Let’s hope the voter at least takes a ‘realistic’ decision. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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