In my last article, ‘100 day challenge’ (IE, June 16), I suggested actions that could restore investor confidence and boost industrial and economic growth. Of course, economic growth is only an instrument for improving well being. For that, the government needs to take measures to provide electricity, clean water, fuel and air, effective and affordable healthcare, quality education and skills, connectivity through roads and internet and quick and inexpensive justice. Only when these are attained can the aspirations of the people for “achhe din” be considered fulfilled. It is a five- or 10-year agenda, but measures taken in the first 100 days can create confidence. Some are as follows:
One, initiate a National Jyotigram Yojana for 24/7 power supply. Power round the clock at stable voltage can stimulate productive activities in rural areas to generate employment. As the share of agricultural GDP has come down to around 15 per cent, substantial employment in rural areas needs to be generated in non-farm activities. Gujarat provided 24/7 electricity to its 18,000- plus villages in two and a half years. The UPA’s Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana has yet to match that after 10 years. The government should ensure that, at least in BJP-run states, 24/7 power becomes a reality by December 2016. The advantage of 24/7 power goes to households, too. In Gujarat, some households with LPG cylinders prefer to use induction cookers because it is convenient and less expensive. Considering the need to provide clean cooking fuels to protect against the adverse impact of indoor air pollution resulting from cooking with fuelwood and dung cakes and the difficulty of delivering LPG to all households on a regular basis, this is an attractive option.
Two, action must be taken to clean up the Ganga. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to clean up the river. In 2008, I had reviewed the Ganga Action Plan launched in 1984 for the Supreme Court. After nearly 25 years, the Ganga is more polluted in terms of the coliform count. Many cities had sewage treatment plants of inadequate capacities because they were delayed and populations were larger than projected. Just about half the collected sewage was treated, and large sections of population were not connected to the sewerage system. Some were not properly maintained for want of funds.
If the Ganga, or any river, has to be cleaned up, these issues have to be taken care of. Ensure that everyone is connected to the sewerage system, that sewage treatment plants of adequate capacity, keeping in
mind likely population growth, are built in time, adequate resources are provided to operate and maintain them by imposing an appropriate sewage treatment charge, effluent standards are strictly enforced on all industrial units discharging effluents in the river, continued…