Plus & Minus

“A weekly column: Plus&Minus will be published in Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live. This will speak to the ordinary reader on contemporary economic issues in a simple format”.

    The Illogic of the Model Code
    Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live, May 18, 2009

By Pradeep S Mehta

As this is being read the elections to the national parliament will be over and the numbers have come. Earlier, every pundit was forecasting a hung parliament. Fortunately, the people have decided against it and the UPA government is going to continue in its second term. The government will continue with the unfinished agenda of governance, and perhaps without hurdles.

The governance agenda was at a standstill ever since the polling dates were announced about three months ago. This happened both at the centre and the states. Everything was postponed until after the elections due to the Model Code of Conduct. It was used more often as an excuse to not to do any work or even take any decisions.

Several senior secretaries in the government of Rajasthan confided in me that every file was referred to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state. He conveniently denied permission to allow any decision to be taken. Some were just trivial and some grave, which were held hostage to the clearance procedure. As it is there was a great deal of ambiguity about what files should be referred or not, so the easiest way was to send everything to the authorities. Or just sit on it.

If one did a round in government offices in the last three months, one could see the inertia oozing from the corridors of the offices. The standard and silly refrain was that we cannot do anything because it may violate the election code.

Even running public welfare schemes on water, roads etc, were held hostage to the election code, as if that would have mattered at all. It was an easy excuse. The code also states that running public welfare schemes should not be hampered and any exigency can be referred to the authority for clearance. But who would make the effort.

Some of the reports in the local press are just too funny and would not have violated the code by any stretch of imagination. Road construction in R. K. Puram near the airport was halted on the specious plea that it would violate the code. Similarly, farmers were to get 15 percent of plots in land acquired from them for development of Sector 75 of the Housing Board’s Pratapnagar colony. That too was postponed. These and many other ongoing projects came to a halt. In sum, the hiatus of three months will result in huge backlog of public welfare projects. Considering the new issues which will also crop up, clearing the backlog will take greater amount of time to restart, while the poor citizens will just need to wait to get their rightful due.

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