Free cell phones, free Wi-Fi, Amma banking cards and phased prohibition among promises that still remain on paper
AIADMK co-coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s promises of six free LPG cylinders annually per household and ₹1,500 a month to homemakers has turned the focus on the ruling party’s 2016 Assembly election manifesto.
The AIADMK government’s performance, in relation to the 2016 manifesto, is a mixed bag.
While it has implemented several promises and has also taken some measures beyond the manifesto, it has not taken action on several others that had captured widespread attention then.
Among the promises fulfilled were the removal of the legal bar on jallikattu, the creation of a Tamil Chair at the Harvard University, a waiver of crop loans availed from cooperative institutions, the target of crop loans of ₹40,000 crore over five years, free electricity up to 100 units, bimonthly, for domestic consumers and an increase in the supply of free electricity up to 200 units for handloom weavers and 750 units for powerloom weavers, both bi-monthly.
To give an illustration of the benefit of the steps taken, crop loans to the tune of ₹42,600 crore were disbursed to approximately 50 lakh farmers till February 2021. More importantly, the government came out with a second round of crop loan waiver, which was not mentioned in the manifesto.
The supply of free set-top boxes (STB) was another assurance that attracted people. According to the government, 35.2 lakh standard definition (SD) STBs were distributed through local cable operators since September 2017, as part of a programme of the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation. An important promise in the area of general administration was the creation of taluks and revenue divisions. Six districts, nine revenue divisions and 32 taluks were established. As stated in the manifesto, market guideline values with regard to land were “rationalised,” and a 33% reduction in the rates came into effect in June 2017.
An AIADMK spokesperson said in the water sector, the formation of the Cauvery Water Management Board and Water Regulation Committee in 2018 was “certainly a high point”, in addition to the launch of work on the Avinashi-Athikadavu groundwater recharge and drinking water supply scheme. What was more important was the ‘Kudimaramathu’ scheme, regarded by Mr. Palaniswami as one of the most important measures of his regime. It was taken up in a big way. Contrary to five medical colleges assured in the manifesto, the government opened 11.
The horizontal reservation of 7.5% for NEET-qualified government schools students in admissions to medical courses and the 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars within the quota for Most Backward Classes can be called “bonuses” of the present regime, said the spokesperson.
If the list of promises kept is long, the other is not short either. The distribution of cellphones to ration cardholders, phased prohibition, return to old pension scheme for government staff, provision of Pongal gift coupons to ration cardholders for use at Co-optex retail outlets, free Wi-Fi at public places, establishment of the Ambedkar Foundation to propagate ideals and thoughts of Ambedkar and the establishment of Amma banking cards figure prominently in the list of missed promises.
On the restoration of the old pension scheme to replace the present contributory pension scheme, a committee, headed by former IAS officer T.S. Sridhar, was formed, and it gave a report which is yet to see the light of the day. The DMK has been saying that it will restore the old pension scheme in the event of capturing power. There were differences within the government over the treatment of the Pongal gift coupon — should it be an add-on item or a replacement of the existing scheme of free sarees and dhotis. And this led to the abandoning of the proposal.
As for the Amma banking cards, the idea was to form a bank on the lines of Mahila Bank and even NABARD was approached to give a consultancy report. But after Jayalalithaa’s death, there was not much progress, said a former official. Despite the establishment of medical colleges, critics point out that the government has failed to secure exemption for State students from the NEET, which is yet another major issue being pursued by the Opposition.
In the infrastructure sector, the proposal for an elevated highway between Meenambakkam and Chengalpattu is yet to fructify. The Global Investors’ Meet, which was supposed to take place once in two years, has taken place just once in the last five years. Issues such as retrieval of Katchatheevu and dual citizenship for refugees from Sri Lanka are still in the conceptual stage.