Vasundhara Govt Reviews Congress Social Schemes
With over two months since she assumed office as the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje playing her second innings started on a cautious note, but gradually after taking stocks of the various departments and ordering the minister concerned to give a 60-day plan she did not rest on oarse. She started reviewing the various schemes launched by the Congress government under Ashok Gehlot as the Chief Minister. The outcome of the superficial review was the Jaipur metro project was a luxury and the refinery project in the Thar dessert was not worked out properly and could lead to financial disaster in the future.
In two months the BJP did not come out with any big sop to the people and it won the hearts of the employees by clearing all pending promotion cases. The Chief minister was not critical of the previous government’s social schemes and she was very careful in calling the previous schemes something which could be improved further. With just three months to go for the general election and with the code of conduct to be imposed soon, the BJP government has very little time to work out social schemes to woo voters.
Vasundhara Raje said that the metro project was initiated during the BJP regime and the state government worked out on its economics and was looking for a better option. But the Congress government in its effort to win the popular votes launched the scheme without bothering about the financial implementation of the project. “They could have solved the problems of the commuters by building 100 flyovers in the state capital with just half the money spent,” said Vasundhara Raje.
The Congress apart from metro was also hoping to thrive on the proposed refinery the foundation of stone of which was laid with much fanfare before the December election by Sonia Gandhi. It was expected that the Congress would win majority of the seats in the western Rajasthan becaue of the Pachpadra refinery, but the people did not vote for the Congress. Now Vasundhara Raje has put a big question mark on the refinery project.
The major stakeholder, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) has no clue about the mood of the government on the refinery. The company is planning to apprise Raje and key officials over the status and concerns raised by BJP over the project during the election campaign.
The same set of bureaucrats who worked hard to see that the refinery project comes to the state are stated to be opposing it. The bureaucrats are now raising questions on the terms and conditions under which Ashok Gehlot government agreed to set up the project. Refinery is worth Rs 37,230 crore in which HPCL has 74 per cent stake while state government’s share is 26 per cent. HPCL, is, however, hopeful that refinery will see through it. The company has already started marking at the site. The state government has also handed over land to HPCL-Rajasthan Refinery Limited (HRRL), a JV company between Rajasthan and HPCL. “It is a very good project and one of its kind in the country. In fact, we are hoping of value addition to it from the state government,” added BK Namdeo, Director (refinery), HPCL. HRRL is also expecting to submit its report for environmental clearance. After its approval the company is likely to start its construction for refinery scheduled to be complete by 2018-19.
The contention is over the financial assistance of Rs 3,376 crore given annually to HPCL for 15 years form the year of refinery operation. Raje is of view that the state government is giving the land, crude and even soft laon to HPCL yet it has just 26 per cent stake in the company. Vasundhara Raje wants to review this clause in the project. However, company officials maintained that actual assistance that the government will have to shell out will depend on the amount of crude that will come for refining. The state government is thriving on earnings from oil and gas and this royalty has become one of the biggest source of revenue for the government. The royalty and the share in the Central taxes would go on increasing with increased production from the Barmer oil fields.
According to R Elango, the Chief Executive Officer of Cairn India, the company drilling oil in partnership with the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has already remitted Rs 10,151.59 crore to the state government as royalty and taxes in the past three financial years. Cairn India that operates the Barmer oil field now has a total of 28 blocks and two new discoveries would add further 500-600 million barrels of in-place oil sources.
According to Elango in the current financial year (2013-2014) the state is likely to get the highest revenue earned so far in one financial year. The state is targeted to get a total of Rs 6,500 crore which is a fantastic figure as compared to a mere Rs 110.37 crore that it received in the first financial year of 2009-2010, its revenues from oil royalties were just Rs 100.37 crore.
Elango informed that while this year’s target is Rs 6,500 crore, but with Rs 3,300 crore already achieved by October, and output at Cairn’s Barmer oilfields going up, the figure of Rs 6,500 crore will most likely be crossed. Elango said once that figure is achieved it would be a season of celebration for the state government.
Former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the BJP government was playing with the emotions of the people by denying the poor free medicine and pension. He said these schemes were launched by the Congress government to benefit the poor, but the BJP government is against such welfare schemes.
Meanwhile, the Bharatpur became the temporary capital of Rajasthan.The Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her cabinet colleagues were camping there. The Cabinet ministers undertook the tour of the four r adjoining districts of Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli and Sawaimadhopur and would meet the people to provide solution to their grievances. Vasundhara Raje chose to hold the Cabinet meeting at Bharatpur to enable her and her cabinet colleagues to have the feeling of the people and to know about their grievances. Raje said hers was the first government in the history of Rajasthan which would remain among people for ten days at division level and would make efforts to solve the problems of the people. She said even after 66 years of Independence there are some regions where light of the development has not reached yet. “We would make efforts in the direction that light of development could reach to the regions where darkness of backwardness is still prevailing,” Raje said and added that Bharatpur division was chosen for the ‘Sarkar Aapke Dwar’ programme because during last regime cabinet meetings and public hearing had been organised in every division except Bharatpur as Bharatpur division was formed later by her government and due to elections it was not possible to organise these programmes.
But the Congress described the Bharatpur camp as an election campaign exercise. There are three Lok Sabha seats in the four districts and out of this two are reserved for the Scheduled Castes. The BJP fared poorly in the Vidhan Sabha election and Vasundhara Raje has chosen to appease the people of the region by holding Cabinet meeting in Bharatpur.
“Such election eve gimmick would not work and people know that the promises made during these visits would not be fulfilled. I want to ask whether Bharatpur division is the entire state.What is she doing in other districts? The state was poorly run during the Congress regime, but under BJP it is worse,” said RJP leader Kirodi Lal Meena.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur