Any one watching BJP’s advertisements on social media platforms will be amazed to notice the brazenness with which they proclaim the development works ‘sanctioned’ by the Centre’s Narendra Modi government in last three years. Many of them will give a cumulative number of achievement without mentioning any time frame which took the project / scheme to reach that milestone.
Let’s check few of them here to show how misleading these ads are.
Let us start with the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). In the last six months, BJP tweeted two posters highlighting the achievements of the scheme and in both these posters, Narendra Modi has posed as a model. The first one appeared somewhere in May this year.
This poster claims 48,000 km rural road constructed under PMGSY in 2016-17 with a daily average construction of 133 km per day. BJP’s official twitter handle added while tweeting this poster “Construction of rural roads reached an all time high in 2016-17 under Modi Government.” That is too confident a claim. But the truth is, BJP was officially lying!
The data in the government document mentions the numbers from 2005-06. The details are explained in the graphic screenshot above. It clearly states that in 2009-10, under PMGSY, 60,117 km road was constructed. The previous year, in 2008-09, 52,405 km road was constructed under the same scheme. That is 27% and 10% higher than what BJP claims the highest ever. The highest ever was 164.7 km per day in 2009-10, which was 31.3 km per day higher than highest achievement of Modi government.
There is one more source from Modi government itself which shows the BJP was deliberately misleading the public with false information to score brownie points. A government of India press release from April 2017 informs us a total of 47,350 km rural road was constructed in 2016-17, which is the highest in seven years. And, to promote such a false propaganda, BJP used the photograph of India’s PM of the country.
Look at the second claim which is relatively new. Here, they inform the public that 517,564 km road length completed, 159,494 works cleared, 113, 933 new connectivity works, 45,561 upgradation works.
Curiously, it is not mentioned since when; but it says “as on 16 October, 2017”. It is a very clever strategy. The design of the poster communicates as if all these numbers are achieved in the last three years under Narendra Modi’s tenure as PM. The poster next to it again says 120,000 kms in 2014-17 against 80,000 in 2011-14. There is a comparison on the cost incurred by governments in these two separate periods.
Here is the biggest contradiction. In the first poster in May 2017, BJP claimed, 120,000 km rural road was constructed in three years, but in the poster above the government claims in October that total number of roads constructed by the Modi government was 517,564 km? It’s clear that either the government has economical with truth or it has indeed smashed all records of development by constricting an additional 3,97564 km.
Also, the Modi government is comparing its first three years of achievement with previous government’s last three years which itself is not a fair comparison. The comparison must be of first three years of both the governments.
To understand the claims on this poster, one has to go back to the starting of the programme in 2000. Atal Bihari Vajpayee government launched the scheme on 25 December that year with an objective to connect “all habitations with a population of 500 or more in plain areas and habitations with a Population of 250 persons and above in Hill States (North East, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand), the desert areas (as identified in Desert Development Programme), the tribal areas and in 88 Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) affected / Integrated Action Plan (IAP) Districts as identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Planning Commission.”
PMGSY is a fully centrally sponsored scheme implemented by states. The upgradation of the existing roads also comes under the scheme though that is not the main focus area. 172,772 habitations had to be connected under the programme.
Manmohan Singh-led UPA government gave more importance to this scheme by including it in its National Common Minimum Programme. The to-be-connected habitations were re-worked and the number went slightly up and reached 178,184. The total cost calculated was Rs 182,560 crore.
This government Briefing Book of PMGSY reveals some interesting data. As on 31 March 2014, out of the 178,184 habitats, proposals were approved to connect 144,717 eligible habitats. The Centre released Rs 111,141 crore since 2001 to 31 March 2014 and states spent Rs 1,080 crore. The total expenditure incurred inclusive of administrative cost was Rs 114,060 crore. 399,979 km road was constructed (include upgradation) and 97,838 eligible habitats were connected by then. Thus, the claim of 517,564 km road length completed is not the achievement of the Modi government, but the total length of rural roads constructed under the PMGSY scheme since its inception in 2000.
When the erstwhile planning commission calculated the projections for 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) in 2010-11 at the same year price level, the total amount needed was Rs 231,530 crore.
A comparison of these figures with the Modi government’s claim will give a better picture. The claim “investment incurred in road projects” is very vague and deliberately intended to mislead people. Claiming such a huge figure citing National Highway and rural road projects combined itself is total falsification of facts and BJP understands the hype it can create. Because, in the case of National Highways, the cost of construction is much higher.
The government budget documents shows that from 2014-15 to 2016-17, the government spent Rs 132,408 crore on National Highways and related projects. That doesn’t mean the rest of the mentioned amount (Rs 50,592 crore) was completely spent on rural roads under PMGSY. This Report of standing committee on rural development mentions the year wise actual release of funds since the inception of the programme (amount mentioned for 2015-16 is not for complete financial year; but as mentioned in the standing committee report).
What was the actual year wise budget allocation for PMGSY? This is very interesting.
Here is a unique situation. The Modi government publicising the budget allocation in their period is much higher. On the other hand, the government document says that the previous government, in certain years, not only allocated much more budget for the project, but there were instances when the government spent up to 180% of the allocated budget!
As mentioned earlier, 97,838 habitations were covered till 2014 31 March. The PMGSY dashboard says that 113,920 habitations are connected as on 23 October 2017. That means, in actual, only 16,082 habitations have been covered in the last three and half years.
Another claim by BJP is that 159,494 works have been cleared. What does it actually it mean? CPR analysis gives an interesting insight to the scenario. Only 50% of the sanctioned works are contracted every year. Hence, counting the allocation or sanction of works per year doesn’t mean the actual completion rate. With the same logic, if one approaches the claim of number of kilometres of rural roads completed under this government, one has to believe that those works were already in progress when the BJP government took over and, therefore, they cannot claim the credit for that.
They should claim the works awarded by them and its completion as their achievement. Here is the year wise data provided by government’s own PMGSY website. The total length completed under this government (works awarded by this government) 8667 kms! One can also see the year wise break-up: 2014-15 – 2201.472 km, 2015-16 – 1558.309 km, 2016-17 – 4907.066 km and 2017-18 – 0.00km. This data is up to 22 October 2017.
Almost all the advertisements published by the BJP to promote the Modi government’s success stories are similar to this claim. The saffron party has always been brazen in giving Modi the credit for someone else’s work! The problem with this is, they are spoiling their own credibility and people have now started to look at their ads with more scepticism.
If BJP’s intentions are only to promote these ideas within their ranks to keep the fire alive among their cadre, they should desist from publicising such falsehood. In this particular case, their own government published data has betrayed them!
(The author can be reached on Twitter @t_d_h_nair)