The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Garibi hatao is here again
- Govt revives Indira’s pet programme

New Delhi, Oct. 5: When it’s election time, bring the garib Indian out for airing.

Manmohan Singh’s cabinet today dusted Indira Gandhi’s garibi hatao slogan, clearing a proposal to recast the 20-point programme made famous by the late Prime Minister.

It’s hard to miss the timing. Assembly elections are due next year in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Manipur and Gujarat. In 2008, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi will vote.

Then the big one in 2009 —the Lok Sabha polls.

With the Congress-led government mid-way through its term, the garibi hatao slogan makes a reappearance.

The intention, however, is not just to breathe life back into a slogan coined by Indira’s spin doctor the late Shreekant Verma, but to make it a part of the 20-point programme that came to be associated with Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency.

Rajiv Gandhi reworked it in 1986 and it’s now in for another round of massaging.

A cabinet note described it as a “package of social sector schemes and programmes having an important bearing on the poor and the under-privileged”.

Indira’s original version enshrined her government’s intent to wipe out tax evasion, economic offences and smuggling, curb governmental expenditure and free bonded labour.

The 2006 clone mirrors the concerns of the post-liberalisation era and mentions environment protection and afforestation, social security and e-governance in its charter.

Government sources said a large part of next year’s budget would be allocated for the programme to be implemented from April 2007.

The cabinet note said while the 1986 version had 119 items, the latest one had compressed these into 64 to facilitate “more focused and efficient monitoring” through a four-tier mechanism at the block, district, state and central levels.

The statistics and pro- gramme implementation ministry, which drew up the proposal, will issue the guidelines and monitor the implementation.

Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said: “We are very happy. If the poor do not benefit from the government’s policies and programmes and there is no qualitative change in their lives, it’s pointless.”

Sources said the decision to put in place a restructured 20-point programme emanated from the recent Nainital conclave of the Congress. The general feeling was that the Centre was being seen to have become “farmer-unfriendly” with polices like special economic zones, about which party president Sonia Gandhi herself expressed concern.

After protests at several places, there is now a move to rework the SEZ policy.

Coupled with this, the rash of news about farmers’ suicides caused worries to the leadership. Last week, the cabinet approved a Rs 17,000-crore scheme for states where the suicides are taking place.

The decision to adopt the garibi hatao slogan also springs from the realisation that “achievements” under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme could be claimed as much by the Left and other allies as the Congress.

With a clutch of polls coming up, Sonia indicated that the Centre should “do something” which could be identified exclusively with her party.

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