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Why Nehru, Indira, Rajiv everywhere?

Author: A Surya Prakash
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: March 25, 2009
URL: http://newindianexpress.com/opinion/article50140.ece?

IN a systematic effort to gain an unfair advantage over others, the Congress party has named all major government programmes, projects and institutions in the country after three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family — Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru — who are its icons, and disturbed the level playing field in the electoral arena.

Over the last 18 years, on a rough estimate about 450 central and state government programmes, projects and national and state level institutions involving public expenditure of hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees have been named after these three individuals.

While it is the prerogative of a government to name an institution after a person whom it considers to be a national or state leader, government programmes initiated to ameliorate the lives of millions of citizens (drinking water, housing and employment guarantee schemes and old age pensions) fall into an entirely different category.

If the nomenclature of these programmes is not politically neutral, the sanctity of the democratic system would be in jeopardy.

Among the big ticket programmes named after members of this family by the Union government to extract unjust electoral mileage is the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (rural electrification programme), which involves an outgo of Rs 28,000 crore during the Eleventh Plan period (Rs 5,500 crore in fiscal 2008-09). The drinking water mission, with an allocation of Rs 21,000 crore over three years (Rs 7,300 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 7,400 crore in 2009-10) is called the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission. Other schemes that bear his name are the Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers; Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana and the Rajiv Gandhi Shilpi Swasthya Bima Yojana (both insurance schemes).

Likewise, many mega programmes are named after Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The budgetary allocation for the Indira Awas Yojana to house the poor is Rs 7,919 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 7,914.70 crore in 2009-10. Also named after her is the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (Rs 3,443 cr in 2008- 09). Programmes named after Jawaharlal Nehru over the last two decades are the Jahawarlal Nehru Rojgar Yojana and the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission.

The Union government proposes to spend Rs 50,000 crore over seven years on the latter mission.

This trend is even more apparent in the states, which have vied with each other to name programmes after these three members of the family whenever the Congress was in power. Here is a sample: Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme, Puducherry; Rajiv Ratna Awas Yojana, Delhi; Rajiv Arogyasri Health Insurance scheme, Andhra Pradesh; Rajiv Gandhi Computer Literacy Mission, Assam; Rajiv Gandhi Bridges and Roads Infrastructure Development Programme, Haryana; Rajiv Gandhi Vidyarthi Suraksha Yojana, Maharastra; Rajiv Gandhi Tourism Development Mission, Rajasthan; Indira Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and Indira Gandhi Landless Agriculture Labour Scheme, Maharashtra; Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Vivah Shagun Yojana, Haryana; Indira Gandhi Calf-Rearing Scheme, Andhra Pradesh.

Obviously, the plan is to ensure maximum recall of Brand Congress among voters at every stage in life. Indira Gandhi comes in when the poor want a house subsidised and you think of Nehru when urban renewal comes into play. The Congress has taken its obsession with this family to such an extent that even calf-rearing schemes are named after them.

The list of 450 government programmes, schemes, institutions, etc, named after these three members of the family broadly fall into the following categories: Central government (12), state government (52), universities and educational institutions (98), ports and airports (6), awards, scholarships and fellowships (66), sports tournaments, trophies and stadia (47), national parks and sanctuaries (15), hospitals and medical institutions (39), national scientific and research institutions, chairs and festivals (37), roads, buildings and places (74).

Apart from violating the electoral law, the naming spree has crossed all limits of decency. Every major sports tournament has been named after the Nehru-Gandhis, as if nobody else matters, not even the greats in Indian sports. Such is the obsession of Congress governments with this family that they name India’s biggest open university after Indira Gandhi and name fellowships granted there after Rajiv Gandhi. For long years we have been familiar with the Fullbright scholarships. Now it is known as the Fullbright-Jawaharlal Nehru Scholarship.

We are unlikely to see anything so gross even in dictatorships such as North Korea.

This blatant attempt to package and market government programmes run on public money as munificent offerings from a single family to the people has made a mockery of the Model Code of Conduct drawn up by the Election Commission for observance by all political parties.

I have therefore petitioned the chief election commissioner and requested him to immediately issue directions to the Union government and to all the governments in the states and direct them to remove the names of individuals, who are seen by the people as icons of specific political parties, from all government programmes and schemes funded by the exchequer and to immediately give these programmes politically neutral names. Such a direction from the Election Commission will ensure enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct in letter and spirit and will also be in consonance with the various directions and instructions issued by the Commission from time to time.

www.asuryaprakash.com (To be Concluded)
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