A reality check before Congress ad campaign goes ballistic By Shankkar Aiyar 14th July 2013 In a few weeks from now, the Congress Party will go ballistic with an ad campaign on its â€˜achievementsâ€™ during UPA I and UPA II. Estimates vary, but about Rs 500 crore of taxpayersâ€™ money will be deployed to paper over the paralysis that has characterised this regime. Spin masters from the party and persuaders from the ad world will put together a rosy picture. It will not be surprising if the Congress presents happenstance as its achievement. Already a Bharat Nirman campaign is playing out on screens at homes, where the Congress has blithely appropriated credit for the many accidents of history that transformed India. Truth be told, each â€˜revolutionâ€™ came after millions were denied for decades. Liberalisation and success in software were compelled by the 1991 crisis and propelled by P V Narasimha Rao. The Green Revolution and Milk Revolution were led by C Subramaniam and Verghese Kurien, not the Congress, and happened in spite of the party. The Mid-day Meal Scheme and the Right to Information were directed by judgments of the Supreme Court. Ergo, it will be instructive to measure the Congress and the alliance it led on its own terms and rhetoric. The big plank the Congress rode to power on was inclusion. Whether they meant what they said or not, they cannot escape the definitionâ€”inclusion is about delivery of entitlements and enabling of empowerment. For a government that has chanted about hunger and poverty ceaselessly, letâ€™s look at the track record of the inclusive regime led by Manmohan Singh. In 2004, India was ranked 96th of 119 on IFPRIâ€™s Global Hunger Index. In 2012, India ranked 65th of 79 countries trailing Niger, Rwanda, Sudan and Pakistan. That Malawi and Burkina Faso, ranked 94th and 97 on the Hunger Index in 2004, are ranked 45th and 46th says it all. What about malnutrition? What about infant mortality? In 2004, India was ranked 53rd from the bottom in the State of the Worldâ€™s Children Report of UNICEF of 193 countries. In 2013, India has moved lower to 46th among 195, trailing Myanmar, Ghana, Gabon and Senegal. Life expectancy at birth has â€˜improvedâ€™ from 64 years in 2004 to 65 years in 2012. Indeed, life expectancy is better for children born in Guatemala and war-torn Iraq. In India, 43.5 per cent of children under five are underweight. India ranks worse than sub-Saharan Africa below Ethiopia, Niger, Nepal and Bangladesh on underweight children and only Timor-Leste has a higher rate of underweight children. Much is made of the alphabet soup of schemes that characterise the education system. Fact is Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Lesotho boast of a higher adult literacy than India. For all the acronyms, the mean years of schooling in India is barely 4.4 years compared to, say, 7.5 in China. All of this is best reflected in the human development indicators. In 2004, when the Congress-led UPA powered by the slogan of aam aadmi came to power, India was ranked 127th of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Indicators Index. In 2012, India was ranked 136th, behind Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Timor-Leste and Guatemala. It trails every peer in the BRICS group, and even Sri Lanka which is ranked 92th. For the record, between the Centre and the states, governments in India spend over $100 billion a year on social sector programmes. One reason for the pathetic state of human development indicators, despite over 200 Centrally sponsored schemes, is corruption. In 2004, India was ranked 90th of 146 on the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International. In 2012, India was ranked 94th of 176 countries, in the company of Senegal, Mongolia, Djibouti and Moldova, scoring barely 36 on a scale where 100 is the aspiration score. Congressmen will also wax eloquent about growth. The campaign will claim that under the UPA, for five years, economic growth was 8-plus per cent. India did grow but so did the world economy. Besides that, growth was spurred by private investment, private productivity on farms and factories, and by private consumption. Between 2007 and 2012, the 11th Five Year Plan, the government underperformed on every index of infrastructure. Look at roads: they were supposed to build 48,000 km of roads but delivered only 17,000 km. They planned for 78,000 MW of generating capacity and built 55,000 MW, of which nearly 30,000 MW is lying idle without fuel despite a January 2012 commitment by the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office. India is at the bottom of the pile in global rankings on ease of doing business, ranked 132th of 186 and way below its BRICS peers. Not surprisingly, it underperforms on per capita income growth in the last decade in comparison. Politics is at the core. For every challenge facing the nation, it has found a helicopter solution. The distress in the rural economy cries for creation of factory jobs. The UPA created a dole called MGNREGS that now threatens farmer incomes. India must invest in agriculture to make it economically viable. The UPA opted for electoral viability and dumped a loan-waiver on banks. The problem of quantity and quality in education was offshored on a shackled and poorly regulated private sector through a Right to Education. Manufacturing revival called for reforms in process and taxation, the UPA dished out a realty racket called SEZs. Persistent inflation that hurts the economy is located in the food economy. India needs a new Amul to spur production, curb waste and enable distribution. The Congress prefers to butter up voters with the promise of cheap ration. The Congress has institutionalised the practice of crafting promissory policies to create a client class to sustain power. The sterling achievement of this regime is that it existed, that the Opposition could not corner it â€”much less topple itâ€”despite the manifold failures.