How the latest 78-member NDA cabinet compares with the last UPA cabinet

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Following last week’s expansion, the 78-member cabinet of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has crossed the 71 that the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signed off with.

The makeup of the NDA’s newest cabinet differs in several respects from that of the UPA’s last: while it draws less from the elected pool, it is younger, assigns more responsibilities to women and junior ministers, and draws from more states.

Women: NDA

While both cabinets have an identical percentage of women, the NDA has assigned them greater responsibility. It is also drawing from a larger pool of parties (three versus one for the UPA).

 

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Elected by the people: UPA

The UPA cabinet had more ministers from the Lok Sabha (who are directly elected, unlike members of the Rajya Sabha, who are either elected by legislators or nominated). In the subset of those leading ministries, the percentage fell for both cabinets, but the UPA still did better.

 

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Younger in age: NDA

Half the ministers in both cabinets are older than the 60 years at which central government employees retire. Between the two, the NDA is slightly younger.

 

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Educational qualifications: NDA

The NDA has a greater percentage of ministers in the cabinet who either studied till school or are graduates. But the UPA had a greater share of ministers with post-graduate or higher degrees.

 

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Geographical coverage

While the NDA cabinet draws ministers from more states than the UPA did, it also shows greater concentration at the top. Interestingly, the list of the top six states of both cabinets has only three common entries: UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

 

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Crorepati ministers: NDA

The NDA has a higher percentage of ministers with assets above Rs 1 crore. However, the median value of assets of its council of ministers is lower than that of the UPA.

 

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Portfolio responsibilities

The larger cabinet size of the NDA is because of more ministers of state, who report to a cabinet minister and are usually tasked with a specific responsibility in that ministry. At the senior cabinet-rank level, the NDA has fewer ministers holding multiple portfolios. At the junior MoS level, NDA ministers holding multiple portfolios number two-and-a-half times those in the UPA cabinet.

 

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Data sources: Myneta.info, Lok Sabha website, Rajya Sabha website.

Note: Composition and data for UPA cabinet as of April 2014, a month before it left office.

 

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News in numbers, Apr 5, 2016: The fastest jump in digital history, first conviction in coal scam…

12.3%

What is it? The share of stalled projects as a percentage of total projects under implementation for the quarter ended March 2016.

Why is it important? This is the highest since the NDA came to power in May 2014. The government now wants to focus on execution and go slow on announcing new schemes, even as it enters its third year.

Tell me more: The value of the stalled projects increased from Rs 9.49 lakh crore in April-June quarter of 2014 to Rs 11.36 lakh crore in January-March quarter of 2016, according to data by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. The average number of projects as a share of outstanding projects revived and completed was 22% in 2014-15 and 2015-16, compared with 29% during the UPA-II rule (2009-10 to 2013-14).

1,000,856,739

What is it? The number of Aadhaar numbers that have been issued till date.

Why is it important? About 93% of the projected adult population of 2015 have Aadhaar numbers. The first card was issued in September 2010, which makes it the fastest jump from zero to billion in digital history. The challenge ahead is to use Aadhaar to provide government services – such as subsidies – more efficiently.

Tell me more: The government said it has saved Rs 14,672 crore under the direct benefit transfer of LPG scheme and another Rs 2,346 crore under the public distribution system in four states. The government is looking to approach the Supreme Court for using Aadhaar in other government services and social security schemes.

$231 million

What is it? The amount Terraform Global Inc. has accused its parent company SunEdison Inc. of misappropriating.

Why is it important? This has delayed the renewable energy projects in India. SunEdison, which is reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy in the near future, has also put all its India assets on sale. It has projects of 1.5 gigawatts capacity in India, which are under various stages of development.

Tell me more: Terraform Global alleged that SunEdison used its cash to prop up its flagging liquidity position instead of using it to finish near-complete renewable energy projects in India, as promised.

$20 million

What is it? The amount invested by Velocity Interactive Group in NDTV in 2007.

Why is it important? It has been disallowed by the Income Tax Department. This is equivalent to Rs 135 crore at current exchange rates.

Tell me more: The I-T department has issued an order to the media company terming the investment a sham transaction and that it was unexplained in the hands of NDTV. It has also raised a tax demand of Rs 47.27 crore for 2007-08. The department had issued a similar order to NDTV with respect to an investment of $150 million (Rs 1,000 crore) in NDTV in 2008 in NDTV Networks Plc to acquire a 26% stake.

4

What is it? The jail term for two directors of Jharkhand Ispat for coal scam.

Why is it important? This is the first conviction in the coal blocks allocation scam, which has been estimated to have caused a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore loss to the exchequer. Last August, the CBI chargesheeted 14 people including industrialist Naveen Jindal, former Coal Minister Dasari Narayan Rao, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.

Tell me more: RC Rungta and RS Rungta, chairman and director of the company respectively, have been held guilty of deceiving and defrauding the government to get a coal block allocated to them in Jharkhand. The court has imposed a fine of Rs 25 lakh on Jharkhand Ispat and Rs 5 lakh each on the company executives.

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Why India’s rural employment guarantee scheme is on the decline

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

The government’s flagship rural employment guarantee scheme is on the decline. On almost every key metric, the scheme drafted under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)—which promises 100 days of employment a year to every rural household that demands it and mandates payments of wages within 15 days—is showing sharply lower numbers in 2014-15.

The fall is more perceptible in states ruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) than the ones ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The big picture

Be it the amount of work done or the speed of payment, the numbers are down compared with the last two years.

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The declining demand

Demand for work has consistently dropped under the Narendra Modi government, which some opposition leaders attribute to intentional Total expenses (in Rs crore) delays in payments to states by the centre.

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The declining supply

Compared with earlier years, a smaller percentage worked for more than 60 days a year and a higher percentage for up to 40 days.

 

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The states and political parties

The drop in work, in general, has been sharper for the states led by the UPA constituents. They are also facing longer delays in payments.

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Does a 20% cut in healthcare spending hurt India?

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

The government slashed its 2014-15 budgetary allocation for health by about 20%, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed health ministry officials.

Although that’s a significant cutback in allocation for a country with poor health indicators, it remains to be seen if its effect on the ground will be felt proportionately, because actual health spending in the past three years actually fell short of budgetary allocation—overall and in each of the four departments under which health governance in India is organized at the top.

Yet, given that India is a low-income country and has an abysmal healthcare system, the case remains for higher public spending on health, accompanied by full utilization of allocations and better outcomes.

Although health budgets are under-utilized at the overall level…

 

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…as well as in each of the four health departments…

 

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…there remains a case for higher public spending in health, and better outcomes

 

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