Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s post-Budget comments, that the BJP had done little for the state despite the prime minister’s constituency being Varanasi, must have stung—especially since it is election season. But getting NITI Aayog to respond wasn’t a good idea, given its status as an icon of cooperative federalism—getting NITI to defend the Centre against a state government makes it looks like the erstwhile Planning Commission, an arm of the Centre. That said, there can be little doubt the facts assembled by NITI, contained in a news report in The Economic Times are mostly correct. Indeed, while most chief ministers complain about the Centre not having done enough for them, and while most economist blame the Centre for not doing enough on poverty, the bulk of the blame lies with the states—Uttar Pradesh is not unique in this respect.
Apart from pointing out that the tax devolution to UP has increased from R68,640 crore in FY15 to R1,02,650 crore in FY17—of this, R83,428 crore was released till February 1—NITI points out the state has used just R2,850 crore of its R6,967 crore allocation under the National Health Mission and it has awarded just R37.5 crore worth of projects under the R941 crore allocated to it under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The NITI report does not talk of MGNREGA, but a look at the data on the website shows that the bulk of employment is used up by the less poor states since they are more efficient—while UP accounts for over 22% of the country’s poor, it accounts for just 7.5% of the employment generated so far this year; Bihar accounts for over 13% of the poor but accounted for just 3.2% of MGNREGA jobs while numbers for Tamil Nadu were 3.1% and 16.9% respectively. In the case of soil health cards, just 13% of all cards issued across the country are in UP and the state has met just 24% of its target compared to 72% for Tamil Nadu and 66% for Maharashtra. In the case of PDS, where Aadhaar-linking is the only way to minimise leakages, just 70% of UP’s PDS accounts are Aadhaar-seeded (Bihar is the worst off with 0.13% seeded) and just 0.7% of ration shops have Point of Sale (PoS) machines which are critical for checking whether the biometrics (embedded in the Aadhaar number) of the person taking the ration are the same as those for whom it is meant—Andhra Pradesh, in contrast, has 100% Aadhaar seeding and all ration shops have PoS machines. Blaming the Centre for the state’s shortcomings, of course, is easy—though UP’s GDP growth hasn’t picked up much in the five years of Akhilesh Yadav and remains at the sub-7% it was during the BSP days, whether voters in UP buy the rhetoric will be clear by the middle of next month.