More than poll time, it’s toll time for the UPA as, one after another, several of its flagship schemes are coming unstuck. Top of the list, of course, is the Aadhaar one where, if the Supreme Court’s interim order is to get reflected in its final judgment, the project is dead in the water. It is true, as the FM said at his press conference on the subject several months ago, Aadhaar is not mandatory for availing benefits—this is what the SC also said in its interim order. But ultimately, if the government is to curb fake enrolments—at ration shops, in schools, at LPG outlets—the only way this can be done is to make Aadhaar mandatory. Aadhaar is meant to be non-mandatory only as long as everyone isn’t enrolled, not after that. The second part of the interim order, that Aadhaar should not be given to illegal migrants, is equally worrying since, at one go, it reduces Aadhaar to a citizenship card; that means the pace of enrolment will slow to the pace at which government departments run. At this point, more than ever before, the government needs its top lawyers to explain to the SC the logic behind Aadhaar and the ramifications of such orders.
But why blame the courts alone? Government departments don’t want to implement government orders. The DDA, FE reported some weeks ago, is refusing to transfer land to the DMICDC despite the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) telling it to do so and, as our lead story pointed out yesterday, even the National Highways Authority of India is not keen on following the government policy of building projects through the public-private partnership route. Instead, as the NHAI chief has written to the roads secretary, he would much rather go back to the old EPC contracts—contracts where the engineers at NHAI decide on whether a road has been built properly and then release payments for a job done.
Apart from the obvious corruption that giving such power back to NHAI engineers can give a fillip to, what the NHAI chief is forgetting is the reason why the PPP model was conceived. Since the project developer took on the risk of completing the project and also funding it, this not only quickened the pace of construction, it also ensured more roads got built with the same level of government funds—instead of spending R5 crore on building 1 km of