Initiatives as a Chief Minister
From 1993 to 2003, Digvijaya Singh served as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. During his tenure, Madhya Pradesh broke away from the ranks of under-developed states, and joined the league of developing states with major achievements in the education, health and employment sectors. A lot of good governance practices were introduced that earned the state national and international recognition. Here are some of the land mark initiatives:-
- Decentralisation of powers:The introduction of three-tier panchayati raj that decentralised powers and empowered the people at the grassroots in sync with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's vision and Mahatma Gandhi's dream of gram swaraj made Madhya Pradesh the first state in the country to translate this concept into a reality. There are 52,000 gram sabhas now-one for every village-gram-, and each gram sabha has its own 'kosh' the fund that its empowered to use for the development for the village. The gram sabha has eight standing committees for different activities, and its affairs are managed through these committees. This is democracy in action at the village level.
- Along with the empowerment of the villages, there is a gender-equality component, with 30 percent of the posts reserved for women ( the subsequent BJP government enhanced this to 50 percent in an endorsement of this innovation).
- The net impact of this is that there are more than 4 lakh elected public representatives at three different levels.
- The right to recall was one of the most innovative provisions of this exercise to strengthen democracy at the grassroots. This provision was implemented in the urban local bodies successfully, and five elected representatives were recalled. This happened for the first time in the country in 2001. The civil society is agitating for this provision now in 2013, but the state of Madhya Pradesh under Digvijaya Singh had introduced this provision long ago.
- The concept of district government was also introduced with the idea of shifting the decision-making process from the state secretariat to the districts. Likewise, the idea of district planning was introduced to make the system more responsive to the local needs and to alter the 'top down' practices that did not take into account the local conditions.
- Education and Literacy: In the Digvijaya decade, literacy registered, an impressive 20.11 percent growth taking it from 44 percent in 1991 to 64.11 percent in 2001, as per national census. Such decadal growth in literacy is unparalleled. In terms of female literacy as well, the growth was equally impressive at 21 percent as against the national average of 14 percent. The gap between male and female literacy was also closing down. This was the impact of the 'padhna-badhna andolan" launched during his tenure under the Rajiv Gandhi Saksharta Mission.
- Under the Education Guarantee Scheme, more than 26,000 primary schools were set-up in the state to bring primary education within the reach of even distant villages. A primary school was set-up on demand within one kilometre of every village and a secondary within three kilometres of every village.
- To improve the quality of education, the concept of a school of excellence in every district was introduced. Each district had one school of excellence, for the benefit of promising children.
- The infrastructure at school levels was strengthened with the construction of school buildings (often the only community building in a village) in 20,355 villages, and the addition of class room in 5,037 schools.
- The Education Guarantee Scheme won the Gold Award of CAPAM (Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management) at Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
- Healthcare: The major indices for healthcare registered impressive changes during the Digvijaya decade. In the first place, population growth registered a decline from 27 percent to 24 percent, bucking the trend in other states of the north Indian Hindi belt that witnessed high growth rates.
- The Infant mortality rate, seen as an index of poor healthcare witnessed a drop from 106 in 1993 to 86 in 2001. One of the major contributory factors was the compulsory weighing of all children from BPL families at the ICDDS centres, and quantum jump in the percentage of children who have vaccinated from 29 percent in 1993 to 67 percent in 2001.
- Two barefoot doctors-rural health workers-were posted at each primary health centre after an extensive training of six months for providing primary health care and implementing the immunisation programme. They were not given a fixed remuneration, but this was linked to their performance, and the efficacy of this mechanism was accepted by the central government when it introduced the National Rural Health Mission.
- The Rogi Kalyan Samiti for all government hospitals that introduced a small user fee for services rendered that collected Rs.40 crores in the first year, and won the first Global Development Network award for the most innovative programme. It also provided functional autonomy for the hospitals and improved the health care delivery that was marked by severe shortages of even minimal facilities.
- Under an intensive programme, the rate of severely malnuourished children dropped from 16 percent in 1988-1989 to 2.92 percent in 2002-2003.
- Governance : During the Digvijaya decade, the state government of Madhya Pradesh, had a better comparative performance on all major fiscal indicators, related to the management of financial resources. The fiscal deficit came down to 1.69 percent of the state GDP in 2002-2003 from 3.1 percent in 1998-1999.
- The rate of unemployment in the state at 3.2 percent was far lower as compared to the national average of 7.2 percent whereas the rate of urban unemployment was 7 percent against the national average of 7 percent.
- The 11th Finance Commission recommendations had an adverse impact on the devolution of funds from the centre to the state, and there was a shortfall of Rs.4,000 crores between 2000-2004, but the state enhanced its tax to GDP ratio to 7.1 from 4.9 percent and reduced its non-plan expenditure even as it bore the burden of the salary hike for the government employees as per the recommendations of the 5th Pay Commission.
- At 34 percent of its revenue, the non-plan expenditure in the state was the lowest in the country, whereas the national average was 46.3 percent.
- The state had one of the lowest debt to GDP ratio of 19 percent as compared to the national average of 24 percent. Similarly, it has one of the highest levels of utilisation of plan funds at 93 percent. All these indicators demonstrated better financial management initiatives during the Digvijaya decade.
- The poverty alleviation programmes implemented in the state had a substantial impact and the percentage of people below the poverty line came down t0 37.43 in 1999-2000 from 42.52 in 1992-1993.