Dawn of new India
What are the achievements and failures of Modi’s government in the last three years?
‘Structural change’ says well-known economist, Surjit Bhalla in his article in the Indian Express, and adds, “ This structural change has occurred across various dimensions, and it is continuing. Whether it be economics, politics, social policies, foreign policy, you name it - distinct stamp is being placed on India.”
Another commentator, veteran journalist Virendra Kapoor, writes in DNA, under the headline, “ Modi and his 24X7 delivery” and explains that ‘his government is reining in inflation, cleaning up bad loans, and jump-starting investments’. And then states, “ On the completion of three years of Modi sarkar, the Opposition criticised it for everything under the sun but NOT corruption. This is one unalloyed success the Prime Minister can be genuinely proud of. Neither he nor any minister can be accused of being in bed with moneybags. Indeed, no government in free India has escaped the taint of scams.No, not even Nehru’s, nor, for that matter, Vajpayee’s. This one has. Full marks for that.” And then he observes that “ there is lot that the government has done to lift the national mood from one of cynicism and despondency to that of hope and optimism.”
Structural change, yes. No corruption, yes. Hope, yes. What about economy ? Remember what President Clinton said ? “It’s economy, stupid.”
Indian economy in the last three years
Even the Indian Express, a well-known critic of Modi government, has appreciated the economic upturn in the last three years. The editorial under the headline,” On an even keel” says, “ Modi government has shored up economic stability- Now for the leap”.
The real GDP growth, which was 5.5% in FY 13 & 6.4% FY 14 has steadily gone up to 7.5% in FY15, 8.0% in FY16 but dipped to 7.1% due to the disruption in money circulation as a consequence of de-monetisation, according to the data of Central Statistical Office (CSO).The economy will resume its upward path thanks to the normal monsoon after two drought years, and the investment boost both by the state and hopefully by the private sectors. Inflation has come down, and the government has maintained macroeconomic stability. Sluggish world economy, inward-looking US and the large farm loan waiver announced by a number of states in India may affect the growth prospects in the near term. Consumption-based Indian economy may easily overcome these factors.
Infrastructure: While private investment has not yet taken off in a big way, public sector investment in infrastructure has created many job opportunities. Shipping and road transport sectors have orders worth Rs.6 lakh crore, says Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, which creates jobs for 60 lakh crore people. Infrastructure investment creates informal jobs for the manual workers but the ‘Make in India’ which creates permanent jobs for the skilled and educated workforce is likely to pick up in the coming years. The government has made efforts through the removal of restrictions on foreign investment, removing the red-tape through ‘ ease of doing business’ and the GST (the Goods & Services Tax) and many other measures.
The Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Mines, Piyush Goel, has successfully tackled power shortage, and India has become a power surplus state. With his reform formula, UDAY, covering the entire value chain in the power sector -fuel, generation, transmission, renewables, distribution, consumers. The energy mix in the country has more renewables than a few years ago - Coal (66.99%), renewables (17.40%), hydro (13.55%), and nuclear (2.06%). Toady India is in the 26th rank in the World Bank’s electricity accessibility from the earlier 99 in 2014.
Railways have mobilized enormous resources to make it the lifeline of the nation with faster and cleaner trains, double lines in busy sections, dedicated freight corridor, attracting investment by the private sector and many other ideas. The Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj have given a human touch by attending to the problems of the common men and women.
The government has announced more than 100 schemes to empower women, poor, ST & SC and neglected sections of society. Agriculture has received a large outlay for programmes like soil-testing, conservation of rain water, e-marketing through mandis, crop insurance, and other schemes. Foreign investment in many manufacturing including the defense has been encouraged and FDI has increased over the last three years.
Not just reform but transformation.
However, I would venture to say that the Modi government has laid the foundation for a new India
(a) based on participation of the people in nation-building;
(b) Antyodaya - the poor-centric policies;
(c) pragmatic, not dogmatic, and
(d) inspiring leadership.
(a) People’s participation: Modi has taken a leaf out of the book of Mahatma Gandhi who was able to rouse the common people to achieve swaraj. He is aware of the immense problems facing the nation, and he also knows government alone cannot solve them.
The most important change that Modi has brought to the country is the change in the mindset of the people. He, like Mahatma Gandhi, sought the participation of the people in nation-building. The Mahatma changed the elitist Congress which petitioned the British government to one where people took the lead to change things in the country. It was not just agitation, there was constructive programmes as well.
All the governments since 1947 have told the country what they are doing for the people, and for the first time the government is telling people, ‘let’s join hands to change the country’. Whether it is ‘Swatch Bharat’, ‘ Digital India’, conferring national awards, suggestions to improve governance, Modi government has asked people to participate - give suggestions to improve governance. The government’s website has thrown open to people for suggestions and also complaints. Democracy is as good as people’s active participation. When the people ( general public, ngos, corporates ) and the government ( politicians and the bureaucracy) join hands miracles can happen. Modi government is not a ‘ma-baap’ sarkar but a ‘self-help’ sarkar. Modi government wants to empower people, and it wants to encourage innovation and enterprise.
His rapport with people enabled him to successfully carry out the de-monetisation scheme which affected the poor the most. He was able to get one crore people to surrender their LPG subsidy.
(b) Antyodaya (helping the last man): Modi is inspired by the concept of Antyodaya ( helping the poorest of the poor) propounded by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, ideologue of Jan Sangh and Sangh Parivar, based on the ancient wisdom that every man has a Divine presence. The day he became the prime minister ( or pradhana sevek, as he put it) he had declared that NDA government is dedicated to the poor and the exploited - dalit.pidit and vanchit. India can become great and prosperous only when the poor are empowered with health, education and employment or sustainable means of living. Top-down policies that India followed in the last 70 years have failed. Empowerment of the poor is the only way.
After 40 years of planned economy and 24 years of liberalisation, India has a massive 30 to 40 crore people out of about 120 crore living below the poverty line. It is a failure of all the policies and programmes of the previous administrations.
Though the banks were nationalised in 1970 in the name of the poor, they have not even been able to open a bank account. The colossal amount of NPA with the nationalised banks - running into almost 8 lakh crore - is the legacy of ‘the socialist’ government of the Congress and the UPA. After 45 years of nationalisation, the Modi government opened 28 crore zero-balance account for the poor. A bank account gives an identity and an opportunity to save, and prove his credit-worthiness.
The government has implemented a number of measures to improve the living standard of the poor - Health Insurance and Accident Insurance for the poor at a small premium, Old Age Insurance, free distribution of gas cylinder for two crore women and the target is five crore in the next two years. The government has provided incentives to build houses for all by 2022 - the 75th year of Independence.
(c) Pragmatic, not dogmatic: Another idol of Modi is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who integrated India with persuasion, and in some cases, coercive power. We all remember how the Sardar took over Kingdom of Hyderabad with police action and how Prime Minister Nehru messed up the Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir which remains a sore spot in our polity.
Many liberals and free enterprisers were disappointed when the Modi government did not start the first budget with a big bang - privatisation of Air India and some of Public Sector Undertakings which were bleeding the exchequer. His government has proposed merger or upgradation of technology, and the privatisation is the last option.
Many have complained about bureaucratic approach of the government. However, Modi has been able to change this attitude of bureaucracy with periodic interaction among the various departments, directly talking to them ( chintan shibir) asking them not to think in silos - one department fighting against another department of the government. He was able to provide 24-hours of water and power to all the villages in Gujarat with the co-operation of the same bureaucracy. His experience in Gujarat has honed his ability to tame the bureaucracy - like a horse-rider guiding the horse.
(d) Leadership: Modi always led from the front. He has been monitoring most of the policies he has announced in the last three years. His ‘mann-ki-baat’ has listeners even abroad. NRI ‘s in all countries he has visited have given him overwhelming support. He has caught the imagination of the young voters in India as also the leaders of the world with his dynamism.His spartan and disciplined life, his dedication to his idea of India - India First, sab ka saath & sab ka vikas (lifting all the boats), Make in India (boost to manufacturing and employment), Digital India, start-up India (innovation, enterprise) etc- has created hope among the young in India, and has attracted attention of the businessmen India and abroad.
Modi, like Gandhi, had visited all corners of India as one of organisers of BJP. He had interacted with people of all sections and knew the pulse of the people. When he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he could implement his ideas of development. His success in Gujarat catapulted him to Delhi. His emphasis on development won him people's’ confidence.
The ‘socialist’ governments of previous regimes had arrested the economic development of India with many restrictions - the private enterprise was banished in many sectors, ‘commanding heights’ of the economy were in the hands of politicians, economists and the bureaucrats. Every economic activity required a license or a permit. India economic growth was crippled. P.V.Narasimha Rao liberated India from ‘socialist’ restrictions hesitantly, and now the Modi government has freed India from the shackles of the past. With a GDP growth of 8 to 10 percent, a more prosperous and more confident will emerge in the next few years.