Many articles appeared in the press commenting on the performance of NDA Govt. (read Modi Sarkar) soon after it completed 100 days in the office on 6th Sept., 2014. The general consensus was that the new Govt. performed better than UPA—II but otherwise, gave below par performance considering the poor state of economy and the expectation level of the people. Still 100 days period was considered too short to judge the performance accurately. But you cannot forward the same argument now as six months is a reasonably long period (26-11-2014) to rightly judge the present and predict the future performance of the government.
Let me underline 12 good decisions taken by Modi Govt. during the last 6 months though hardly few of these are really earth shaking or great game changer.
1) Disciplining Ministers and the bureaucracy.
2) Substitution of Planning Commission with a new broad based body (It is yet to be formed).
3) Increasing the FDI limit in Railways, Insurance and Defense sectors.
4) Cosmetic reforms in labor laws.
5) Clearing purchase proposals of Defense equipment worth Rs.80,000 crore.
6) Wooing investors from Japan and US with a catchy slogan “Red carpet and not red tape awaits you”.
7) Launching Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
8) Constituting SIT to bring back money stashed in foreign banks. (It may prove to be a damp squib)
9) Decontrolling diesel prices (It may boomrang once international prices of crude oil start rising up again).
10) Efforts to rationalize MNREGA and Food Security Bill.
11) Marginal increase in Railway fares.
12) Adarsh Gram Yojna by MPs.
Besides this, Mr. Arun Jatily, the Finance Minister, has planned a slew of reforms in the financial sector (including rolling out GST) and also simplify the Land Acquisition Act. Mr. Piyush Goyal, the Minister for Power and Coal claims to mine one billion tons of coal per year by the year 2019. How he will achieve this almost impossible target is never explained. His Ministry is also planning to develop 1.0 lac MW of solar power by 2019.
UPA-II was booted out of power because people were fed-up with the policy paralysis, total erosion of PM authority and intense stink of corruption scandals. Accordingly, people became crazy for Narendra Modi to make him the next PM because of his image as an achiever built around his orchestrated performance in Gujarat State as Chief Minister for three terms and the rest is history.
Now the same people, particularly the youth, have started showing gradual disenchantment with Modi government because of his unconventional style of functioning as Prime Minister. They had voted for BJP not out of commitment to its ideology but out of fondness for Mr. Modi thus creating the Modi wave like the Indira wave in 1971, Rajiv Gandhi wave in 1984 and VP Singh wave in 1989 elections (All these three waves subsided very soon and none of the PM could get the second term). But unlike in the past, the voters this time are more aspirational, transactional and unforgiving. Their main expectation is the opening of flood gates for employment opportunities for unemployed youths. If Modi Govt. continues its below par performance for another six months or so, they will not hesitate to burn the effigy of his government as well. Accordingly, Govt. should take a call on the expectations of the youth brigade very seriously.
Factually, it is easier to become the Prime Minister than to run the prime-ministership with aplomb. Unfortunately, except Nehru, none of the Indian Prime Ministers in the past could leave behind the footprint of his legacy in the field of economic development and come out with flying colours. Let us hope, Mr. Modi proves an exception to this observation. He does lack the basic knowledge of good economics (read good politics) but excels in oratorical skills, marketing, self-promotion (like Kejriwal) and orchestration of achievements. BJP spent huge amount (Rs.600 crore) in extolling the Modi campaign during the recent Lok-Sabha elections. PM should have prevented the costly coronation ceremonies of the two Chief Ministers of Haryana and Maharastra and avoided going there. As a matter of fact, the PM is overused as a star campaigner in the Assembly elections and also inaugurating or laying the foundation stones of not so important projects. A wing of BJP is continuously working for organizing PM rallies in foreign countries and the next in line is the project to organize a rally of one lac people in Wembley Stadium in London to give him the rock star-status. There is an audible murmur in the media that PM is keen to grow in national and international stature through self-promotion (He rarely takes the foreign minister with him in his overseas tours) and there is growing concentration of powers in the PMO and the PM is emulating the Chinese President Xi Xinping about whom The Economist titled its recent issue as “Xi Must be Obeyed by All”.
Mr. Narender Modi talked endlessly about replicating Gujarat model at the national scale in his pre-election speeches. Gujarat is ahead of other states only in respect of gas exploration and providing 24 hours electricity and water supply. Otherwise; the state is as bad or as good as any other state of India. You will be astonished to see the crumbling infrastructure and low level of insanitation in industrial estates of Ahmadabad and other places. Ruling India is a different ball game than ruling Gujarat state.
The most burning problems throttling the progress of the country and agitating the minds of the people are as below:
1) Poor state of the State and National economies (fiscal deficit, current account deficit, bad loans and empty treasuries).
2) Poor GDP growth.
3) Heavy bill of oil import (Rs. 10 lac crore per year or 7% of GDP) and lope sided exploration of oil in new areas particularly in Rajasthan.
4) Low level coal production by Coal India Limited (CIL) to feed new thermal power plants. Presently it is the severest crisis in the energy scenario.
5) Extremely low utilization of solar energy.
6) Rising population as Time Bomb.
7) Insanitation, dehumanizing poverty, slums, poor health services in five Bemaroo states.
8) Low level investment in infrastructure projects.
9) Ungovernable size of many states.
10) Poor financial health of railways.
11) Total lack of horticulture and dairy development in seven N-E states.
12) Poor service delivery from existing infrastructure. The death of 11 women during family planning operations in Chhattisgarh State on 11/11/2014 is the most notable example of this fact.
13) Heavy bank debts on States and their power corporations/utilities.
14) Bleeding of Air India and other Airlines.
15) Very slow development of hydro power and water resources in 14 major river basins of India.
The new government has not spoken a bit on any of these burning issues so far. This silence for six long months is frustrating and it appears that Mr. Narender Modi is either ignorant of these problems or groping in the darkness and the bureaucracy does not show him the beacon light.
COURTING THE NEIGHBOURS
With eight nations, vibrant and emerging democracies, growing economies, and home to 1.7 billion people and major religions of the world, South Asia has all the makings of a regional dynamo itching for its place under the global sun. Twenty-nine years after its founding and in the run-up to the 30th anniversary in 2015, it’s time for SAARC to bridge the gap between grand-sounding declarations and concrete action that can make South Asia a potent and effective player in the region and the world at large. It may be a pure coincidence, but it’s a serendipity laden with enormous symbolic significance. Exactly six months after taking charge of the world’s largest democracy and pulling off a diplomatic masterstroke by inviting leaders of all South Asian countries for his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Kathmandu for the 18th SAARC summit, signalling the pre-eminence of the ‘neighbourhood first’ template in his evolving foreign policy.
The focus on South Asia was visible from day one of the Modi government and was reinforced by the prime minister’s travels to Bhutan and Nepal and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s trips to Dhaka, Thimphu, Male and Kathmandu. It’s also fitting that Mr Modi returned to a neighbouring country to galvanise India’s South Asia diplomacy and spur the dream of an economically and culturally integrated region after engaging dozens of world leaders and attending a slew of big-ticket multilateral summits, for the destinies of the countries in the region are intimately intertwined.
Modi announced several measures to improve trade as well as India’s standing among countries that are part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) bloc. Addressing his first SAARC summit in Kathmandu, he said: “We speak of ease of doing business in India. Let’s extend this to our region. I promise to ensure that our facilities at the border will speed up, not slow down, trade. Let’s all make our procedures simple, our facilities better, our standards common and our paperwork less burdensome,” he said while speaking at the Summit, and noted that the bloc currently accounted for less than 5 per cent of the region’s global trade. Modi further announced India’s assistance to make up for the shortfall in funds for the establishment of a regional effort to combat tuberculosis and HIV. “We offer the five-in-one vaccine for the children of South Asia. We will support monitoring and surveillance of polio-free countries, and provide vaccines where it might reappear. And, for those coming to India for medical treatment, India will provide immediate medical visa for the patient and an attendant,” he said. However, the SAARC summit appeared to become a non-starter with agreement on the three projects – an electricity grid and trade in electricity, and road and rail connectivity – stalled by Pakistan. India expressed its disappointment over the pacts not being signed. Modi in his speech at SAARC summit already outlined that “we will move to enhance our bonds with South Asia together if we can, if not with those who are ready for it”. Modi in his address said: “There is a new awakening in South Asia; a new recognition of inter-linked destinies; and, a new belief in shared opportunities.
“The bonds will grow. Through SAARC or outside it. Among us all or some of us.” In his speech, Modi highlighted what is plaguing SAARC the most: “Today, less than 5 per cent of the region’s global trade takes place between us. Even at this modest level, less than 10 per cent of the region’s internal trade takes place under SAARC Free Trade Area. Indian companies are investing billions abroad, but less than 1 per cent flow into our region. It is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore; and, more expensive to speak to each other. How much have we done in SAARC to turn our natural wealth into shared prosperity; or, our borders into bridgeheads to a shared future?” It seems that a brief meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the last day of the Summit have salvaged the gathering of South Asian leaders, with all eight countries clinching a last-minute deal to create a regional electricity grid. The framework energy pact will enable cooperation in the power sector among the eight member countries and facilitate integrated operation of the regional power grid.
By Nilabh Krishna
The first job of an able Prime Minister is to set clear goals for his Govt. and draw blueprints of a precise road map of economic development and read out the same before the nation. He has to tell in chronological order what his priorities are! (Three upper most goals should be to raise GDP Growth to 10%, beat China in the economic race and total eradication of poverty by 2025). The second step should be to call a meeting of the state Chief Ministers and discuss with them various prose and cones of the road map and set out targets for fulfillment in a time bound manner. The Third important step should be to prepare a financial model and calibrate a strategy for fulfilling the targets both by the states and the Central Govt. For example, the PM may set a target of 100 per cent sewerage system in all the cities/towns by Oct. 2019. Thereafter it is the duty of the Central Govt. to help the states to arrange necessary funds (ADB or World Bank loans) for timely execution of the projects. But strangely the PM has not called even a single meeting of the state Chief Ministers so far. By now, this process should have been over and a bold and solid N-point program should have been prepared and adopted as the National Programme like the earlier 20-point programme of Ms. Indira Gandhi in 1975. He must realize two things:
- i) Most of the policy initiatives will be implemented by the state. That is why, Clean India campaign has gone directionless because of non-involvement of States.
- ii) Financial emaciations of states will act as backwaters for achieving overall strength of the nation. States like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and West Bengal are even unable to make timely payments to their employees. Therefore, a wise Prime Minister has to be a team leader both for his Cabinet colleagues and the state Chief Ministers and the present aloofness towards states does not auger well for promising a vibrant economy.
Governance during the first 200 days indicates that there is total adhocism in the working of Central Govt. and decisions are taken in a huff. Jan-Dhan-Yojna provides one such example. Dismantling the Planning Commission without creating an alternative body is another. There is no indication that the PM has deliberated with his cabinet colleagues or party hierarchy or officialdom any of the 15 burning issues mentioned earlier. Resultantly, the common man is feeling that the nation is not moving ahead and “Achhe Din” are far way and it is more interested in making Congress Mukt rather than Garibi Mukt Bharat. The only consolation is that 2G type scandals may not occur in future under the new regime. In other words, the environment of economic aggression has not been built up in the country so far and fire in the belly is missing.
It appears that this Govt. will continue with business as usual style like UPA-II. The only difference between the two can be “In UPA-II, the Prime Minister was reticent and the Ministers were too vocal. Now, the PM is more rhetoric and the Ministers are quiet.” Mr. D. Raja of CPI is right when he says “Mere rhetorics and sloganeering will not work for long with this Govt”. Opposition parties will be very happy to see that Modi Govt. fails on all fronts so that they can regrow.
Therefore, the PM must realize now that Indian economy is in shambles and it requires good deal of hard work to remove the tag of India being an under-developed country. The country needs an economic renaissance which requires calibration of highly strategic economic planning and execution of projects with war footing approach (Unfortunately, India is also surrounded by two hostile neighbors). Present Indian situation existed in China in 1975 when Deng Xiaoping took over. Now look where is China and where India stands! Obviously, Indian Govt. must analyze the Chinese model of economic development which was devised by a renowned economist of Singapore. Basic thrust of Chinese model is on high grade infrastructure development (basic engine of growth), strict control on population explosion and promotion of exports. As a result, Indian Govt. needs to develop a somewhat similar model to get out of the economic morass and eradicate poverty. If this transformation does not take place this time, then it may never take place in the future as well (Abhi Nahi to Kabhi Nahi) as people have lost faith in other political parties to take the country ahead as they mostly consist of brokers and usurpers of powers. Consequently, this period is the most critical in the economic history of India. As a result the PM must recast his strategy and face the burning issues from the front.
India is a vast country both in terms of area and population and ruling her efficiently is a very—very serious affair and can not be governed with thumb rules. Sooner, Mr. Narender Modi reads this writing on the wall the better it will be for his Govt, Party and the country. It goes without saying that PM is a man of very strong determination and only he can transform the economy of the nation provided he is advised properly by the think tank and he listens to that advice. To do so, he will have to wear the mask of both Deng Xiaoping and Sardar Patel both in letter and spirit to lift the country to a higher plane. There is no other shortcut to steer out of the mess, the country is in today.
By Ram Niwas Malik