Talktime Gone, It Is Worktime
It is a fact that most of the time Modi himself is providing his critics the stick to beat him with. He is talking or promising too much without any significant follow-ups. So much so that his promises appear highly simplistic without much depth
As India celebrates its 66th Republic Day, the country is presented with myriad challenges as well as massive opportunities. In Narendra Modi, it has a new Prime Minister who, arguably, has the strongest mandate from the people all over the country. Unlike his predecessors in recent decades, he has a support-base in all parts of the country, be it the remotest areas of the North-East or the troubled Kashmir Valley. As I have argued always, more than being BJP’s victory, it was Modi’s victory in the last general elections. Modi conducted his electioneering in a presidential style. Based on his record in Gujarat as the Chief Minister, he promised to be the harbinger of real changes in the Indian polity and economy. As the Chief Minister, he had delivered on the front of economic reforms that India desperately needed—slashing red tape, cutting the licensing raj and minimising the role of the government in managing the economy. Now as the Prime Minister, he is expected to accelerate India’s economic growth process that is already benefitting from globalisation and the technology revolution. And ensuring strong economic growth means that India must have not only a stable polity with safe and secure borders but also the capacity to play major regional and global roles. In other words, the rest of the world must acknowledge that India is one of the defining countries in the 21st century.
Against this backdrop, how is Modi faring? His worst critics will admit, though grudgingly, that since Modi assumed office last May, the global leaders have taken India a little more seriously. At the least, Modi has been able to create an optimistic atmosphere that the world can do business with India, something that one could not say during last years of a taciturn Manmohan Singh government, paralysed as it was with pulls and pressures, often in conflict, from within the Congress party. That Barak Obama became the first US President to attend the Republic day celebrations (he was also the first US President to visit India twice while in office) is an indication that the rest of the world is sharing the optimism that India under Modi is going to be a success story of the century. But is this optimism going to last?
India’s obvious advantages, from global point of view, lie in its embedded democracy, demographic dividends of having the world’s youngest working population that speaks English, proven software prowess (India is the world’s tenth-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity), impressive military strength and a strong, free and fair judiciary. Add to these the ever growing fourth estate of India, the media. All these significant assets need to be seen along with India’s very strategic location in the Asia-Pacific region that holds key to global balance of power in the 21st century.
As has been pointed out by leading strategic experts of the four great powers—the United States, China, Japan and India—that will play the pivotal roles in the Asia-Pacific region, it is India that could be the swing-power in the possible rivalry between China on the one hand and the US and Japan on the other. The US and Japan will like to build strategic and long-term relations with India as part of a new Asian architecture that would balance a rising China. India is similarly concerned about China, but understands that it benefits more by keeping a little distance between itself and its suitors in Tokyo and Washington. With China, Japan and the United States all competing for India’s friendship, India, which is also courted by Russia and European Union for increasing trade, is in a great position of having multiple friendships without having to make any commitments. Last, but not least, there is the ever-growing importance of more than 25 million people of Indian origin all over the world— Indian Diaspora, which is the second largest of its kind in the world. It does serve as an important ‘bridge’ to access knowledge, expertise, resources and markets for the development of India.
All these positives notwithstanding, there are some bitter statistics that mark India. In the latest annual list prepared by Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), India has the 71st position among 144 countries and is the lowest among the BRICS countries. India “has been struggling to achieve growth of 5 per cent. The country has declined in most areas since 2007, most strikingly in institutions, business sophistication, financial market development, and goods market efficiency,” the WEF said, adding: “India needs to create a sound and stable institutional framework for local and foreign investors as well as improve connectivity.” It may be noted that the WEF ranking is based on scores covering 12 categories— institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.
It is now eight months since Modi assumed office. His government has abolished or about to do away with some unnecessary laws. But red-tapism and the license raj syndrome continue. India is still a very difficult country to do business with. India dropped two places to rank 142nd among 189 nations in the World Bank’s latest “Ease of Doing Business” report, illustrating the magnitude of the task Modi confronts in lifting the nation to the top 50 to attract investors. Other than facing archaic laws, a foreign company invariably faces hostile politicians (mostly belonging to the opposition parties of the day) and media, if not at the national level certainly in local quarters. Even on seemingly simple matters, the bureaucracy complicates and prolongs the process. A foreign diplomat told me the other day that registering his imported car in Delhi took seven months— a job that takes just one day in his country for a foreign diplomat. He also described how it takes nearly one year for a diplomat to recover his money that he pays in tax while shopping or eating in a restaurant (they are exempted from paying taxes).
Of course, as I have pointed out elsewhere, it is not easy to move things in a country that has been strongly moulded in what is called Nehruvian framework, a framework which no BJP leader of repute had ever challenged. So much so that it was said that after Jawaharlal Nehru himself, if any Prime Minister acted to further strengthen this framework then it was none other than Atal Behari Vajpayee! In fact, it was under Vajpayee as the founding President of the modern-day BJP in 1980 that the party incorporated the word “socialism” in its charter. Vajpayee’s “Gandhian socialism” may be argued by its present-day leaders to be akin to Deendayal Upadhayay’s “integral humanism”, but that in my opinion is not the case. They are as different as chalk and cheese.
In essence, Nehru had a vision of leading a strong and centralised government out of impoverishment and backwardness, through socialism and planning. In fact, Nehru was the father of the concept of competitive populism among the politicians who view the purpose of the economy is to generate money which they can spend as they like. In political sphere, Nehru talked of equality in abstract terms because of which merit and competence were believed to be dirty words and the so-called affirmative actions through caste-based reservations became the order of the day. Nehru’s “science” led to the neglect and eventual loss of traditional knowledge, values, and ethics of behaviour that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world. Nehru’s secularism meant reforms only in Hinduism and promotion of minorityism. Nehru’s world view was idealism, devoid of realism that led to the utter neglect of defence forces.
This is not to suggest that one is belittling Nehru and his contributions to the country. But then, in democracy that we are, Nehru’s vision cannot be the only vision or panacea to end India’s myriad ills. All told, India that still continues with Nehruvian ideas is the country where still one third of the world’s poor live. India has performed poorly in removing gender-based disparities, ranking 114th out of 142 countries in World Economic Forum’s 2014 gender gap index, scoring below average on parameters like economic participation, educational attainment and health and survival. And this is the case despite the fact that at the time of independence Indian economy was miles ahead of the Chinese economy and Korean economy. But see where they are today. They are now miles ahead of us. India in the Nehruvian mould is much more corrupt today than what it was in 1947. India ranked 85th among 175 countries in 2014, according to graft watchdog Transparency International India (TII). And India under the Nehruvian mould is socially much more fragmented today than what it was in 1947. Violence, crime, rape, sodomy, drunkenness and incest in the ghettoes have been on ascent in a Nehruvian India. The Nehruvian mantra all these years has been—keep the poor if not poorer, further extend state interference into the private domain, and further divide an already-divided Indian society against itself.
Modi had promised to break India from this Nehruvian mould and present us a different model of governance. The voters responded to his call for trying a Modi-model for five years. And here, people had reposed faith in Modi, not the BJP as such as the party suffers from every ill associated with Nehruvianism. So far one does not know how Modi will be able to overcome resistance form his own party, the BJP, and the larger Sangh Parivar, which deeply resents against globalisation and liberalisation. In fact, the RSS hates Modi’s “Make in India” programme. The BJP, all told, is a highly populist party. The BJP asks people not to give the enhanced electricity and water bills in Delhi; despite the fact the rates of electricity and water in the national capital are arguably the lowest in the country. Modi wants and promises to make smart cities, but his party, in order to win elections in Delhi, forced his government at the Centre to “legalise” everything illegal and unauthorised in Delhi. Like the Congress, the BJP believes in glorifying the notion of “Daridra Narayan” (Poor is God) and giving the poor alms of few rupees or some kilograms of grains here and there. The BJP does not advocate for creating a system with all-round development so that nobody remains poor and beggar. The BJP, like others, does not focus on empowering the poor; it, like others, wants the poor to remain poor for all time to come.
In fact, two principal challenges confronting Modi today are his own Sangh Parivar and “the Delhi establishment”, which includes Delhi bureaucracy, Delhi intelligentsia and Delhi media. In fact, many BJP or RSS members also belong to the Delhi establishment, which, deeply committed to Nehruvianism, is yet to reconcile with what it virtually thinks to be a hostile takeover by Modi, a rank outsider. Its hostility towards Modi is going to increase in the days to come, particularly when Modi is not able to deliver his promises. In fact, as regards the media, anti-Modi elements, ironically, are becoming stronger and stronger with each passing day, belying their earlier fears of a Fascist Modi. They continue to dominate even today the media controlled or funded by the government.
However, it is also a fact that most of the time Modi himself is providing his critics the stick to beat him with. He is talking or promising too much without any significant follow-ups. So much so that his promises appear highly simplistic without much depth. For instance, with much fanfare he initiated the “Swachh Bharat” programme. But has he created any system to oversee how the programme is implemented? He just does not need to go outside Delhi to realise how his cleanliness drive is mostly on paper. Areas beyond Lutyen’s Delhi remain as dirty as ever. In my own locality, there are huge pile-ups of garbage, surrounded by unruly cows. I had a chance to talk to an MLA about this. His answer was a little surprising: “ Bhai, this is the job of the area municipal councillor. People have not elected us MLAs to do these mundane things.” In other words, like Modi, most of his party MPs and MLAs have treated the programme to be providing photo opportunities for them, nothing else. One can give another example in this regard. Modi has said that his government will make more toilets than temples. But what the simple structures of the toilets will do in the absence of guaranteed water supplies and proper sewerage lines? Cleanliness in the toilets is as important as toilets themselves. It is much healthier to attend to the call of nature in an open place than going to a stinking toilet that one sees in our public places.
Similarly, I am getting increasingly convinced that Modi’s much talked about “Make in India” programme is going to be confined to seminar-circuits. If Modi really wants that the manufacturing sector should produce about one-third of the country’s GDP (at the moment it is less than 18 per cent) as that will provide our youth employment and the nation wealth, then he should focuss in the beginning more on the country’s research and education than on the foreign investors. Do we have enough employable youth? Do we have adequate manpower to absorb the foreign technology and handle transfer of technology? In fact, my interactions with many foreign companies operating in India suggest that they are not sure of Indian capacity to co-develop and co-produce products. And they seem to have a point given the overall records of our Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd. (HAL). We may have huge manpower with formal degrees, but what about their talents? In other words, a company or institution can excel only when it has “good” manpower, not manpower per se.
In fact, rather than producing useless college or university degrees that our present education policy leads to, we should make vocational education compulsory for two years after the 10th standard. It is after the compulsory vocational education for two years that students should be allowed in universities for higher studies. This, in turn, will have two desirable results. One, we will have employable skilled personnel who may choose to be small-scale entrepreneurs themselves or join the small and medium scale industries, the real source of a nation’s wealth in the ultimate analysis. It will popularise the concept of “dignity of labour” in the country. Two, because of this education policy, those who intend to pursue higher studies will add to the quality of the higher education of the country because they will be better taught with better infrastructure (because of their smaller number). Let it be noted that under the present policy of higher education, which produces degrees rather than talents, India has got the notorious distinction of not having a single university that is in the first 200 of global rankings. No wonder why those who are really good migrate to foreign universities.
The other feature that is a prime requirement for “Make in India” to succeed is to ensure that the best minds in the country get attracted for careers in research and technological development. It is a matter of shame that India does not spend even 1(one) per cent of its GDP in R&D. As it is, expenditure in India on R&D comes from the central government, and a quarter from industry. In contrast, it is almost the other way in South Korea, about 30 per cent of its R&D budget (about 3½ per cent of GNP) comes from the Korean government— which spends about the same on R&D as the Indian government does—but all the rest of it comes from industry. Indian industry is spending more on R&D now than before in absolute terms, but less relative to GNP (0.38 per cent of GNP in 85-86, 0.2 per cent currently). Except in sectors like pharmaceuticals and drugs, our industry does not appear to be making major investments in or demands on Indian science.
I will strongly recommend Modi to read the monograph titled “India As A Global Leader in Science”, prepared in 2010 by the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. I am sure it must be there in his office. The monograph talks of some criteria that should define a new framework for the higher education:
- Seek dynamic leadership at the top and provide “real” autonomy with minimal bureaucracy.
- Get the best faculty and establish the best facilities.
- Establish a proper faculty promotion policy.
- Keep out political interference.
- Welcome private investment and support from private wealth.
- Assemble a diverse student body balancing excellence and inclusion.
- Combine under-graduate teaching and world-class research.
- Balance educational efforts in science, technology, humanities.
- Inculcate national pride amongst pupils.
- Build campuses with character and suitable traditions.
- Keep student numbers manageable.
- Offer integrated 4+1 year BS/BA + MS/MA programmes with a flexible package of courses.
- Match supply and demand.
In sum, in getting elected as the Prime Minister, Modi had raised a lot of hopes. In his eight months in office, he has not done enough to live up to them. He still talks too much. Time is now to show what he means.
By Prakash Nanda
Global Achievements Of Modi
- Modi seems to have a definite foreign policy agenda. It is more economic in its objectives: to bring in substantial foreign direct investment and get international support on security issues. It is to be friendly but muscular.
- During Narendra Modi visit to America, US expanded its strategic ties with India by pledging to back New Delhi’s entry into elite nuclear clubs and as a permanent member of the reformed UN Security Council. Seeking to expand cooperation in strengthening global non-proliferation and export control regimes, the two leaders committed themselves to continue to work towards India’s phased entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group.
- During Vladimir Putin’s visit, Russia and India signed 20 agreements in oil, gas, defence, investment and other key sectors to give a boost to their “special strategic partnership”. Russia had also agreed to build at least 12 nuclear reactors, besides manufacturing advanced dual-use helicopters during the visit.
- India has refused to sign on simplification of business agreement of WTO in July 2014. India made it clear that first of all its concern regarding food security and agricultural subsidy should be clarified. Due to this stern stand of NDA Govt America was compelled to support the Indian view. This is the biggest achievement of India in WTO.
- During Modi visit to Japan, the country announced doubling of its private and public investment in India to about $34 billion over the next five years. Japan and India have upgraded their partnership to the level of ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ with the signing of a defence pact for regional stability and Tokyo’s decision to double FDI in India.
- China has committed investments worth $20 billion in India over the next five years. Among the 12 agreements that India and China signed was a Memorandum of Understanding on “peaceful uses of outer space”. They have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in Railways. The two neighbours have agreed to first work to raise the speed on an existing rail section from Chennai to Mysore via Bangalore.
Feats On Domestic Front
Government has established a Price Stabilization Fund of 500Cr Rupees while taking financial and administrative measures to contain inflation. Inflation based on Stock Price Index has slipped to a mere 1.77per cent in October 2014 while this was 7.24per cent in October 2013 and 6.18per cent in May 2014 during the rule of UPA. Similarly Inflation related to Consumer price Index reduced to 5.52per cent in October 2014 while it was 10.17per cent in October 2013 and 8.28per cent in may 2014. Petrol and diesel has also become cheaper.
The first meeting of the cabinet, held on May 27.2014 in the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, constituted Special Investigation Team. Soon after the Finance Ministry sent a high level delegation to Switzerland,
identification of 427 people holding account in foreign banks was established and 250 people have accepted of possessing accounts.
Government has launched clean India movement and created a clean India fund .This has turned into a movement for cleanliness and people are associating themselves from all walks of life.
Government has started Pradhanmantri Saansad Aadarsh Gram Yojna and under the programme Member of Parliament have been allocated villages. Along with this work has started of Urban Yojna.
Government has created separate ministry for Ganga and announced a project of Rs. 2,037 cr. for Namami Gange in general budget. With this, the program has started to make a pollution free Ganges and all industries have been directed to install sensors by March 2015 for the same.
Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana
India has become fully banked, a feat commended by the Guinness Book of World Records for being accomplished in the short span. The Prime minister announced this program from Red Fort on August 15 2014 and it was launched at national level on August 28 2014. Nearly 7.73cr bank accounts were opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana till Nov 22, 2014. Out of this 4.58cr bank account opened in rural area and 3.14 cr bank account opened in urban area. According to the census of 2011, nearly 40 per cent families did not hold any bank account.
Make in India
Prime minister has launched Make in India movement on Sep 25, 2014. The FDI limit in defence sector was increased up to 49 per cent to make this movement successful. Besides this, the FDI in many other sectors has been simplified. These efforts may yield creation of jobs for youth.
Criticism That Modi Got
“Modi has to realise that his ministers simply don’t understand that they are pushing away foreign investments by campaigns like ‘ghar wapsi’. In fact they don’t really care about foreign investors not coming in. Unless he does that, his economic agenda or the promises he has made to the voters cannot be fulfilled and if they cannot be fulfilled, well, Congress will be waiting for the next elections.”
“A major and regrettable decision has been taken by the government of India almost in stealth and surreptitiously to reduce health budget by 20 percent. BJP’s manifesto had earlier talked of over-arching health insurance. Modi ji had talked about a national health mission worth Rs 1.6 trillion.”
“You had promised incentive to farmers for their produce. Now a new thing has come… you did not say you will launch ‘ghar wapsi’ (conversion) campaigns. Your party ministers and MPs are saying this. You did not fulfil the promises made to people. You have forgotten them. That is why this House is not functioning.”
“There are over 5 crore unemployed in the country. You did not create any job. Many parties are today sitting on dharna and we have given notice under Article 266 after suspension of all business to discuss this.”
“The Prime Minister has not fulfilled any promise and he sought a 10-year moratorium on communal riots and communal polarisation, but the things that are happening are not good for the nation.”
“Promises have not been fulfilled… Ek kaam karke dikhaye (at least fulfil one promise).”