No Revolution: But Performance Good
At least India seems to be better integrated with the world and is slowly earning confidence of international investors as a favoured investment destination. Modi is a shining example of economic diplomacy which he showed even when he was the chief minister of Gujarat
Every Indian worth his salt wanted India to play an active global role befitting its status. A huge country with sizeable population and skilled manpower was somehow not given the respect the world over. Narendra Modi has changed this perception. From China to the US to any countries in Europe, India is seen with respect. Modi is being spoken as the man who would achieve the turnaround for India. The UN declaration of 21 June as the international Yoga Day on India’s insistence is a recognition of India’s importance.
At least India seems to be better integrated with the world and is slowly earning confidence of international investors as a favoured investment destination. Modi is a shining example of economic diplomacy which he showed even when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. When his detractors wanted to paint Gujarat in negative light, he along with his ministers toured various countries of the world and showcased the State as a safe investment destination and gave the slogan of Sow a Rupee and Reap a Dollar.
The first Investors Summit called Vibrant Gujarat Summit in 2003 resulted into 76 MOUs worth 66,068 crore. At the Summit in 2013, which was considered the best ever under Modi, 17,719 business proposals worth investment of about 40 Lakh Crore were inked. Already there has been 40 per cent increase in FDI in the country after the Modi government came to power. Once Modi’s visits start translating into investment, the country would witness unprecedented successes.
Modi knows things are not easy. The States that failed to work on creating better infrastructures may fail to attract investment in the short run. This explains why Maharashtra and Gujarat scored in his recent visit to China. Chinese authorities have expressed willingness to invest but have pointed out to the problems of connectivity in India. Most investors will have similar complaints. Lack of transparency, ease of doing business and infrastructure would be major bottlenecks to attracting investment by States.
The Western side of the country is slated to develop faster and become engine of growth once land acquisition become easier for the DMIC (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor) that would run parallel to the national highways and open new areas of economic activities. There is no such corridor in the Eastern side although it is connected to the Golden Quadrilateral. Developing Eastern side is going to be a major challenge in the coming years. Back at home, this government has performed well but rising aspirations of people and the hopes that everything would change overnight once
Modi came to power, has led to despondency. Ask anyone to point out to failure, he or she would not have any. However, people are not satisfied. Signs of good governance are not visible loudly.
The biggest criticism has come on the Land Acquisition Bill (LAB). What was the need to alienate the farmers already under distress, more particularly when the Government has gained the reputation of being close to Ambanis and Adanis. The Congress raised the issue strongly forgetting that the new bill that tweaks the provisions of the earlier bill came after objections by chief ministers who found that some provisions in the old bill were big hurdles in land acquisition.
But despite the pressure from various quarters including some affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Government is determined to push the LAB. BJP leaders have started going to villages and explaining facts about the bill. Farmers are convinced about the Government’s stand, BJP president Amit Shah said in an informal interactions with journalists recently.
While asserting that there was no need to be defensive on the LAB, Shah stressed We are convinced that LAB is going to give a big push to development. There was not a single clause in the bill that could be said to be favouring private entrepreneur. The farmers who would get good compensation for their land could always buy more land at a different place and also save some money, he said. For the first time the LAB makes provision for job for landless labourers, he pointed out.
One wonders why was the Government side or the party so reticent in explaining LAB to people much in advance. This allowed the Opposition to gain the advantage. Now that the Government side has decided to take the bull by the horn, the Opposition is seen scurrying for cover. The counter attack by the Government on completion of one year has forced even the critics to realise that picking holes in the performance of Modi Government is not easy when asked to substantiate with facts.
With one stroke the Government brought smiles on the face of almost everyone who had to run pillar to post to get attestation by a Gazetted Officer. This had become a menace and accessing a Gazetted officer has become a thing of great favour. Now students just need to self-attest the documents. Ask anyone- it is a big relief. Modi also scrapped so many laws had had become obsolete.
Later Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi brought the concept of five-day week working to ape the West. This needed a change in the mindset that people would work extra hours or at least with full devotion for the five days to enjoy the benefit of two days holidays. Instead of making the system better it lead to degeneration with weekend starting from Friday. Also, officials would not come in time. Modi tried to bring in discipline by introducing bio-metric system of attendance. Even Ministers reach and leave offices in time contrary to the earlier practice of ministers running offices from their residences. The new credo is ministers feeding on public money must act responsibly.
The biggest slap to the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and the biggest concrete achievement of the Modi Government has been allocation of Coal Blocks in the most transparent manner using IT. The UPA government’s coal block allocation had led to a loss of 1.86 lakh crore of Rupees to the exchequer. The allocations were termed illegal by the Supreme Court that cancelled the allocation of 204 coal blocks. The Modi government used open and competitive bidding through e-auction in March 2015. The estimated revenue from allocation of mere 33 blocks came to Rupee 2.09 lakh crore. It gave a big slap in the face of all those who were trying to defend the UPA’s decision and sought to create an impression that there was no corruption. The allocation showed how Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Trusteeship can be applied to those in power. Modi made the best use of resource and this is what politicians are supposed to do rather than splurging it on their cronies in return of favours.
This is likely to bring prosperity to mineral rich States Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The government has already decided to transfer the proceeds of allocation to the mining States whose coal blocks have been auctioned. When all the Blocks have been auctioned the States would benefit by about 4 lakh core Rupees as per a Government estimate. These States would also get the royalty of almost the same amount. This massive money can be used by States to wipe off deficit and debt and also launch new development initiatives.
None could dispute Amit Shah’s loud assertion that absence of corruption or scam has been the single most significant achievement of the one-year-old Narendra Modi government. The Modi Government came riding public aversion to the UPA that gave the country one scam after the other. None would forget coal scam of
1.86 lakh crore rupees, 2G Spectrum scam of 1.76 lakh crore rupees, Commonwealth Games Scam, Chopper Scam, Adarsh Scam etc. In that sense the NDA government has lived up to the mandate. No minister is alleged even in private conversation as having taken money to push a deal. On the contrary stories abound on how these ministers are scared of Modi’s prying eyes on their performance.
Any government’s performance is rated by growth it achieves and its successes in stemming price rise. Making a comparison using old indicators, the growth was 4.5 per cent when the Vajpayee led NDA government had come to power in 1998. When it left and a new UPA government came in 2004, the growth was 8.4 per cent. When the Modi-led NDA government came to power in May 2014, the rate of growth was 4.4 per cent. In one year the growth has been increased to 5.7 per cent. If one uses new indicators the growth is likely to be about 7 per cent. Already there are talks of India overtaking China in growth in the next year.
On the price front, this government must be credited with controlling inflation. The Wholesale Price Index has come down from 6 per cent in March 2014 to 2.33 per cent in March 2015. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which indicates real market situation, came down from 8.25 per cent in March 2014 to 5.17 per cent in March 2015. Even the Industrial output has increased from 2 per cent in February 2014 to 5 per cent in February 2015.
Combined with lower fuel price due to international oil situation, these should produce a good impact on an average Indian. It can’t be that all indicators are good but the situation is bad. On an average, a family has benefitted between Rs 1500 and Rs 4500 due to price decrease depending on the consumer pattern.
A government that has been dubbed by critics to be working for the corporate, has a brilliant track record of working for the poor. For the first time, 15 crore people were brought in the banking sector through opening accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana. They would get benefits of social security through heavily subsidised insurance scheme under Pradha Mantri Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Surakahs Bima Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana launched- all of which were launched recently. These would provide some form of social security to the poor at a very reasonable cost and send an impression that the government cares for the poor.
The Modi government eased the compensation norms for famers by reducing the clause of 50 per cent crop loss to 33 per cent and enhanced compensation by one and a half times for loss of crop due to bad weather.
Why then the government has not been able to present this face before the people? By its own doing? The Prime Minister sent a wrong message by wearing a suit that had his name printed on it when US President Barak Obama came to India. While Modi was definitely not trying to show off and he might be obliging a friend who might have insisted that he wore the suit, it did sent a wrong message. Symbolism plays a very important role and dress is a part of that symbol.
Somewhere the government failed to communicate with the media. One reason could be its disdain for the media. Whether it is Modi or Amit Shah- they are both known for their aversion for the media since they were at the receiving side of media in Gujarat. The strategy at the national level should have been different. Sharing information with media would have resolved most issues. There was virtually no pro-active communication from the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministers followed suit by creating their own distances. The visible desperation to communicate on completion of one year was missing earlier.
There are many things the government needs to do. As for example it has to come clean on the promises it made to people on the issue of retrieving black-money, providing employment to youths and bring in a system that would make winning or losing justifiable. When Ram Jethmalani or Dr Subramaniam Swamy says the government is back-tracking or dragging its feet on the issue of black money, these charges need to be taken seriously. A White Paper on the issue of Black Money was brought in May 2012 when Pranab Mukherji was the Finance Minister. Is the Government ready to take faster and more revolutionary ways than the ones suggested by the previous UPA regime?
Statement during the campaign that Rs 15 lakh would come to bank account of each individual if the country was able to retrieve black money stashed in foreign banks has put more onus to act fast. Describing this as a jumla (non-serious comment) have undermined the BJP’s seriousness. None actually would have believed this to be true, but they would like the government to show more seriousness on the issue.
By Sudesh Verma