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What PM Narendra Modi has achieved in 2 years

Author: Ashali Varma
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 9, 2016
URL:   http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/no-free-lunch/what-pm-narendra-modi-has-achieved-in-2-years/

While the Agusta drama plays out as yet another scandal that will compromise the Congress and possibly further jeopardize efforts to get the GST Bill, Reforms to Land Acquisition bill and Labour reforms through, it is puzzling to see some people are still sticking to the Congress coattails and saying big reforms have not been made. I would like to remind them that we had several sessions of parliament held up because of the Congress feeling that Sonia was being targeted by our PM and it was a “witch hunt”.

Most puzzling of all was Arun Shourie’s interview with Karan Thapar. He was once a BJP minister, and in an earlier interview he had praised Modi but was against Arun Jaitley—and now is virulently critical of the PM calling him a Casanova, Machiavelli and the Dark Triad (I don’t know what the latter means but seems to be out of a Dan Brown book) all rolled in one! That such an erudite gentleman should mix up all these very complex characters and throw them at a current Prime Minister, shows petulance that one would never have thought he possessed. Karan was just salivating at the thought and encouraged him with persistent questions, his eyes gleaming in delight.

All this is to no avail as the aam aadmi knows better. We know that for the first time in India’s independent history, the world is looking at us with interest. In just two years with sheer willpower and grit Narendra Modi has vowed the world; given his ministers at home deadlines to get things done; made bureaucrats accountable much more than before; started the process of FDI coming into India; and most of all monitoring end results. This is what India has always needed— monitoring of end results. Inflation is down; our foreign exchange reserves are at an all- time high at $360 billion; interest rates are coming down and yet the naysayers say not much is happening!

He has brought financial inclusion to India’s poorest thereby increasing direct transfers of subsidies given to them; brought transparency and a degree of accountability from railways to all central government services and yet it is not enough for Lutyens’ Delhi.

And as for Kanhaiya–he can come out of jail and call the Prime Minister names and give inflammatory speeches and then be the chief guest of Bihar, garlanded as a crusader and people say Modi is muzzling free speech! I have not seen so much vilification of a leader in so short a time even during the Emergency or the 1984 riots!  If free speech is being stifled, it must be somewhere else at least not in India. Perhaps the jhola wallahs are thinking of China. They are always a bit confused— so many fires to light and so many places to go.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, scholar and risk analyst says of Modi in an interview with The Economic Times in February 2016:

“He seems to have delivered over the past year. Let’s look at the numbers. From what we saw, numbers seem to be healthy or not degrading. The zeitgeist continues so it doesn’t seem like a revolution but a systematic approach to reform. Maybe you do more here and less there but overall it is the trend that matters. Sometimes people under-deliver. You cannot control the environment but it is the effort that matters. And that fellow is ascetic. I usually trust people who are ascetic.”

Perhaps that is what Lutyens’ Delhi hates most — they cannot conceive of a man who is so driven he works all the time and is not into hobnobbing with industrialists or inviting journalists for tea as Sonia Gandhi used to. His focus and dedication frightens them.

A friend, Ashim Choudhury recently sent me an interesting email and I quote:

“Where did the UPA do the maximum damage? (a) 2G scam; (b) Coalgate; (c) CWG scam; (d) Banking sector scam(s).

You can choose any answer and you would not be wrong, but my pick would be (d) the banking sector scam, where cronies got crores of loans from nationalized banks for dubious projects which have now gone bad and are staining banks’ balance-sheets with red ink.

Economic revival is impossible without a robust banking sector, and that is precisely what is missing right now. It is not that the rot is being discovered only now. Even while the UPA was in power, a lot of these bad loans were being quietly written off.”

This was before the Agusta scandal broke. To say that Modi inherited a mess is an understatement and still some people have the gall to complain.

Every day in the newspapers one reads of another new initiative: From Made in India to Digital India; Swachh Bharat to cleaning up the ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi and even though the progress maybe be slow at least it is happening after a 100 years! Can one man change the mindset of one billion plus people? It might take a generation as the rot is so deep.

When nuts complain about Sanskrit being taught in schools I say to them would you prefer Italian? Should we be ashamed of a language that the world recognizes as perhaps the root of all languages? My cousin had to do Sanskrit studies in Harvard. More shame on us. And as for those that are against yoga, I would like to tell them my two and a half year old grandson is going for gymnastics in Birmingham, Alabama and they start the workout with yoga exercises.

People ask me where are the jobs and I ask them where are the skills? It will take time to bring up education and skills to an employable level and setting up new ventures and it is happening but after the policy paralysis of the latter years it takes time.

No other Prime Minister has devolved as much to the states as Modi has as in giving the proceeds sales of coal mines to the states from which the revenue has been generated. But basket case states such as West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are always out with a begging bowl because their regional governments just can’t generate enough income to help themselves first. They have to make room for industry and help with land reforms and labour reforms and then see how the poor will benefit.

Recently I saw Smriti Irani giving an account of what her ministry had achieved in Rajya Sabha but the house was almost empty apart from the BJP members. If this is how elected MP’s feel about education, I can only say they are not worth its hallowed halls. She reported on various initiatives, I give examples of some:

In one year every government school has separate toilets for boys and girls; all NCERT+CBSE e-books have been made available on mobile apps free; scholarships of Rs 30,000 to differently abled students of poor families; 10,000 UG/PG scholarships for students from the North East; 352 international academicians have registered to teach in India this year at no extra cost to students; 1000 crore research program to focus on solutions in 10 domain areas; learning outcomes will be monitored; detailed information of faculty and courses of 40,000 institutions can be accessed on one portal; encouraging  students to innovate for industry with a fund of 250 crores to IITs.

Every ministry has such dedicated goals and yet some people are not satisfied.

NDTV recently reported that the PM wants non-performing government officials out. Over the last two years 72 officers have been dismissed. To drive home this Good Governance message the Centre has ordered 33 senior officials of the revenue department to take premature retirement. All 105 officers were Class 1 officers and are above 50 years in age. Action against the revenue officials was part of several measures to change the officials’ perception that poor performance or harassing the public would not impact their job, said a senior personnel ministry official. Shaking up the bureaucracy is a much needed exercise that requires guts.

Change is never easy and to shake up the system makes more enemies than friends but Modi is going about it resolutely. He has plans for India and those who don’t recognize it are either in denial or plain jealous and don’t have the best interests of the country at heart. Citizens who have seen India being robbed blind for ten years should heave a sigh of relief that we are a democracy and hopefully have got rid of the dynasty.
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