The people of India, depressed by a lack of governance, policy paralysis, corruption and vote-bank politics, gave a massive mandate to the BJP-led NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Aspiring Indians found in him a ray of hope. From Day One, his government declared that its main agenda was development and good governance. Around the globe, the prime minister has been mobilising support for investment and has successfully changed perceptions about India. He also took initiatives to improve the ease of doing business because unless you create wealth, you will not be able to provide employment or social justice.
India is now respected worldwide, more than at any other time. Modi has not only taken steps for reform but also initiated social-security measures like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Jan Suraksha Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, Mudra Bank (for small traders like kirana merchants, vegetable sellers and vendors). The minimum pension has been enhanced to Rs 1,000. Efforts are being made to provide an Aadhaar card to everybody, to link them with various government benefits. The government’s larger aim in this respect is a system based on JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, mobile).
The Centre is moving towards the elimination of corruption, delays and exploitation in government schemes. The LPG and urea subsidies, PDS, payment of scholarships, pensions and even wages under the MGNREGA, are all being streamlined. The results are positive: A lot of money has been saved and we are now being able to reach out to the really poor in a targeted manner. The PM has also initiated innovative programmes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi, Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Clean India to push manufacturing and employment as well as cleanliness. There is an increased focus on skill-upgradation and human
FDI norms have been relaxed in many sectors to attract investments for creating jobs and rekindling economic activity. The government inherited high fiscal, revenue, trade and current account deficits — and, above all, a trust deficit. Some of these have now become matters of the past and the economy is recovering fast. GDP growth has picked up momentum.
FDI inflow has increased by about $31 billion. India is being projected to emerge as the fastest growing economy after the slide of recent years. Strong economic growth will help make a firm dent in poverty. An atmosphere of gloom and lack of hope has been replaced by a sense of confidence and purpose. Our opponents believe in politics of poverty, whereas we believe in politics of development, focusing on growth and development so that the poor can have better opportunities to escape the clutches of poverty and live on their own with dignity. For our opponents, poverty has served as good political capital. Some people yearn for Manmohan Singh’s government, the most corrupt, incompetent and afflicted by policy paralysis in the history of India.
The World Bank’s “Doing Business 2016” report shows that improvements in the regulatory environment have lifted India’s ranking four places higher to 130 of 189 countries from last year’s recalculated rank of 134. India was placed at 142 as per the original calculation. This improvement in a large economy like India in 12 months is thanks to the PM’s bold initiatives.
The World Bank report says that starting a business in India in 2004 took 127 days. Now this has come down to 29 days. On this parameter, India ranked 164 earlier. Now it ranks 155. Thanks to the government’s initiatives, non-performing assets in banks have come down by 28 per cent. On the ease of getting a new electricity connection, India is now in 70th place. With regard to protecting minority investors, India is ranked eighth, whereas the United States and Japan rank 35 and 36, respectively. This is all because of the reforms in Sebi and corporate affairs. The report strongly recommends bringing in the GST tax reform.
After interviewing 500 CEOs around the world, an Ernst and Young report says that India is the most favourable place for investment: “There is no doubt that interest in India has increased. Investors increasingly see the potential and understand the fundamentals.” At a time when even China is sliding, India is a bright spot and an island of hope. Let us not allow disruptors to damage India’s growth story.
India’s performance is likely to improve further next year, after some of the steps taken by the government in the past few months are reflected in the Doing Business index — the latest rankings take into account work done till May 31. Various reforms have been implemented for the simplification of rules, procedures and compliance, and many more are underway. The Centre is also proactively working with the states to streamline various processes.
Today, the Indian PM is admired globally — he is the 10th most admired personality in the world according to a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum. People are now saying that Modi stands for “Making of developed India”. Narendra Modi is the means to accomplish this mission. In the last year, the government has made a strong beginning towards this goal. There is no talk of corruption at the top, no scams, no scandals. “Minimum government, maximum governance” is fast being realised.
The Centre has devolved 42 per cent of Central revenues to the states, 5 per cent to urban local bodies, 2 per cent for natural calamities. This is a historic step in strengthening the finances of the states and local bodies to enable them to take up schemes/ projects of their priority.
In urban development, we have the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut), Smart Cities to act as lighthouses for other cities to follow, Hriday (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) cities to revive cultural heritage, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana for uplifting the poorest of the poor, Housing for All by 2022, and the Swachh Bharat Mission.
MSPs for pulses have been increased by Rs 200 for the first time. Farmers will now be eligible for compensation even if crop damage is only 30 per cent — earlier this was 50 per cent. They are eligible for 50 per cent more compensation than in the past. Soil health cards for farmers are in the pipeline to help them know the type of their soil and suitable crops for it. Food parks are coming up in various parts of the country. Credit to the tune of Rs 8.5 lakh crore has been extended to farmers. In case of a family member’s death, the family will get Rs 4 lakh, instead of the earlier Rs 1.2 lakh. In the last 10 years, the Congress regime acquired more than 20 lakh acres of farmland without adequate compensation. It is now saying that it won’t allow the government to acquire even an inch of land. We proudly say that our government has not been embroiled in scam or scandal. Our focus is welfare and development.
Minorities can upgrade their skills under the Ustad scheme, and the government is targeting to distribute scholarships to one crore students. All workers are entitled to smart cards, under which benefits like pension and insurance would be extended. Thanks to a unique number for each worker, provident fund contributions will be transferred without hassle when they switch jobs. A commission has been set up to identify wandering communities and extend support to them. Now, there is no need to approach gazetted officers or people’s representatives to confirm identity — the government has introduced self-attestation. Both in rural and urban areas, six crore people will be provided housing with 6.5 per cent interest subvention, a record. Income tax exemption has been given to the middle class for housing loans. Efforts are on to have single-window clearance for housing. Six concerned ministers have already held four rounds of discussion on this.
We have successfully evacuated Indian citizens from Iran, Libya and Yemen. Whenever there is a crisis, Indians are taken care of by the ministry of external affairs in a prompt manner. When an earthquake shook Nepal, India was the first to react and offer help. Five Tamil fishermen who were convicted by Sri Lankan courts and languishing in jails there have been released with the intervention of our PM. Father Alexis Prem Kumar was also released from Afghanistan at the initiative of the PM.
People have shown support for the BJP and Modi’s leadership. We have won Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, and even municipal elections in Assam, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa, Port Blair and Ladakh.
But in India, some of our political opponents are not able to digest the growing popularity of the PM and the government. They did not allow Parliament to function and obstructed important legislation by virtue of their majority in Rajya Sabha. More than anything else, they continue a disinformation campaign against the PM. They think they are only harming the image of the PM, but actually, they are affecting the image of the country and, in turn, the interests of the people.
The writer is Union minister for urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation, and parliamentary affairs