Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a spring cleaning of his office and residence at Race Course Road. Twelve truckloads of stuff was removed in the clean-up drive. The material taken away was not exactly garbage but it was unwanted stuff lying around. The material carted away included unopened boxes of all sorts. One box contained a brand new copier. The cleanliness drive removed equipment which had been ordered at some point but was simply lying idle for years. Stacks of unwanted papers were disposed of.
A Parsi businessman from Delhi named Zubin Irani met a senior foreign diplomat in the Capital at a party and was flattered to find the envoy taking a special interest in him and inviting him for a meal. In fact, the businessman soon found himself very popular on the diplomatic circuit. Several ambassadors invited him for meetings over breakfast and lunch and solicited his views. Gradually, the penny dropped and the businessman realised he was being wooed for the wrong reasons. Word had mistakenly spread in the diplomatic corps that he was the husband of HRD Minister Smriti Irani. He hastily declined further invitations and has since moved out of the country.
On a recent visit to Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai, Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma was struck by some of the exquisite woven saris on display, inspired by the institution’s founder Rukmini Arundale. Sharma said he would like to purchase a sari, which was priced at Rs 24,000. His hosts insisted that since it was his first visit to the centre and he was in charge of culture, it would be their privilege to gift him the sari. Sharma, however, remained firm and insisted on paying for the sari. He also made a down payment for another sari which he ordered from the foundation. When Modi took over as Prime Minister he had warned all his ministers not to accept freebies of any sort.
Taken by surprise
Prime Minister Modi hadn’t bargained for all the opposition to his land Bill. He conceived the idea of the land Bill because every chief minister he spoke to, including those from the opposition parties, expressed strong support for a measure which would make it easier to acquire land for urgent infrastructural projects. The backers of the Bill include a veteran Congressman who was the governor of a state. The opposition to the Bill has played on farmers’ sentiments on completely unrelated issues, such as the unseasonal winter rain which had damaged crops in northern states. Discontent over the cash compensation offered to the farmers is, the PM believes, restricted largely to the National Capital Region. Modi likes to cite the examples of his own state of Gujarat to point out the benefits of adopting a ‘forward-thinking’ attitude. In the British times, the residents of the then district headquarters in central Gujarat and Kutch had campaigned against plans to build a railway line through their region. The result was that the British relocated the railway line to the then sparsely populated areas of the state at Bhuj and Mehsana. Over the years, these two towns have grown into prosperous economic hubs while the original district headquarters, which had protested against the rail line, have been left far behind, underdeveloped and isolated.
A new thinking
The Prime Minister wants central government agencies to shed their ‘Vigyan Bhavan mindset’. National conferences of most all-India government bodies are automatically held in Delhi at the plush Vigyan Bhawan conference hall with its translation facilities and other conveniences. Modi wants conferences to be held in other parts of the country as well. That way, those attending the meetings can interact with different regions and appreciate their problems. For example, the recent conference of state DGs, normally held in the Capital, was this year organised in Assam.
Spell out examples
A meeting of some 18 senior secretaries of the Government of India was held in the PMO to discuss strategy over what to highlight as achievements of one year of the NDA rule. I&B Secretary Bimal Jhulka had a suggestion for Industries Secretary Amitabh Kant. Jhulka felt it was not enough to simply talk constantly about the Make in India policy. Instead of showcasing the policy, one needed to spell out actual success stories of the Make in India brand. Most of the secretaries agreed that publicity of concrete examples was needed instead of constantly reiterating the launch of a programme.