Development economics, a subject for which Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo won the 2019 Nobel Prize and classical economists like Robert Lucas, also a Nobel laureate, have had a long-standing debate on what rids nations of poverty. Classical economists argue that any nation which has seen rapid growth and development has seen rapid decline in their poverty levels, while development economists say that tinkering and experimenting in sample spaces will help us find out the economic intentions of people and thus help the government in making better economic choices.
The current Union government, after a successful re-election under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has done both: It committed itself to the vision of a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25 much to the pleasure of classical economists and decided to shape the economic intentions of people through its various social schemes and programmes, making the development economists happy. Riding on the rainbow of trust due to the stellar work done during its first term, the NDA government is not shying away from taking major economic decisions.
The achievements of the government are numerous. I should begin with the biggest achievement of any government since Independence — the removal of special provisions under Article 370 and Article 35A. No issue in this country has been more sentimental than Kashmir’s special provisions. Generations of Indians shall be grateful to the government.
Understanding that a major re-calibration of various aspects of the economy was needed, the government began by forming an inter-ministerial taskforce to finalise infrastructure projects worth over Rs 100 lakh crore. The first major sector that was tackled was real estate. Against a demand for 1.12 crore houses, 93 lakh houses have been sanctioned, 28 lakh houses have been handed over and 56 lakh are under construction.
In the health sector, under Ayushman Bharat scheme, 64,26,238 beneficiaries have been admitted across 20,757 empanelled hospitals. Along with health, women’s empowerment is a priority for this government. To protect vulnerable married Muslim women, the regressive practice of triple talaq was abolished and made punishable with three years imprisonment. Wage inequality has also been dealt with through the Code on Wages, 2019. We understand that the future lies in the proactive adoption of energy-efficient and non-polluting practices. India’s total installed renewable energy capacity crossed the milestone of 80,000 MW on June 30. The fact that India has become the most secure habitat for the tiger is a testimony to this government’s efforts and foresightedness.
MSMEs and startups are the vehicles for future economic growth. Startups with over Rs 25 crore as turnover shall get the promised tax holiday for three years. The withdrawal of the Angel Tax will also give a major investment boost to startups. The government has also launched the Van Dhan Yojana, which shall link 1.92 lakh tribal entrepreneurs to the national market. In the meantime, 28,211 micro enterprises have been set up, giving employment to 2,25,288 people. The government has also mandated that 25 per cent of the sourcing in CPSU’s come from MSEs — goods and services worth Rs 16,746 crore have already been procured from 61641 MSEs.
Farmers are at the centre of this government’s agenda. Nearly Rs 34,873 crore has been transferred to about 7.33 crore farmers under the PM-KISAN yojana till date. A minimum assured pension of Rs 3,000 per month is being provided to both farmers and traders upon reaching the age of 60. Welfare measures and assured MSP for rabi and kharif at 1.5 times the cost of production has improved the lives of our farmers and strengthened the rural economy. Development with empowerment has been the mantra of this government from its first day in office. By the 75th year of Independence, not a single rural family will be bereft of electricity or cooking gas. In a commendable achievement, the Ujjwala Yojana achieved its target of eight crore LPG connections seven months before the target date.
In order to achieve water security, drinking water shall be provided to all households by 2024 through the integrated management of water supply, conservation and grey water reuse through the Jal Jeevan mission. The Jal Shakti Abhiyan, under which 3.56 lakh water conservation projects, 1.23 lakh watershed development projects and 1.5 lakh acres of rainwater harvesting measures are being undertaken, has sounded the government’s intentions. After the grand success of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Jal-Jeevan Mission shall be the next major achievement.
The prime minister in the past six months has led by example: His video of plogging on the beach in Mamallapuram made every Indian more conscious of his/her surroundings and the Global Goal Keeper Award received by him reaffirmed India’s commitment to the SDGs. The “Howdy Modi” event brought leaders of the two biggest democracies together in a rare spectacle of friendship and brotherhood. The second informal India-China meet at Mamallapuram ushered a new dawn of cooperation between the two countries.
The past six months has seen India taking big strides. With renewed vigour and focus, the government is marching towards the $5-trillion economy mark. If this pace continues for the next four-and-a-half years, there is no doubt that India shall achieve this milestone before the target date.
This article first appeared in the print edition on December 3, 2019 under the title ‘Goals within reach’. The writer is Union minister, Ministry of Jal Shakti.