Intro: What the Modi’s Government intends to do is to involve the youth and think out of the box.
To start with, on Day One, Narendra Modi broke new ground by inviting leaders of SAARC to be present at his swearing-in ceremony, the first time such a step had been undertaken in sixty odd years since independence. The move was highly appreciated by everybody involved. Then followed a series of measures that indicated that the NDA government was taking its job seriously.
First, the bureaucracy was disciplined. Punctuality was enforced. Late comers to office got their warning, again the first of its kind.
Not long after, Narendra Modi decided to visit Nepal much to the delight of both the country’s government and its people. Much the same happened when he visited Bhutan as well. In a multipronged attack on price rise, particularly in food items, the government announced a Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) with a Rs 500 crore corpus. Export curbs were slapped on onions and other items prone to seasonal increase in prices. Government released from its granaries wheat supplies into the open market for stabilsing cereal prices – Retail inflation fell from 8.6 per cent in April 2014 to 7.96 per cent in July. Wholesale price inflation, after remaining persistent in the 7 to 9 per cent range during 2011-2013 came down to 5.19 per cent in July. Business confidence started looking up with official data showing the GDP during April-June at 5.7 per cent, the highest in ten quarters. A turn-around in market sentiment became noticeable indicating that global investors were finding India “interesting and attractive” onec again.
The Hindustan Times (September 1) reported that “global chief executives and top bankers of iconic Wall Street companies are queuing up to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a clear sign that India’s economy has never mattered more than now”.
The Jan Dhan Yojana was launched and just in one day over a crore of new accounts were opened by a wholly new set of customers. “One year ago, the Indian economy was running out of steam and foreign investors were fleeing the country and the currency was in free fall. The country needed a saviour,” said the media and it got one in the form of Modi.
The Economic Times (September 3) noticed that stocks have risen and the sensex recorded its fourth fastest 1,000 point gain in six years as it drove past the 2,700 mark on September 2, for the first time.
At a meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held in Brazil in July 2014 it was announced that a new Development Bank with an authorised capital of USD 100 billion and a Subscribed Capital of USD 50 billion would be set up. As the media noted, “one significant plus point achieved by the strong stand taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the agreement on the principle of equality of all member countries (and no domination by any one) in running the bank.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget proposed to allow 49 per cent foreign equity in Defence production. This would bring in foreign investment and also technical know-how.
The budget has allotted Rs 37,800 crore for the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for constructing 8,500 kms of highways in the current financial year. The budget also seeks to promote inland transport, especially in Ganga River with an outlay of Rs 4,200 crore. In order to create more employment opportunities textile clusters are going to be set up in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with an amount of Rs. 200 crore.
But most significant of all undertakings is the Government’s scrapping of the Planning Commission. Here what Modi said in his Independence Day speech on August 15 becomes relevant. Among other things he said: “We will replace the Planning Commission with a new institution, having a new design and structure, a new thinking and direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilisation of resources, utilisation of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of State government and to empower the federal structure.
Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission”. It is Modi’s view that no matter what good work the Planning Commission has done in the past, “skill development among the youth to take advantage of the increasing demands of a growing economy has never been its area of concern”.
MV Kamath (The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)