Cover Story: Thumbs-up to a Resurgent Year
On May 26, 2014, there was a dawn of first full majority Government after 1984 in Indian Parliamentary democracy, based on the agenda of clean governance and inclusive development. Right from the swearing in ceremony, the Government has been loaded with mounting expectations and new hope. Now, this Government of NDA-led by BJP is going to complete its one year. What does nation think at this moment? How do people assess one yearly performance of the Modi-led NDA government? There are so many media discussion and academic writings on Modi Government’s working pattern but it has become now more prudent to understand the view of the people on the same Organiser-Panchjanya jointly conducted a nationwide survey with support from an independent agency, Loksarthi.
In 2014 Parliamentary elections, BJP got 31 per cent vote share with 282 seats against Congress 19.3 per cent vote share as the second largest party. Remaining votes were largely divided among the regional parties. On this background, from 2014 Parliamentary election to present, BJP still holds on to almost the same percentage of vote share. It is very significant, because most of the experts attributed BJP’s success to the failures of the Congress or the high-tech campaign. This highlights not only lack of any anti-incumbency but also continuation of hope and confidence in the government. This also highlights the fact that all attempts of creating confusions about government policies are not accepted by the people.
When asked about the most important issues our nation is facing, unemployment still tops the list. High inflation is still a major issue for the common masses, though the gross numbers indicate the other way round. Interestingly, corruption has gone down to the third number with 18.8 per cent people still consider it an important issue. In our last survey before the the general elections, corruption was at the top. It is still being on third position indicates that despite reduction in the corruption, many more steps are needed.
Some issues/problems like unemployment, price rise, corruption, poverty, agriculture, development etc can be put together and seen in the context. 86.3 per cent people are still engulfed with these issues. Most of these issues are interwoven as poverty is linked to unemployment while lack of development can be seen in relation to corruption index. This is an age-old vicious circle in the history and should be broken with holistic approach. A good part is, possible solutions to this deadlock, – skill development, Make in India, cleanliness, health, education, smart cities, etc, are on the priority list of the government.
If such large number of people still face the basic problems that needs to be rectified collectively by the centre, constituent states and society at large. Many initiatives on reforming the finance or planning commission raised eyebrows of the critics but the same initiatives have opened up the possibilities for structural financial transformation in the country. Almost half of the revenue (48.4 per cent) generated through taxes has been handed over to the states, which was limited to 37 per cent till the last financial year. In other words, states have become equal partners in the development process and cannot blame the Centre on issues like gaining special status.
More intriguing figure is of 31 per cent youth from age group of 18-50 considers unemployment as the biggest problem India is facing. That calls a revolutionary change in the employability generation in both agricultural and industrial sector. The numbers also indicate towards another important problem of governance; corruption and law and order together, is considered as most important issues (30.2 per cent) in the eastern part of India where development is also a key issue. Despite these depressing figures, 62.3 per cent people feel that the national economy has improved in the last one year while 28.4 per cent do not feel so. Increase in the foreign exchange reserves, reduction in fiscal deficit, stability of the Rupees in international market, and reducing gross price index are some of the indicators for such positive feeling about the government.
“NDA Government deserves credit for somehow making Parliament run better with the result that some of the difficult legislations have been cleared, including raising FDI limits in insurance and defence sectors to 49 per cent.”
“A sense of confidence was the key takeaway in the first 100 days of the Modi Government and feels there were more hits than misses in the past three months.”
“Foreign Policy is determined by leadership at the highest level. Modi as the Prime Minister has surprised the world. In my view, Modi should have invited Myanmar at his swearing-in as well. Foreign Policy is also related to national security. We need 75 per cent FDI in defence, and I hope the government will work towards this.”
On the question of whether inflation has reduced in the last year, more than 60 per cent people felt so. It is quite evident from the numbers also as the average inflation rate in the period of 2007-13 was around 10.2 per cent, which was 8.59 per cent in April 2014 and now has come down to 4.87 per cent. The wholesale market price index has registered a negative growth that must have relived common people to a great extent. The NDA Government taking effective steps in controlling prices like bringing 50 lac ton of rice in the open market have definitely contributed in this feeling. The same story is about onion prices which has brought tears in many of the earlier government. Surprisingly, in the eastern part of India, 63 per cent people believe that the economic condition of the nation has improved but only 27.8 per cent agree that the inflation is reduced in the same year.
The samples in the survey are collected with equal distribution among all classes, rural-urban, age groups, gender, occupation and education. Under the survey, geographical and intra-state disparities were also taken into account. For the sake of ensuring the regional feels, questionnaires were customized in accordance with local level party standings without compromising the consistency across all length and breadth of the country.
To understand whether these discrepancies are because of some political reasons, when respondents were asked whether, employment opportunities have increased in the same period, 44.3 per cent people gave an affirmative reply while 42.2 per cent respondents negated it.
Is India’s defence sector improved now?
People also feel that the defence sector of India has improved whereas defence related agencies are working perfectly in their field. The country is also developing strong steps in purchasing or building a strong defence network. Majority population is in this view only and it should be increase more.
These two responses indicate towards two important conclusions. Firstly, overall economic health has improved but its individual level benefits are yet to be realised. Secondly, reforming economic infrastructure can create job with the creation of physical infrastructure over a period of time. This process needs to speed up and its results should percolate up to the last person standing.
When asked to rate the performance of the government, 55.6 per cent respondents rated it to be good while 25.9 per cent rated it as average. Only 18.5 per cent respondents consider performance as bad. 81.5 per cent people considering the first years performance to be good is not less than starting of a Acche Din. Bringing the masses in the ambit of financial inclusion, increasing foreign direct investments through Make in India initiative, improving foreign relations, high level of satisfaction on national security front, transparent allocation of resources like coal and 2G spectrum, environmental protection while shielding India’s economic interests, initiatives for cleanliness of the rivers and most importantly, presence of the decisive government in every walk of national life must have realised into this feeling of better days. The high level of satisfaction is perceived across the regions, age groups and class categories.
This has obviously reflected in the question related to the popularity of the Prime Minister. After a year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at least two and half times more popular than any other leader in the country. This is a positive indication for political stability and continuity in various developmental initiatives.
The popularity of the PM has maintained the same lead across the regions and both rural and urban areas of the country. The popularity graph in the urban areas crosses 55 per cent which is unprecedented in India’s recent history. If political credibility and popularity of a national leader goes beyond 50 per cent then people would definitely like to hear any dirty remarks against him, which perhaps the opposition parties will have to ponder upon.
The survey also completely ratifies foreign and security policy of the government. For the 62 per cent respondents the results of this policy are also positive. The southern parts of India have given highest affirmative answer to the question on nation being secured from the terrorist threat. In eastern parts, the threat of Maoist violence is still looming in the minds of people. All over, survey supports that India is more secured under PM Modi’s leadership.
What is the opinion of people on Make in India? Of course, participatory schemes such as Swacch Bharat and Jan Dhan Yojna are the most popular and known schemes but a technical scheme with long term economic repercussions has different point of views. Siding aside, counter views on pro-rich, gap widening, pro-urban, whopping 77.4 per cent respondents feel that make in India is good for the common masses. In every region, more than 65 per cent respondents’ think on the same line is an indication of confidence and hope in the government and belief that the government really means ‘Sabka Saath- Sabka Vikas’.
On the tricky issue of land acquisition, despite all claims, it is visible that the government could not communicate its stand to the people. Regional variations in popular perceptions are also quite visible on this issue. 57.3 per cent of the respondents from the Western parts of India, which also most urbanised, believe that the opposition played a spoiler and opposed it for the sake of opposition. Significant 19.6 per cent still have no clue about the issue but significant 11 per cent people agree with the opposition stand on the land acquisition bill.
To assess the overall impact of various government schemes, we asked about the specific schemes and the government seems to be quite successful in communicating schemes to the people. 78 per cent people heard about Jan Dhan Yojana and appreciated it. Political communication is very critical democratic process. A minor number of 1.4 per cent is turned out to be crucial in our survey results. These are the number of respondents who were aware of more than 30 schemes of the government while only 9.3 per cent said that they don’t know any of the schemes. 2 per cent people know about 20 -30 schemes while 38 per cent know 10-20 schemes of the government. Overall, more than 91 per cent people claiming to be aware of government schemes is a bright sign for Indian democracy.
Obvious corollary to the previous question is their opinion on these schemes. As mentioned earlier more than 70 per cent people consider Jan Dhan Yojana and Swacch Bharat Mission taking together, Make in India is mainly known in the urban pockets. 55.9 per cent of rural India approving Swacch Bharat Mission should be considered as the most important achievement of this government. Apathy of respondents towards Nirmal Ganga Mission should be a cause of worry for the government.
The most important number, 86.9 per cent respondents positively support the Swacch Bharat Mission. The actualising goals of this mission may be challenge but mass awareness and support for such scheme is a positive indication for the government.
One thing we can feel proud of Modi Govt. is that in their tenure, majority feels that the terrorist threat has drastically reduced and all the regions of the country feels the same for this scenario. There is no major terrorist attack during this one year and tough position on Pakistan sponsored separatists’ activities.
After terrorist threat, the matter of foreign policy is also important for every country and in this scenario, Centre has proved its credential because almost 86 per cent population feels that foreign policy or international relation has improved now. All the regions of the country feel that Narendra Modi has redefined the foreign policy and enhanced the national interest and improved country’s image abroad.
After terrorist threat, the matter of foreign policy is also important for every country and in this scenario, the NDA Govt. has proved its credential because almost 86 per cent population feels that foreign policy or international relation has improved now. All the regions of the country feel that Modi has redefined the foreign policy and enhanced the national interest and improved country’s image abroad.
People also feel that the defence sector of India has improved whereas defence related agencies are working perfectly in their field. The country is also developing strong steps in purchasing or building a strong defence network. Majority population is in this view only and it should be increased more. According to the survey, 67.8 per cent of the respondents feel that we are more secured under this government.