Although burdened by the UPA’s legacy, the NDA government got down to business soon after taking over the reins of power by focusing on good governance and development.
After a decade-long scam-tainted rule, India is witnessing all-round transformation. Different sectors of the economy have become vibrant as the government set out to implement the vision and mission of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is time to take stock as the NDA government completes two years in office.
Although burdened by the UPA’s legacy, the NDA government got down to business soon after taking over the reins of power by focusing on good governance and development. During the past two years, the government, through its pro-active and pro-people policies, has brought about the sort of transformation that the country has not witnessed before.
In a federal polity, the Union government frames policies and releases the money while the state governments/ local bodies are the executing agencies. The NDA has pushed forward reforms and brought in qualitative changes despite a sullen, non-cooperative Congress, which repeatedly stalled important legislation in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress, still unwilling to accept the mandate, continues to be intolerant towards Modi’s vision and accomplishments.
However, a determined prime minister has come out with several out-of-the-box ideas. He has been the driving force behind the many innovative schemes of the government, be it Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Start Up India, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Mudra Bank, or financial inclusion and social security measures. One example of this thinking is the decision to promote 100 per cent neem-coated urea production to increase soil fertility capacity. The highest-ever urea production of 245 lakh MT in the country was recorded in 2015-16.
Even as the world economy slowed, India’s economy has begun to revive. A recent UN publication, the World Economic Situation and Prospects Report, noted that India’s economy was slowly gaining momentum, with the GDP expected to grow at 7.3 per cent and 7.5 per cent in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased by 48 per cent, while manufacturing growth picked up from 1.7 per cent in June 2014 to 12.6 per cent in 2016. Inflation is under control while foreign exchange reserves have touched a record high of $ 363.12 billion. Similarly, the FDI inflows recorded a new peak of $ 51.64 billion during the first 11 months of 2015-16.
There is a sea-change on the foreign policy front with the PM establishing a personal rapport with world leaders like US President Barack Obama and Japanese premier Shinzo Abe. He has connected with the Indian diaspora and encouraged them to become partners in the nation’s development story. The appointment of veteran banker, K.V. Kamath, as the first president of the new development bank of BRICS is another feather in the cap of the Indian government. The prime minister’s visit to Pakistan to greet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday was a bold diplomatic initiative, which was lauded by all.
While more than 18,000 people, mostly Indians, were evacuated from crisis-hit Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Ukraine, Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted by the Taliban, was released from eight-month-long captivity, thanks to the diplomatic initiative of Prime Minister Modi. Similarly, the PM used his personal rapport with then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and got five Tamil Nadu fishermen, who were on death row, released in 2014. Other milestones include the declaration of International Yoga Day by the UN and the Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement to facilitate the exchange of 162 enclaves, an issue that had remained unresolved for 40 years.
The government also approved the OROP scheme for ex-servicemen. Till March end, more than 15.9 lakh pensioners have received the first instalment.
A look at infrastructure development shows the turnaround in this all-important sector. The government has already unlocked Rs 3.5 lakh crore of the Rs 3.8 lakh crore road projects, held up under the UPA regime. Road construction has risen from 8.5 km/day to 11.9 km/day in 2014-15 and to 16.5 km in 2015-16. Similarly, the construction of national highways went up from 3,500 km in 2013-14 to 10,000 km in 2015-16. Rural infrastructure has also witnessed the laying of 35,000 km of rural roads in 2014-15, which is 11,000 km more than previous year. Allocation to MGNREGA has been increased substantially to Rs 38,000 crore and the guidelines were modified to ensure that the money was utilised to build durable assets in rural areas.
Among the biggest achievements of this government is the transparent auctioning of 74 coal blocks, which will make the coal-bearing states richer by Rs 3.44 lakh crore over the lifetime of the mines. A transparent telecom spectrum auction fetched the exchequer Rs 1.10 lakh crore, while a loss-making, state-owned BSNL (which suffered a loss of over Rs 8,000 crore during the UPA period) posted an operating profit of Rs 672 crore during 2014-15.
In a watershed decision, the Union government accepted the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission to transfer 42 per cent of the taxes to states from the divisible pool and five per cent to local bodies, reflecting the spirit of cooperative federalism. Following the PM’s call to electrify 18,452 un-electrified villages within 1,000 days, as many as 7,343 have already been electrified. As part of power sector reforms and the mission to provide 24×7 supply, UDAY seeks to improve the DISCOMS by focusing on energy efficiency. Over 10 crore LED bulbs have been distributed among consumers, which is expected to save energy and costs.
A highlight of the Modi government’s second year has been the emphasis on “gaon, gareeb, kisan, mahila, mazdoor aur yuva”. The innovative crop insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, seeks to provide maximum compensation at minimum premium. A sum of Rs 50,000 crore would be spent over a period of five years under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana to improve irrigation. On the agriculture front, Rs 35,984 crore was allocated this year and credit to farm sector raised to Rs 9 lakh crore. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana has led to the opening of 21.56 crore accounts, while a stupendous number of 9.41 crore policies were taken under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana. Under the unique Mudra Yojana, which seeks to provide loans to micro and small enterprises, a sum of Rs 1.25 lakh crore was disbursed and 3.30 lakh people got loans. Responding to the PM’s appeal, about 1.13 crore consumers have voluntarily given up their LPG subsidy. The savings, amounting to Rs 5,000 crore, will boost the Rs 8,000-crore Ujjwala Yojana meant to provide free LPG connections to five crore BPL families. The Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) scheme will plug leakages and corruption and ensure direct transfer of subsidies to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees to beneficiaries.
Even the productivity of Parliament has increased despite the filibustering and negative tactics adopted by the Opposition. Important reform legislation was passed in the past year including the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Labour Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Anti-Hijacking Bill.
Under Prime Minister Modi, decision-making has replaced the policy paralysis witnessed during the UPA regime.