A spectacular win in 3 North-Eastern states especially Tripura, a stunning loss of 2 seats in UP Lok Sabha by-elections, TDP’s shocking exit from NDA, perplexing ‘No confidence’ motion in Lok Sabha and well-scripted win to snatch an extra seat in Rajya Sabha from UP. Things can’t be more topsy-turvy for Modi Govt which would complete its normal tenure early next.
Modi stormed into power with a historic win an absolute majority in May 2014. During election campaigns, he placed emphasis, among other things, on 2 issues agitating the minds of millions of Indian viz Development and eradication of corruption. His cabinet’s first decision to set up a SIT under a Supreme Court judge to unearth black money showed his bold approach to fight corruption. He also launched a slew of innovative social welfare and financial schemes for the benefit of poor, farmers, women and girl child. Na Khaunga, Na Khane Dunga (Corruption) and Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (Inclusive Development) became the guiding principles for the governance. After nearly four years it is time to evaluate the impact and fruition of these initiatives.
Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas(Inclusive Development)
There is not a speck of doubt that visionary schemes like Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, Mudra, Gram Jyoti Yojna, Awas Yojna, Swachh Bharat, Smart Cities, Digital India launched with good intentions and sincere hopes have improved the quality of life of millions of underprivileged people. While some like Ujjwala (5 crore beneficiaries) have done quite well, more ambitious one like ‘Swachh Bharat’ has not measured up to expectations. Still, nearly 500 million people mostly belonging to disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of society have benefited from these schemes. Under DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) a massive sum of Rs 2.65 Lakh Crores (US$ 40 billion) pocketed earlier by ‘middlemen’ have gone directly to 41.14 Crore beneficiaries under 366 schemes till Feb 15, 2018. ‘Ayushman Bharat’ – World’s largest health care programme under which 100 million families will get Rs 5 Lakh per year to protect their health has been launched in Feb 2018. It’s intended to benefit nearly 50 Crore (half billion) of its poorest citizen in coming years. Modi Govt also hopes to complete 80% work relating to ‘Clean Ganga’ project by March 2019. If accomplished it would be a colossal achievement. PM Modi has tried to reach to all sections of society and his stock among minorities would have gone higher but for the violent acts of some self-styled ‘vigilantes’ in the name of Gau Raksha, Love Jihad and Statue destruction. The fringe elements in the country, irrespective of their caste or religion must be isolated and adequately punished to maintain social harmony and peace. With one year left, loudmouth BJP leaders should spare the party and themselves blushes by their inane and sometimes bizarre statements causing avoidable controversies. They should let ‘Darwin’ and ‘Einstein’ sleep in peace.
Na Khaunga Na Khane Dunga(Corruption)
Corruption like poverty is a stark reality which is seen, felt, heard and smelled by millions in this country, in one form or the other, every day. Crimes like drug and human trafficking, coercive illegal activities of sand, water and mining mafia, encroachments of public land etc are some of its toxic by-products, Modi Govt can take credit for Na Khaunga as he and his Ministers remain spotlessly clean and there has been no stain of scams, unlike their predecessor. To fight the menace of black money, Modi Govt on Nov 8, 2016, demonetised Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes amounting to Rs 15 lakh crore (US$ 190 billion). This dauntless decision was meant to reduce corruption, eradicate black money, root out terror financing, fake currency and spur digital payments. This bold step met its target to a great extent but in the process also created negative side effects for the economy in terms of job losses in the unorganized sector, reduced GDP growth and rural stress affecting farmers. In July, 2017, Govt introduced GST (Goods and Services Tax) – the biggest tax reform since Independence and brought India under ‘one nation, one tax’ system, by subsuming a multiplicity of Central and State taxes. It has improved tax governance by curbing tax evasion and expanding the tax net to a great extent. Both these steps have led to the addition of 18 Lakh new taxpayers in the last 13 months. Still, its work in progress and real impact will be known in a year or so.
However, Modi Govt have not been quite successful in fulfilling their resolve of Na Khane Dunga and even these strong measures have failed to stop the brazenly corrupt officials who continue to demand and get bribes from common man in infamous departments like Municipal corporations, Panchayat Samitis, Police, PWD, Revenue, RTO, RCS etc as borne out by media reports/stings from time to time. Private hospitals and schools are not far behind in exploitation and loot of their patients and wards by overcharging and cheating. As for the corruption in Public sector banks, the post-demonetisation raids by IT, CBI, ED and other agencies had brought to light the perfidious role of corrupt bankers in the conversion of black money into white and the revelations so far in Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and other mega frauds have re-confirmed their criminal complicity. To top it all, there have been no conviction in major scams like Coalgate, 2G, Railgate, NHRM and Ponzi schemes like Saradha, Pearl, Rose valley and land scandals involving politicians and builders in the last 4 years. The delay in the prosecution of culprits is both intriguing and exasperating.
The unholy nexus of sleazy politicians, greedy bureaucrats and crony capitalists is fully responsible for these and other scams. But just as there can’t be “Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark” no big-ticket scam is imaginable without, direct or indirect, support of the political class. Even the apex court agrees with this cardinal truth and in Dec, 2017 they gave green signal to Centre’s scheme to set up 12 fast track courts to exclusively prosecute and dispose of 1581 criminal cases pending against Member of Parliament/State Legislative Assemblies within 12 months. Supreme Court has also not spared the premier investigating agencies for tardy progress in high-profile cases. On March, 2018, the Supreme Court expressing their ‘unhappiness’ in the slow progress of 2G case have observed why the probe couldn’t be completed in the last 4 years. People of this country have a right to know about it. Is there any individual hand due to which probe couldn’t be completed? Sounding a note of warning the SC asked the CBI & ED to complete the investigation in 6 months and warned: “we will haul up all probe officers if it is not done”. The apex court can’t be more explicit and emphatic. Their unambiguous message conveys the feelings of millions of honest taxpayers in India. All the concerned agencies should be given a free hand and tasked to get concrete results within the stipulated period of 6 months as desired by the Apex court. These are hard times and it’s not easy to get competent, honest and intrepid bureaucrats, but there are still plenty of them around. An endangered species like Tiger they need Govt’s full protection to give their best to the nation.
There is an acute urgency to speed up and secure conviction in all criminal cases involving politicians, some of whom have been pandering to and surviving on the strength of anti-social and anti-national elements while others of their ilk are involved in ‘divisive’ caste/religion based vote-bank politics. They need to be divested of their ill-gotten wealth and their murky ‘rags to riches’ stories should be told to the nation. A humongous country like India aspiring to be a great power in the world cannot be left to the shenanigans of these rogue politicians neck-deep in the loot of public money to enrich themselves and their parasite family members – most of whom cannot earn a living on their own. In New India one who does not work, neither shall he eat. Modi Govt must do its utmost to put an end to this pillage in a ruthless, swift and transparent manner before this year is out. Corruption cannot be eradicated but can be drastically reduced by a combination of precise and fair laws, high-end technology, speedy trial/conviction and more importantly the certainty of punishment.
A great opportunity for PM Modi to declare an all-out war against the Djinn of Corruption which has taken control of our lives. There are at least 4 reasons why PM Modi can do it – he is a strong leader, honest, incorruptible and free from family encumbrance and if he can score even a partial victory it will reduce crime and poverty in India, boost economic growth and create more jobs for burgeoning youths, inculcate moral and ethical values in Indian society, refurbish India’s image abroad and may also help BJP win 2019 elections comfortably. Needless to say, most of his political opponents may have rendered themselves ‘hors de combat’ a la Lalu.
It won’t be easy but strong leaders are capable of bringing reforms in most unconventional manner like what Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the founder of modern Turkey struggling to ban women from wearing burqa did in a very wise way by issuing the following decree:”With immediate effect all Turkish women are privileged to wear whatever they choose, however, all prostitutes must wear a burqa.”
(The author is a retired diplomat the views expressed are personal)