In January 2014, at the most famous annual high table of global entrepreneurs in Davos, India could gain only a small table. “The India Story was over”, they said. Many Indian industrialists had sensed the mood earlier and did not turn up at the Swiss resort town.
Between May 2014 and now, there has been a rush of world leaders to New Delhi – Prime Ministers, Presidents, Foreign and Defence Ministers et al. Every major country that counts has sought an appointment with India. What has made this difference? How did India move from despair to discernment within so short a time?
The dramatic change in the situation has been brought about by an abroad that 1.2 billion people, with a two trillion dollar economy, a $350 billion foreign exchange reserve, and plans to invest a trillion dollar in the next five years in various infrastructure projects, are back in action. Also, instead of a dummy Prime Minister at the helm, the Government is now headed by a real leader, with a strong majority in Parliament.
Globally, leaders of most Governments that count have already showed, with their enthusiastic visits and statements, that there is a new India that has emerged over the last 12 months. This is the result of a Government that is determined to get things done with lighting speed.
For the first time, inflation, that was hovering near double digits for years, is decelerating. The Indian economy is finally in a recovery mode. Economic growth has improved from less than five per cent to more than seven per cent.
The fiscal deficit is down to four per cent and revenue deficit rests at 2.8 per cent. Power output is up by 22,566 MW as against an uncertain addition of 17,830 MW the previous year. There is a large-scale thrust for solar power and a push for nuclear power reactors with a single complex alone pegged at near 10,000 MW.
The infrastructure push is also remarkable by any standard. Look at the bold five-time jump in the target for solar energy: From 20,000 MW to 100,000 MW. Look at Indian Railways: From an enterprise that only 18 months ago had no money to pay for spare parts, it is now working for bullet trains, more freight corridors, new management institutions and large scale private investment in multiple commercial areas. A six lakh crore rupee investment is planned.
No different is the story of the national highway programme. During the two terms of the previous Congress-led Government, the ‘progress’ was just two kilometers a day. Under the Modi Government, the National Highways Authority of India is doing 10km a day and plans are in place to move up to 30kms a day in the near future. In his election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had envisaged a new federal structure with the States as equal partners. It is the Union Government’s ability to establish this new federalism that is partly responsible for the States participating in the implementation of highway projects.
The same new federalism has also been at the core of this Government’s success in bringing the goods and services tax. These successes expose the defeated and disoriented Congress’s efforts to delay the NDA’s fast track progress. The latter is using its strength in the Rajya Sabha to filibuster legislations and programmes. Filibuster is the Congress’s last resort to deny the people the Government that they had voted to power on the promise of fast tracking governance. The Congress is using its numbers in the Upper House to halt legislations on one pretext or the other. In some cases, the laws had actually been envisaged by the Congress itself.
The Congress is also resorting to falsehoods to turn innocent farmers against the Government. It is instigating other sections, like industrial workers, to block much needed labour law reforms – many of which again have been under discussion for more than a decade, since the National Labour Commission envisaged these reforms.
International organisations, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which had only 12 months ago repeatedly expressed doubts over India’s progress, given the state of policy paralysis it was in under the Manmohan Singh Government, are now boldly forecasting that the country will soon overtake China’s growth rate.
The IMF and the World Bank are not the only ones to compliment a regime on the fast track. Industry has raised Rs56,801 crore in capital for new ventures and expansion compared to Rs29,381 crores in 2013-2014. Medium and small enterprises, which contribute about 45 per cent to the country’s export earnings, have new hope in the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency bank.
A Government determined to put the country on the road to high speed growth, must have the guts to take bold decisions and go against the culture of chalta hai attitudes within society and Government itself. The bureaucracy is on the alert with the Prime Minister taking regular updates and Secretaries getting the taste of his displeasure for lagging behind expectations.
The same Prime Minister who is pushing the government to be on the fast track, is also urging the bureaucracy not to hesitate in taking decisions. The recent effort to protect honest officers, from targeted attacks and primed accusations from those they may have displeased, in the discharge of their duties is a good example of a practical Prime Minister who expects the best from his officers and Ministers.
Contrast that with the decision-making process under the UPA regime. There was no Government but every Ministry was a Government by itself. The weird arrangement led to multiple scams, resulting in huge losses to the exchequer. This has naturally led the Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, to underline that, “in one year, the Government under the leadership of Modi has erased the word corruption from the political dictionary of India”.
The grime of the past 65 years, over 50 of which were under Congress rule, has put India behind a big country like China as well as a tiny city-state like Singapore. The Congress owes an explanation to the country. Why after 30 per cent of Indians still so poor? Why do two-thirds of farmers have to hold on to tiny plots of land and live on the margin? Why is India so far behind China that adopted free market policies while being run by a single party?
Modi’s one year in power has taken India to a discernment of hope after six decades of depression that the Nehru-Gandhis had bequeathed.