Modi 2.0 @100 : Modi’s Century in National Security and Detractor’s Fury in Economy?
Modi 2.0 @100 : While BJP’s supporters are putting weight behind the achievements of the Government, its detractors are pointing fingers towards the slowing economic growth and unemployment. Let’s dig deep and find out the hits and misses of Modi 2.0 @ 100.
Abrogation of Article 370
Coming to the hits, without any doubt the Abrogation of Article 370 was the biggest decision taken by NDA till date (including NDA 1 and NDA2). The historical blunder done by the first Prime Minister of India has finally been rectified. Though the Left liberals and mainstream politicians from Kashmir are disgruntled with the decision, still majority of the politicians across the political spectrum including many congress politicians are happy about this landmark decision. Be it the people of Jammu, Ladakh or Kashmiri Pandits living in different parts of the country, majority are happy with this decision. And if we are to believe NSA Ajit Doval, even majority of people in the valley are happy about the removal of Article 370.
A Government’s duty does not end with just convincing its people about a major decision. It is equally important to convince other countries as well via diplomatic channels and garner their support. The Govt has done a laudable job by cornering Pakistan and countering its false propaganda in various international platforms.
Another important achievement of this Government was amending the UAPA Act. With this, individuals can be declared terrorists and their properties seized. Also, a travel ban can be imposed on such individuals. Previously only organizations could be termed as Terrorist Organizations. Now even individuals can be termed as a terror suspect. Though many NGOs have opposed it and have even approached the SC, many people see the amendment as a good move. A strong law is essential to prevent radicalization and punish the guilty.
Along with these 2 important decisions, even the passage of Triple Talaq Bill can be regarded as a historic decision. It will definitely help BJP in the long run. This is because passing of the bill not only highlighted the hypocrisy of the so-called secular parties, but also gave a strong message to Muslim women affected by Triple Talaq.
With the most productive Legislative session in recent history, we can expect more in the coming months. It is rumoured that a country wide Anti Conversion Law will be brought soon. This is a very essential law in order to curb illegal and forced conversions happening in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, North East, Odisha, etc.
Misses of Modi 2.0
At the same time, there were a lot of misses as well. Though we can give a 9/10 for the government when it comes to national security, foreign policy and social issues, it has not done much in economic front. The only factor which has to a large extent prevented the economic situation from getting even more worse is undoubtedly low oil prices. If not for record pumping of oil by US due to its shale oil boom, Indian economy would have spiraled down to the bottom.
The Budget according to me was not that encouraging. The 3% surcharge on super rich, increase in fuel cess was not a good sign that too at a time when private sector investment is going down. Though the government recently took stock of the situation by taking steps to revive the banking sector, it is not enough. The NPA problem is still huge. It can’t be solved simply by merging banks.
The economic problem is complicated by the fact that we have jobless growth. Except for states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra, most other states have serious unemployment problems. With Automobile, mining, telecom and real estate sectors in serious trouble, the unemployment problem will continue to worsen unless urgent steps are taken. Even in the IT sector, unless people acquire the necessary skills, they too will have to face onslaught of automation and end up losing their jobs.
In order to come out of this mini crisis, the government needs to start massive spending in these core areas
- Education and skill development
- Defence (especially home-grown industries)
The Government must resist populist schemes. As the saying goes,
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day; Teach him to fish and you feed him for a life time”
Instead of providing Rs 6000 per annum income support to small and marginal farmers which for all practical purposes is not at all sufficient, why not spend the same amount in developing irrigation facilities, cold storage facilities and make them affordable to the same marginal farmers? Why not provide MSP to the farmers to boost farm incomes instead of giving a measly Rs 6000 per annum? Undoubtedly these 2 measures are enough to reduce farm distress to a large extent in the agricultural sector which approximately employs 400 million people. Govt actions must be targeted to make people self-sufficient and not make them more dependent on the govt.
Coming to healthcare, I am quite happy with Ayushman Bharat. According to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, more than 39 lakh people have availed cashless treatment worth over Rs 6,100 crore for serious illnesses since its launch. This has resulted in savings of Rs 12,000 crore to the beneficiary families. Coming to education, this is one important sector which must be given the highest priority. Especially the higher education sector is something that must be urgently reformed. Without reforming this sector, unemployment will continue to rise. One of the main reasons attributed to growing unemployment is lack of practical skills and lack of exposure to the latest technologies. On top of it the syllabus is outdated. Hardly 10% of the graduates are employable according to various surveys. The employers are just not able to find the right candidate. The NEP (National Education Policy) is not that encouraging as well.
Coming to infrastructure, though the NDA has done quite well in this sector by building roads and upgrading highways, it has not translated into the much-needed jobs. Coming especially to defence infrastructure, India continues to heavily depend on foreign imports. The self-sufficiency which we could achieve in case of space sector has not been replicated in the defence sector. Though the likes of Lockheed Martin have decided to manufacture in India, it is still not enough. India needs to develop its manufacturing base in order to compete with China. Except for states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and to a certain extent Haryana and Karnataka, the rest of the states do not have much manufacturing industries. With the Automobile industry in slowdown, its ancillary parts industry is also facing enormous slowdown. Not just the Automobile industry, even the ship building industry, electronics industries, heavy electrical industries need the much-needed boost in order to reach that 5 trillion target which Modi has set. Yes, it is a fact that the previous socialist Congress regimes were one of the main reasons why India missed becoming the “factory of the world”. But past is past. The Government must at least now try to build a strong manufacturing base and give the industries a much-needed boost.
Also, Tax Terrorism is something that has been a thorn in the flesh for industries and entrepreneurs. Along with high GST rates for many products, tax reform is something government must seriously look into.
So then, is it a hit or a miss?
While Modi has been raining sixers in succession regarding national security, defence and foreign policy, he has been scoring only 1’s and 2’s in case of economy. Yes, the government has taken the much-needed bold decisions. At the same time, it has failed to take them in case of economic policies. That is all I want to say. But that does not mean all is lost. There is still a lot of time.
And yes, there is a ray of hope!
Modi has shown himself to be a man who does not hesitate to take bold decisions. This was demonstrated by the decisions on the surgical strikes, The 2019 Balakot airstrike and the recent decision on Article 370. So, I am sure he will take bold decisions regarding the economy if necessary. Seeing the Finance Ministry recently setting up a task force to identify infrastructure projects worth Rs 100 trillion, I see the current mini economic crisis as a passing cloud which will eventually pave way for a high growth period.