Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes 8 years in office, the only non-Congress leader to hold the reigns of the country for this duration and counting, let us look at his hits, and misses so far.
Comparison with his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the management of the economy is something that will be debated as the country is reviving from the adverse COVID-19 impact, something of a scale that no Prime Minister in the history of free India had to face. While Dr Manmohan Singh inherited an economy that was doing well, logging a high 8 percent growth, he handed over a Nation plagued by high inflation and falling growth to the Modi dispensation.
Economists will argue, both for and against, some of the harsh steps taken by Prime Minister Modi, for example demonetization, or the GST regime that is a much-needed reform of the taxation. Now the State Governments cannot lament about dues of GST compensation as the Centre cleared all payments till date.
More important than all the economic growth-oriented policies, aggressive push to infrastructure by completing most of the pending projects (some for years together) and launching ambitious programmes and unleashing targeted welfarism touching the lives of crores of people and renewed focus on agriculture, is the Prime Minister’s motivation to all the people to dream big and achieve their full potential.
The best example of this, visible to the naked eye, is the achievement of the sportsmen and sportswomen on the world stage. Whether it was Olympics, or World Championships or important tournaments in many of the sporting disciplines, our athletes have excelled themselves, winning medals after beating the best in the business. Now, it is not just individual champions who did the country proud – the Indian Badminton team thrashed the 14-time Thomas Cup winners Indonesia, stamping its supremacy as the Badminton world gaped in stunned silence. Gone are the days when India just went to participate, now India goes to win.
In the field of business and commerce, the emergence of 100 Unicorns is something that can be attributed to a climate of competitiveness and a higher ease of doing business and assorted helpful and an encouraging environment. Yes, it is work in progress as there are still some areas that need improvement.
It takes a lot to recover from rock bottom for the economy of any Nation after the worst health crisis to hit the world in over a century wrecked global economy and disrupted global supply chains, bringing all round misery. India’s economy too shrunk.
But slowly India has begun registering pre-pandemic growth levels, and international rating agencies and multilateral bodies are bullish on the Indian economic growth. India at present is the fastest growing large economy in the world.
What the Prime Minister has done in the economic management sphere is to leverage the intrinsic and inherent strengths of the economy and give it an impetus it needed for accelerated growth.
If India became the vaccine capital of the world during COVID-19, it is thanks to the constant support given by the Prime Minister. In fact, India has emerged as a global manufacturing hub for automobiles, medical equipment, machineries, defence, pharmacy, and electronics. India continues to be a global software powerhouse.
Along with the rise of India as an economic performer, the world has begun to see it in a new light–as an influencer in global economic and geopolitical arenas. The new perception of India as an influencer gives India a new power to push its industrial might and soft power more aggressively.
The world noticed how India under the Prime Minister handled COVID-19 and even helped many Nations with life-saving vaccines. What Modi has done is to make the Indian diaspora hold its head high with his high-profile and high impact diplomacy. His personal rapport with global leaders has also brought rich dividends for India.
Today, as Prime Minister Modi completed 8 years and entering the home stretch, as it were, for the 2024 Lok Sabha general elections, there are still some worries left on the economic front that need urgent solutions–inflation is on the rise, and the prices of essential commodities have begun to pinch the common man.
Some economists express concern over unemployment, and fear that if it remains uncontained it could turn our demographic dividend into a demographic disaster. Let us hope that the Government’s efforts to step up employment generation schemes and encouragement to the private sector and industry to step up investments bears fruit. The revival of all sectors of the economy and working at pre-pandemic levels are sure to open job opportunities and livelihood options for the people.
Ever since he took charge in 2014, Prime Minister Modi took bold decisions that challenged conventional and the traditionally held norms, policies, and programmes.
Convinced that a wide range of economic and policy reforms were needed, he did not hesitate a moment to take any harsh decision. Whether it was the abolition of the Planning Commission, he did not flinch for a moment disbanding and replacing it with a lean, mean, economic think tank, Niti Ayog, which is making a difference–in terms of its efficiency, efficacy in policy formulations that are helping the Nation on the ground.
Niti Ayog’s work dovetails into the flagship Government programmes to make development and growth more inclusive. Modi’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana–providing banking facility for all–ensured plugging of leakages in governance and benefit delivery mechanisms, that were plaguing the Nation.
An out of the box thinker, Prime Minister gave confidence to people to dream.
More important, he made the economically weaker sections a partner in the progress with focused programmes. Some of the schemes that have worked on the ground include Ujwala, Ujala, Swachh Bharat, Shubhagya, PM Awas Yojana, Kisan Samman Nidhi, PM Fasal Bima Yojana, and Ayushman Bharat.
These high impact programmes are aimed at triggering equitable, broad-based, and sustained all-round development, and growth.
Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country. He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times. He can be reached on [email protected]
and Twitter handle @kvlakshman