EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS - (Aroon Purie)

No­body can fault this gov­ern­ment for not try­ing. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is a fount of ideas and with his re­formist zeal is try­ing to mould In­dia into ‘ModiBharat’. This is the hard­est-work­ing gov­ern­ment I’ve seen in the 42 years of the ex­is­tence of the mag­a­zine and the most hon­est at the top. There has been such a flurry of ini­tia­tives launched by this gov­ern­ment that it is dif­fi­cult to keep track of their suc­cess. They are all in the right di­rec­tion but there seem to be more grand an­nounce­ments than suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion. One of the con­se­quences of such an ap­proach is that ex­pec­ta­tions are raised to an unattain­able level. The 2014 elec­tion slo­gan of ‘achhe din’ con­tin­ues to haunt this gov­ern­ment. In­dia is a vast and com­plex coun­try, cou­pled with be­ing a vi­brant democ­racy. Change is in­evitably slow, which is dif­fi­cult to di­gest for a young, as­pir­ing and im­pa­tient elec­torate. Three years on, this gov­ern­ment has taken ad­van­tage of low-hanging fruit and taken the coun­try out of the per­va­sive gloom of the pre­vi­ously paral­ysed and scam-rid­den regime. No longer can it blame them for the mess it in­her­ited.

As part of the mag­a­zine’s an­nual ex­er­cise, we ex­am­ine in depth the work­ing of the gov­ern­ment across ma­jor sec­tors. In this, in­dia to­day ed­i­tors have kept in mind three ma­jor pa­ram­e­ters. How has the gov­ern­ment done in in­sti­tu­tional re­form, which in­cludes far-reach­ing eco­nomic leg­is­la­tion, fed­eral co­op­er­a­tion and pub­lic-pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion? Has the gov­ern­ment’s op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency im­proved—is there an im­prove­ment in phys­i­cal, so­cial and dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture? And last, what is the over­all na­tional sen­ti­ment? The re­sults show that there is progress, tardy per­haps, but def­i­nitely per­cep­ti­ble. Game-chang­ing eco­nomic leg­is­la­tion such as the GST Bill and the Bank­ing Reg­u­la­tion (Amend­ment) Or­di­nance, 2017, have taken off. The au­da­cious act of de­mon­eti­sa­tion to con­tinue their sus­tained at­tack on black money will greatly ben­e­fit the econ­omy in the long run. Quite sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments.

At a macro level, In­dia looks good. The na­tion is grow­ing at 7.1 per cent com­pared to 6.5 per cent in 2013-2014; in­fla­tion is at 3.7 per cent com­pared to 7.7 per cent in 2014; cur­rent and fis­cal ac­count deficits are in con­trol and In­dia is at­tract­ing record FDI, up by 48 per cent since the NDA came to power. But the big­gest prob­lem re­mains the gov­ern­ment’s in­abil­ity to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient jobs, which is con­nected to fall­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment. Only 135,000 jobs were cre­ated across eight key sec­tors in 2015-16, ac­cord­ing to the Labour Bureau, com­par­ing poorly with the prom­ise of 10 mil­lion jobs ev­ery year.

The gov­ern­ment seems to have done well in cre­at­ing phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, whether it is rail­ways, roads or ports. So­cial in­fra­struc­ture, un­for­tu­nately, has suf­fered from ne­glect, whether it is ed­u­ca­tion or health­care, two key sec­tors this gov­ern­ment has in­ex­pli­ca­bly ig­nored. Dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture is on the up­swing, with Aadhaar en­sur­ing In­dia moves to­wards greater trans­parency, cheaper ser­vice de­liv­ery and less cor­rup­tion.

But the gov­ern­ment has truly ex­celled in the man­age­ment of na­tional sen­ti­ment, whether it was de­mon­eti­sa­tion or the sur­gi­cal strike, the re­spon­sive­ness of min­is­ters on so­cial me­dia or the ab­sence of cor­rup­tion. When the prime min­is­ter speaks of New In­dia, it is a project that strikes a chord, re­gard­less of cow vig­i­lantes and anti-Romeo squads. It’s the pol­i­tics of pos­si­bil­ity, and In­dia, the land of a mil­lion prom­ises, has al­ways re­sponded well to po­ten­tial. My lament with this gov­ern­ment is a fa­mil­iar one on this page. Where is the promised min­i­mum gov­ern­ment and max­i­mum gov­er­nance? Was ‘the gov­ern­ment has no busi­ness be­ing in busi­ness’ merely an elec­tion slo­gan? This gov­ern­ment has only ex­panded the pub­lic sec­tor and the power of the bu­reau­cracy. Un­less it har­nesses the en­ergy of our in­dus­tri­ous work­force by mak­ing struc­tural changes, In­dia will be nei­ther new nor re­newed.

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