Modi 2.0.1 Report Card: Red, Orange & Green Zones of PM’s 2nd Term
A year into Modi’s second term, how is his report card looking? We divide it into red, orange & green zones.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Red, orange and green are no longer just colors that we encounter while driving out on the roads. They are, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, zones that now define what we can and cannot do.
By definition, red zones are most affected and need critical attention. Orange zones are slightly better than their red counterparts, but still critical. And then, the green zones, living in which could be luxury for many, especially from the point of view of those in red and orange zones.
In the middle of the pandemic, Narendra Modi quietly completed one year of his second term as prime minister. It’s been an interesting year for the Modi government. Here’s a report card on what happened in the last one year, and what issues lie in the red, orange and green zones.
Let’s start with the bad news first. No guesses there – the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have sent the economy on a downward spiral. In fact, the RBI admitted this month that the pandemic could send the GDP growth into negative territory.
But, even before the pandemic, the economy was already suffering. In 2019-20, the GDP was at 5 percent, lower than what it was in 2018-19. It was also the lowest in eleven years.
The Unemployment ‘Pandemic’
The lockdown has hit an already floundering employment rate. In April 2020 alone, 12 crore people lost their jobs. Unemployment rate is at 6.1% , which the government accepted last year was the highest in 45 years
Why is the Economy Floundering?
The biggest reason – consumption or demand is down. And this was happening last year too, when in the second quarter there was a huge drop in consumption.
And though recovery was made in the third and fourth quarters of last year, the lockdown has once again affected the demand. The RBI has warned that we could see a drop in consumption this year again, which will affect growth in all sectors.
The Communal Rift
In the last one year, India’s secular traditions and beliefs have take a massive hit, largely driven by the Citizenship Amendment Act, which proposes a divisive citizenship test, based on religion.
There were protests across the country. And then, during the Delhi elections, many BJP leaders openly chose to play up the ‘Hindu vs Muslim’ narrative. BJP lost the elections and then there were communal riots in the capital, where a lot of innocent lives were lost
The Health Sector
The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the decaying health infrastructure across the country. From lack of PPEs for health workers, not enough ventilators, beds, ICUs and even testing kits, the pandemic has shown that our health infrastructure needs a lot more investment – time, money and energy – instead of a lot of things that the government seems to be focussed on.
Say hello to inflation, our old acquaintance. Yes, we can blame the coronavirus for making it worse, but inflation has been rising since March 2019. Food inflation rate in December 2019 was 14.12 percent, which was the biggest rise since November 2013. RBI has expressed concerns that the real test will begin now, as disruption in supply chains due to lockdown is likely to increase inflation even further.
Tough Road Ahead for Businesses
It is still difficult to do business in India, though the situation is getting better. India gained a few spots last year in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ratings, but there is still a long way to go.
There is an opportunity for India to attract companies that may be looking to shift base from China to India, but it’s not going to be easy. Speaking to The Quint, Team Lease chairman Manish Sabharwal said that, ‘India will need to put better, improved policies in place, if it wants to look attractive to those companies leaving China.’
India dropped two more places in the World Press Freedom Index. The Modi government has been frequently accused of trying to curb press freedom. FIRs against journalists have become common, often for just doing their jobs. Six journalists were murdered last year alone.
The government tried blaming the media for the distress caused to migrant labourers during the lockdown. And in Kashmir, internet was blocked first, and then only 2G services were allowed after the Supreme Court intervened.
While per capita income grew last year and 27 crore Indians moved above the poverty line, a lot more needs to be done to eliminate poverty. That is not likely to be easy, with the coronavirus outbreak likely to push almost 40 crore Indians back into poverty. What also does not help is the fact that 10 percent of Indians own 70 percent of the wealth in the country.
State Elections 2019
BJP, riding on a high since 2014, lost power in three states in 2019 state elections,in Delhi, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. They also had to form a coalition in Haryana to retain power.
Foreign Policy: A Mixed Bag
Perhaps the biggest setback for Modi government’s foreign policy was the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue, which started with the abrogation of Article 370 from the state.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the situation ‘unsustainable’, US President Donald Trump offered to mediate several times and UN Security Council held an informal meeting to discuss the issue. Though India managed to hold an upper hand over Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Also helping Modi and India’s image were the ‘Howdy Modi’ and ‘Namaste Trump’ events.
With China, there wasn’t really any significant improvement in the relationship. Border skirmishes continue, and now Nepal has joined in, laying claims on Indian territory.
And we finally find some good news in our farms. It has been a good year for the agriculture sector, with a bumper crop yield and an excellent buying season.
Also doing well is road construction, which has been happening at a consistent speed, and the target for the year is also high.
Also giving us a ray of hope is the fact that the manufacturing sector could gain a little, if companies moving out of China decide to shift to India. Also, because of the lockdown, the tech and communication sectors may see some growth.
And finally, working really good for Modi is his own popularity, which remains strong, despite the faltering economy and a relentless pandemic.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
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