(As PM Narendra Modi completes three years in office, The Quint debates whether promises made in 2014 have been fulfilled by the NDA government. This is the View. You may read the Counterview by AAP leader Ashutosh here.)
A good manager, they say, is not required to do different things but is needed to do them differently. This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been doing all through the last three years. On several occasions in Parliament, the Opposition was seen boasting that many schemes were actually initiated during the UPA regime. This is indeed true in many cases.
Even the PM has acknowledged this on certain occasions. But the moot point is not who launched a particular programme. The point is who made it more result-oriented, productive and capable of achieving objectives. And when one takes a closer look at the reforms introduced by the Modi government in several welfare schemes and programmes, one realises the thoughtfully conceived value addition that have ensured effective implementation and better results.
To start with, let's take the example of MGNREGA. Once the Modi government took over, it decidedly focused on convergence of different schemes, besides greater thrust on transparency and accountability. After 2015-16, MGNREGA's performance also started looking up in multiple ways. The person-day generation has remained at the highest in the second quarter (45.88 crore) and third quarter (46.10 crore) of 2015-16 than it has been at any point of time in the past five years.
It is now suitably converged with irrigation schemes and programmes aimed at raising the water-table level. The Centre now has well-laid-down plans to construct 0.5 million farm ponds and dug-wells and 1 million vermi-compost pits every year in rural areas through MGNREGA. Also, now there is a marked improvement in the payment mechanism and in the recent past there have been far fewer complaints about delayed payment of wages.
Real-Time Progress of Schemes
The Mobile Monitoring System, introduced in 2014, is ensuring real-time monitoring of the progress of projects, including the attendance of labour and overall work environment. This has also facilitated more accurate attendance records, leaving almost no scope for fudging. Additionally, the government has earmarked separate funds for social audit of the scheme and it involves public scrutiny of the accounts as well.
This, understandably, has reduced complaints about rampant corruption and pilferage.
Under the UPA too, asset creation was given due importance but there was no proper monitoring mechanism in place, despite the availability of all modern technologies for real time surveillance. And here comes the importance of purity of purpose.
There is every reason to believe that absence of any mechanism for monitoring asset creation was almost a deliberate attempt to leave open a window for corruption and unfair practices. Now, with the help of ISRO, over three million assets that are reportedly created through this scheme every year are being geo-tagged and their progress monitored.
The same is the case of financial inclusion programmes. Under the UPA too they were accorded considerable high priority. Traditionally, it was confined only to the opening of new bank branches in rural and unbanked areas. However, under the Modi government the idea of financial inclusion has been taken way beyond access to banks.
The Modi government was clear about the focused objective of banking the unbanked and reaching out to the unreached. The emphasis was decidedly on opening bank accounts. It was not for no reason that between 2014 and 2016, India has seen a sharp increase in the number of bank accounts.
The approach for Aadhaar has been the same. The single-most important contribution of the Modi government to Aadhaar is more than doubling the figure of citizens enrolled under it. A few months ago, Nandan Nilekani rightly pointed out that Aadhaar effectively eliminated a lot of fakes, resulting in Rs 50,000 crore savings for the government, more than five times the cost of the programme, besides describing it as “a very high return on investment”.
However, what is intriguing is the approach of certain sections who are now creating a fear psychosis about Aadhaar. Wantonly ignoring the benefits of this card which has proven to be an enabling and empowering device, they are portraying it as a measure limiting the citizens. This is politics of paranoia.
Besides, Aadhaar is the government’s own way of fighting the crisis of authenticity. As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently said in Lok Sabha, with Aadhaar becoming mandatory for acquiring PAN card, several cases of persons holding two PAN cards have come to the fore, thereby unearthing huge, decentralised corruption. Now, with a sound legal foundation, Aadhaar is bound to write a new chapter in the history of Indian governance.
Improving Governance Record
The Modi government has truly written several new chapters in India's governance history. Refusing to toe the established line and walking the oft-trodden paths is a remarkable achievement. For example, in a determined move, the government not only advanced the calendar for budget presentation but also put a decisive stop to the irrelevant and obsolete practice of separating the railway from the national budget.
With this, the railways will now get rid of the annual dividend they have been paying against the gross budgetary support from the government every year. Informed officials say that the merger will help the cash-strapped railways save about Rs 10,000 crore annually.
Advancing the budget date will also have a cascading effect with early clearance and in-time as well as near-total implementation on budget proposals, reducing the proportion of unspent budgetary allocations.
Aiming for a Vision
In a way, advancing the budget calendar was a logical corollary to scrapping the Planning Commission and replacing it with the NITI Aayog. After its formation in early 2015, the NITI Aayog has been engaged primarily in preparing a vision document for India-2030.
Again, with the dissolution of the Planning Commission, the practice of planned and non-plan expenditure has ended. Instead, what we now have is revenue and capital expenditure linked to performance and outcomes. This new distinction is more logical, practical and easier to understand.
The Modi government’s “doing things differently” list is lengthy. Crop insurance was there earlier as well, but obtaining compensation was cumbersome and procedures heavily dependent upon bureaucratic decision-making. But the new comprehensive crop insurance has been brought at par with other established insurance products such as vehicles or buildings.
It offers the owner of insured farms complete protection to the standing crop during its entire lifecycle. Again, it's true that neem coated urea is not a new invention of the Modi government. But, determined to break the nexus between suppliers of subsidised urea and some industry-owners, the government decided to go for 100 percent neem coating of urea, thereby leaving absolutely no room for illicit, backdoor supply of subsidies for industrial use.
Governments come and go. But few try to decisively make an impact by doing the same things, undoubtedly very differently. The Modi government has shown this in its first three years by raising the bar of good governance and taking it to a new high.
(The writer is BJP Vice-President and a Rajya Sabha member. He can be reached at @vinay1011. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)