By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Having launched schemes to improve incomes, speed up governance, foster cleanliness and improve social security, the Narendra Modi government is now seeking to enhance the footprint of its initiatives to reap electoral dividends in a clutch of assembly elections next year.
The first year of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which assumed office on May 26, 2014, saw the launch of several initiatives. Now, there appears to be a thrust on consolidating the schemes and taking them to the people. There is also growing focus on schemes meant for the poor and the rural sector.
However, Key legislation such as the Goods and Services Tax bill have been stuck in parliament due to the BJP’s constant tussle with the Congress and its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The government’s critics have also raised questions over the efficacy of the schemes and their implementation on the ground. Dissonance caused by controversial remarks of some BJP leaders and fringe elements have also sought to take focus away from governance. But the BJP’s victory in the Assam assembly polls appears to have handed it back the political momentum it lost after successive defeats in the Delhi and Bihar assembly polls.
Modi has set out ambitious targets including Housing for All by 2022, a clean India as part of Swachh Bharat Mission by 2019 and giving free cooking gas cylinders to 50 million families living below the poverty line under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana by 2019 – the year of next general elections.
With jobs and employment a major concern in a country where an estimated 65 percent of population is below 35 years of age, the government has launched missions such as Skill India and Make in India and given focus to improve physical infrastructure in rural and urban areas.
The government has used the direct benefit transfer and Aadhar to cut down on leakage of subsidies.
It has taken steps to boost investment, strengthen higher education, enhance the share of solar and renewable energy and step up agricultural growth.
Former cabinet secretary T.S.R Subramanian said initiatives such as Digital India, Aadhar, crop insurance, micro-finance and health insurance have the potential to transform India.
“If one gets money at reasonable rates (through micro-finance), India will transform in 10 years. Make in India will come from small factories, this the government has understood,” Subramanian told IANS.
He said the Modi government was short of talent but was more decisive and “cleaner” compared to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
Senior journalist and political commentator H.K. Dua said the Modi government has done well on foreign policy and has been active as far as economy was concerned and results were expected to flow in a year.
“On the social front, they have not been very wise. Fringe elements…they have been stirring the pot too much. I have a feeling they have learnt lessons from Delhi and Bihar. They were not as shrill in Assam. If that continues it is good for the country,” he said.
The Modi government took a major decision last year by creating the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog in place of the Planning Commission, which had been formulating five-year plans for the country’s development since it was set up in 1950.
Modi launched “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (save the girl child, educate the girl child) as part of the government’s move to improve skewed sex ratio.
With air pollution and climate change emerging as the key areas of focus, the government launched the Air Quality Index. India’s ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) include reducing emissions intensity per unit of Gross Domestic Product by 33-35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.
The government has aimed to double farmers’ income over the next seven years and has come up with a slew of initiatives including Soil Health Card Scheme. The government hopes to issue over 140 million soil health cards by 2018.
The Digital India initiative seeks to make citizens digitally literate and bring internet and e-governance to all sections of society. As part of efforts to improve governance, the government has launched PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation), a multi-purpose, multi-modal platform aimed at addressing the common man’s grievances.
Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) Yojana and Start Up India and Stand Up India schemes to boost entrepreneurship.
The social schemes – Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY) – two insurance products and one a pension product – are mainly targeted at the unorganized sector and economically weaker sections.
Other initiatives of the government include “Namami Gange” programme, which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river, gold monetization schemes to reduce the country’s reliance on importing gold, Smart Cities Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. (AMRUT) and Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) aimed at development of rural growth clusters.
As part of its plans to expand higher education, the government has approved setting up of more IIMs and AIIMSs in the country.
The government also issued a notification to implement the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for defence forces personnel.
(ATTN EDITORS: This is the third in a series of stories on the two years of the Narendra Modi government)
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])