During his Independence Day speech in 2013, a year before he delivered his first speech as prime minister from the Red Fort, Narendra Modi delivered his speech as Gujarat chief minister in a college in Kutch, to rebut what the then PM Manmohan Singh had said some time ago at the Red Fort. He took a dig at UPA’s 10 year rule and said that the TV channels and media “say that it was PM Manmohan Singh’s last speech from Red Fort. He says he has miles to go. Which rocket does he intend to take to cover these miles”.
Modi repeatedly hit at Manmohan Singh’s speech and picked holes in whatever he had said. He pointed out the PM had mentioned the same problems that Jawaharlal Nehru had mentioned in 1947. “So what had they been doing all these years ?”, he asked.
And while delivering his first speech from Red Fort as the prime minister next year, Modi unveiled his roadmap for a bold, new India while listing out key welfare schemes along with ‘small ideas’ that could make a big difference. Observers listed out at least 42 promises that he made during the speech but let’s examine some key promises that he held out that day.
Clean India campaign
One of the pet projects of Prime Minister Modi, which he listed at the Red Fort, was a campaign for a clean India. A very laudable step, which evoked a lot of support initially, appears to be floundering a few months after the prime minister himself kick started it at Delhi. He generated good public response when he himself picked the broom while his fellow ministers and MPs did the same ritual across the country. Not just that, he nominated nine ambassadors for the campaign who were supposed to further nominate nine each and thus there was supposed to be chain reaction throughout the country. However, the `Swatch Bharat’ scheme has barely taken off – and that that too only in Varanasi, the constituency from where Modi was elected as MP. He has visited the town a couple of times and has also set up an expert committee to formulate a `Save Ganga” plan but the cities and towns appear to be getting dirtier by the day. Going by the current progress, the aim to clean up all the cities and villages of the country by 2019, when the country observes the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, appears far fetched.
Make in India
During his first Independence Day speech from Red Fort, and subsequently during his large number of foreign visits, Modi has been making a pitch for “Make in India” to make the country a hub of manufacturing. He had been saying that we have the population, skill, talent and talent to do it. Again no major project has taken off during the last one year except that a Taiwanese mobile phone and accessories company has announced that it would be setting up a major hub in Maharashtra. Even his numerous trips abroad have so far not yielded major manufacturing projects and it appears the foreign investors, as well as those at home, are yet to gain confidence to invest in the country. Some of them have expressed apprehensions over the continuing talk of “ghar wapsi” (home coming of Hindus after conversion), unfriendly policies towards multi national companies and the emphasis on “swadeshi” products. The haste with which the government banned Nestle’s popular `Maggi noodles’, and has now even filed a class action suit against the Company seeking Rs 639.95 crore in damages for “unfair trade practices” and “gross negligence, apathy and callousness”, has raised eyebrows. The Company has been charged with using Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which is considered safe in several countries including the US, and which the company has claimed it does not use. Several laboratories where samples were sent for testing, have sent back contradictory reports. Further, the Company has been asked to withdraw all stocks leading to losses worth crores of rupees. Such hasty, and doubtful, steps are bound to cause skepticism among MNCs who will think many times over before investing in India. The over the top reaction of the government may have stopped several MNCs in their tracks.
Toilets in schools
One of the announcements made by Modi from the Red Fort was to set a target for one year to have toilets in each government school, with a separate facility for girl students. He said it was essential as a large number of girls opted out of schools because of a lack of such a facility in the premises of schools. He asked all the MPs to take the mission forward. Corporate participation was also sought under their corporate social responsibility. A recent news report, barely a fortnight ago, said that 85 per cent of the government schools across the country have made the provision and that the central government has asked the rest 15 per cent to complete the target by August 15 this year. If the figures are correct and the toilets have been actually constructed and put to use, it is indeed a laudable achievement of the government.
Getting Back Black Money
He had declared that the government would set up a task force to initiate the process of tracking down and bringing back black money stashed in foreign banks and offshore accounts. This was one promise that he and the BJP had been making again and again in the run up to the elections. He was earlier quoted as saying that “people say that if the black money stashed in foreign bank accounts is brought back and distributed amongst the poor in India, then each poor man will pocket Rs 3 lakh each…..““I have decided if you bless me and give me the opportunity I will bring back all the black money”. However, this is one of the promises which has remained just that, a promise. The government has submitted a report to the Supreme Court and has taken the plea of the clause of confidentiality with foreign countries and banks not to disclose details of the account holders. The government has not yet come out with figures on how much black money it has unearthed or brought back home but evidently there is little progress as it has not made any claim to be successful in its aim.
Banking for the poorest
He said that taking banking to the poorest, the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana will give each family a bank account with a debit card and an insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh. He said that, ironically, there are crores of citizens who have mobile phones but no bank accounts. To give credit to Modi, his government has launched two significant schemes. One is to start a campaign where each family shall have a bank account. Banks have been asked to open bulk accounts. The account holders have been offered an attractive accident insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna, under which they have to pay only Rs 12 per annum as premium for an accident assurance of Rs 2 lakh. Under another scheme, called Jeevan Jyoti Beema, all bank account holders will get a Life Insurance worth Rs 2 lakh at just Rs 330 per annum. The exact figures on the bank accounts opened and beneficiaries of the schemes have not been disclosed but there appears to be some progress on ground.
Adopting a village
The Prime Minister asked all members of Parliament to adopt a village in their constituencies and turn it into a model village by 2016 using their development funds. The Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana strives to usher improvements in health, sanitation, greenery and cordiality. Most of the BJP members of parliament have adopted a village each in their constituencies but according to recent media reports, a large number of MPs from other parties have not done so. However, some of the villages adopted by BJP members do not match the spirit behind the move. They have adopted villages which are easily accessible or already have basic infrastructure in place. For instance, the Sarangpur village adopted by the Chandigarh MP Kiron Kher is along the main highway and is already considered a developed village.
The digital age
The PM said he wanted to connect every Indian through technology, provide governance via mobile phones and have every village on a broadband platform. Set up a National Optical-Fibre Network up to the village level; and Wi-Fi zones in public areas. He placed a lot of emphasize on e-governance for effective governance. Some work in this field was already underway and several states and cities had already set up e-governance models. While there is a fillip in adoption of the technology during the last year, it is difficult to quantify the change after Modi’s speech last year. One major initiative taken by his government in this regard is to identify and adopt 100 cities across the country which are to be declared Smart Cities. Recently the central government initiated to identify such cities by holding a “test” of the existing facilities and to find out whether they can be designated as Smart Cities. The centre has promised to provide special grants to increase the use of e-governance in these identified cities.
A skilled workforce
The Prime Minister had declared that the government’s mission was to create a skilled workforce that can be employed anywhere in the world and encourage entrepreneurship to create more jobs at home. There is not much progress at the grassroots level to boost skilled work force even though Modi had been referring to the need to have such a force. No concrete steps have yet been announced to increase skilled force except that the industry has been asked to prepare plans which could match the output of skilled workforce with employment opportunities.
End of Planning Commission
Yet another announcement made by the PM was to wind up the Planning Commission set up by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Instead, he said, it will make way for an institution that gave a new direction to the country through creative thinking, public-private partnership and optimum utilization of resources. Steps have been initiated in this direction and the Planning Commission has indeed been disbanded and a Niti Aayog has been set up. However, its first meeting held last month saw the participation of only the chief ministers of BJP and its allied ruled states. The other chief ministers wanted a greater role for the states – a demand also aired by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal who is running the state government in coalition with the BJP.