May 16, 2014, was a day of celebration. After the highly unsuccessful regime of years of the UPA-2 government, the NDA government came to power as a ‘rescuer’, under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The government – which came into power with much vigour and energy, raised some core issues and assured the masses across-the-board to bring fundamental change – is now completing its third year in 2017.
Of course, three years are perhaps not enough to judge the intentions of the government. However, an analysis of the government’s performance in some core areas and issues, or at least, regarding the agendas mentioned in its election manifesto, can be done at this stage.
This is one of the areas where the government has particularly lost ground. India is one of the fastest-growing economies of the world. However, this growth is not because of the government’s fiscal policies, but because of its own momentum and spontaneity.
The manufacturing sector is down, employment generation is at an all time low, the agriculture sector is under crisis and private investments are low – but ironically, the economy still seems to be moving upwards. After all, despite demonetisation, India’s growth-rate still stays at 7%.
Now, this is not surprising. As private investments are down, India’s growth is certainly being driven by consumption. The Seventh Pay Commission, the one rank one pension (OROP) scheme and a good monsoon possibly helped consumption levels to shoot up.
However, this consumption-led growth is not going to help in the long run. Experts argue that India is going through the path which China has already gone through – and this path is going to take the economy nowhere, if investment levels don’t go up.
The inflation level and fiscal deficit also seem to be under control. Foreign reserves are also at an all-time high. However, these are not things which the government should really take credit for. As said earlier, India’s economy is growing on its own. Having said that, it must be noted that world economy is going through a recession, which has also negatively affected India.
Demonetisation has been the most controversial exercise of the Modi government, so far. It was controversial, mainly because of the faults with its implementation and the inability to tackle these faults.
Despite these facts, it has given the BJP political mileage since it was lauded by a significant portion of the masses across India. Implemented with the objective of curbing the menace of black money and counterfeit currency, this exercise seems to have been a failure, without producing many results.
As was said in the Economic Survey, 2016-17, demonetisation is going to have negative consequences in the short run. However, it’s also supposed to provide long-term benefits.
It would be better to wait for these benefits and not comment on the same (many of which are yet to be seen). As far as the short-term implications are concerned, the inconvenience faced by the people doesn’t need a special mention. Demonetisation has badly affected the unorganised sector and farmers.
Apart from the inconvenience, the other issue of concern is the constantly-changing face and mood of the government. This bold exercise changed into a ‘digitalisation campaign’, overnight. Making India a ‘cashless economy’ became the fundamental agenda at a time when we knew that we didn’t even have the infrastructure to bring about a sudden change in modes of transaction.
Two fancy schemes were also launched as part of this ‘digitalisation campaign’. However, this was a poor attempt towards ‘digitalisation’. But, these schemes justified the ability of NITI Aayog as a policy think-tank.
The political arena is one area where the BJP has played a one-sided game and left its mark on. The BJP’s victory in several consecutive elections has proved that the party knows the art of electioneering.
Making governments in Manipur and Assam, where the BJP had almost no presence previously, was a significant achievement for the party. The recent victory in the Delhi municipal elections has proved that the ‘Modi wave’ has not weakened. Despite the fact that BJP also has a history of corruption and inefficiency, the victory clearly indicates that people believe in Modi’s vision.
These massive victories have somehow restored the faith of people in the government – or at least, the BJP thinks so. However, justifying everything with victories in elections has become the habit of almost every political party in India. This is something the current government must avoid. Countering valid criticism with this strategy is not going to help in any way.
By now, it has become almost clear that the current government doesn’t really care about agriculture. The contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is significantly low and more than the adequate number of people are involved in agriculture. Therefore, the only way by which the government seemingly gets rid of this disguised unemployment is by forcing farmers callously to quit agriculture, migrate and become labourers in urban clusters.
Promises of doubling the incomes of farmers have been made, but the practices employed to achieve this are yet to be seen. There is no discussion about rising cost of agricultural inputs. If government is so pro-farmer as it claims to be, why can’t it cap the skyrocketing prices of fertilisers? Why is there no discussion on the national agriculture policy?
1. Jammu and Kashmir: The government, which unofficially follows Doval’s doctrine, has mishandled the situation in Kashmir. The doctrine says – “Do not over-react – it will pass off, as they can’t sustain it beyond a point.”
The government has sternly adopted the hard-line strategy as suggested by the doctrine and quit its policy of appeasement. However, the situation has worsened, indeed. For instance, the 2017 by-election in Kashmir observed the lowest turnout, till date.
It seems that the doctrine being followed by the government is not working – for a reason. Doval had instructed to ‘disaggregate’ the problem, which the government didn’t do. After all, various people take to the streets for different reasons. The BJP-PDP coalition government has not addressed the issues of unemployment, lack of development, poverty,etc. Instead, this was seen as a single political problem.
2. Dealing with Naxalites: The government’s policy to deal with Naxalites and Maoists remains more or less same. In a TV debate, a BJP spokesperson said, “Those who indulge in violence will be crushed and the rest of the tribal population will be assimilated.” The security forces there are indeed ready to crush the violence, but no significant step has been taken to ensure the assimilation of the tribal people into the mainstream.
As far as the deployment of security forces is concerned, there is no coordination between the Centre and different state governments. The Sukma attack is one such example. The lack of coordination, local support and intelligence resulted in the deaths of the CRPF personnels.
On the foreign policy front, the government has certainly delivered the goods. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, foreign relations are on the rise, like never before.
If we talk about the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, India’s relations with Bangladesh are at an all-time high. Relations with Bhutan and Sri Lanka have also improved. A volatility in India-Nepal relations was seen, but that was largely because of Nepal’s internal political disturbances. India has also established strategic relations with Afghanistan. In fact, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a tripartite agreement to turn the Iranian port of Chabahar into a transit hub, bypassing Pakistan.
The second pillar of Modi’s strategic geo-economic vision is the Act East policy. India has strengthened its strategic partnerships with Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and many others. The civil nuclear deal between India and Japan is particularly historic.
India’s relations with the US have also been strengthened. The US has formally recognised India as a major defence partner and multiple agreements have been signed. However, the closeness between India and the US bothers Russia. India really needs to take care about this. After all, it can’t afford to let Russia move towards China – that too, at the time when the foreign policy of the US (if there be one) is unpredictable.
A weak point in India’s foreign policy has been its lack of a geopolitical vision. When we have malevolent neighbours like Pakistan, and even China, we can’t rely solely on a geo-economic strategy. This is what the government really needs to think about.
As a group, the Indian Ocean Rim Association can serve India’s strategic purposes and counter China’s increasing sphere of influence in the region. However, India is yet to take a significant step because of its lack of a vision. Similarly, India had also launched Project Mausam – but what exactly is in the project remains a question till date.
The first half of the three years of the BJP’s tenure was a period dedicated to announcing initiatives and major schemes. Digital India, Make in India, Skill India, Awas Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, Gold Monetisation Scheme, Kaushal Vikas Yojana and many more other schemes were launched.
While it is still too early to decide the success or failure of the schemes, but the government has certainly performed better on this parameter. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a laudable effort. Though there is lot more to be done on the ground level, this mission has undoubtedly changed the mindsets of a significant number of people and given them a positive outlook.
However, NITI Aayog remains the biggest failed experiment of this government, till date. Despite the fact that its members are experts and specialists in their respective fields, the commission has not done anything worth praising. As of now, it seems to be a rhetoric-driven body without an idea of the ground reality.
Technological advancement has increased in the various sectors, but the core issues have not been solved yet. Ill- designed policies and their weak structure and framework are the results of not including all stakeholders (such as educational directors, controllers and farmer leaders) during policy formulation. This remains a major problem.
Moreover, when it comes to curbing corruption, the government’s stance is not yet clear. It had constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to suggest ways to curb black money, after assuming charge. The Lokpal Act, on the other hand, is still pending. The reason behind this seems to be that this isn’t the BJP’s idea. If it had been the BJP’s idea, the party would probably have passed it – just like it cleared the Aadhaar Bill by passing it as a money bill.
Undoubtedly, the government is doing good by putting forth all its efforts assiduously. However, it also needs to periodically check whether it’s headed in the right direction. Schemes and plans are made by every government. The need of the hour is to check their implementation – and that is where the actual problem lies!