By Tushar Singh
Exactly one year ago, on his 66th birthday, Narendra Modi was receiving flak for being a ‘soft’ Prime Minister since he failed to come up with the promised reforms as promised, thus not converting words into actions. Today, when he turns 67, people are wondering whether his policies to bring in structural changes in India are too bold to be sustainable. Here is a month-by-month review of the 67th year of Narendra Modi’s life:
- In September, the Indian Army had conducted a surgical strike across the border to avenge the Uri attacks. Approximately forty terrorists were killed. Ignoring the political tussle that followed, the surgical strike put to rest the discontent among the citizens about frequent terror attacks targeting Army men from across the border.
- October witnessed the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan getting substantial returns. Himachal Pradesh, after Sikkim, became the second state to be declared ODF (Open Defecation Free). Kerala, rural Haryana and rural Uttarakhand were also declared ODF through the course of the year. Nationally, the sanitation coverage has increased from 42% to over 64% in just two and a half years since the launch of the mission.
- November 2016 marked its place in the history of independent India after the 500 and 1000 rupee notes were declared invalid as legal tenders. Though the long term benefits of demonetisation are still unclear, it helped Modi gain a lot of political capital, transforming his image from a leader of a ‘Suit Boot Ki Sarkar’ to a crusader working for the poor.
- On 31st December 2016, the PM appeared on national television for the second time in 50 days to address the nation. Contrary to expectations, there was no announcement of another bold reform. However, the PM did make statements favouring different demographics—Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises(MSMEs), farmers, and pregnant women—adding to his spree of populist moves.
- January witnessed the rise of Digital India. After the PM’s appeal, Unified Payments Interface(UPI) transactions in January increased 16 fold by value from November. Mobile banking, card transactions and other immediate payment transfers rose in volume. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana was also expanded to cover the middle-income group, adding to the PM’s vision of housing for all.
- February was marked by two developments. The Union Budget was presented along with the railway budget. This deviation from a 92-year old tradition ensured an integrated transport policy. Secondly, ISRO launched 104 satellites at once, creating a world record, and taking another step towards becoming a leader in space research and exploration.
- #KesariyaHoli, otherwise known as March, cemented Modi’s place as a popular political leader in India. BJP contested in the Uttar Pradesh elections, and dubbed a referendum on demonetisation, ultimately winning 325 out of 403 seats.
- In April, Modi tweeted, “Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP.” He added that these symbols are inconsistent with the spirit of new India, thus deriding the VIP-red beacon culture. Even though symbolic, this move gave a sense of dignity to the common man and delivered a clear message of Modi’s involvement in every aspect of our lives.
- In May, the Modi government informed the Supreme Court that if Triple Talaq is declared unconstitutional, it will come up with a new law to regulate Muslim marriage. Modi’s stance against Triple Talaq stood in sharp contrast to the appeasement policies of previous governments. It is a step towards the Uniform Civil Code and won him admiration from Women’s Rights groups, in general, and Muslim women, in particular.
- June was one of the most awaited months of the year due to the meeting between US President Donald Trump and PM Narendra Modi. Modi responded to the infamous Trump handshake with his own diplomatic tool of choice—the bear hug, catching the attention of audiences worldwide.
- July saw the launch of ‘Modinomics’. The first of these was the introduction of a significant tax system reform—the GST. The next step was to make Aadhaar compulsory for filing I-T returns, applying for PAN card, availing welfare and PDS benefits, and making it mandatory to link Aadhaar with PAN card and Provident Fund account.
- In August, came the end of the Doklam Standoff. Both Indian and Chinese governments pulled their troops back from the disputed region. Critics cited an Indian victory contingent on China not building a road in the disputed region to have sparked off the conflict initially. Modi had a message for China, “We are not the India of 1962.”
Today, Narendra Modi’s approval ratings are at 73%, the highest in the world. However, a few questions still remain unanswered. Major macroeconomic indicators have been very volatile. Low private investment, production, and inflation have raised question marks on the economic benefits of demonetisation. GDP growth now at 5.7%, as compared to 7.9% a year ago, has been falling consecutively for 5 quarters. Bad debts in the banking sector leading to low credit growth have made the possibility of a double digit GDP growth rate a point of contention. The rise of cow vigilantes has disrupted social harmony. Providing decent jobs was one of the most popular promises which swept the Modi-led BJP to office in 2014 and helped in winning several state elections. According to a survey, jobs have grown at 1%, hardly painting a bright picture for a large number of people joining the workforce every year.
“If Indians won their political freedom in August 1947 and their economic freedom in July 1991, they won their dignity in May 2014”, reads the introduction to India Unbound by Gurcharan Das. Whether the current bleak economic conditions will pave the way to the proverbial ‘achhe din’ will remain unanswered till 2019.
Featured Image Source: PM India