The failure to create jobs is another example of the yawning gap between promise and delivery.
As the BJP prepares to “celebrate” three years of rule at the Centre, the Opposition should hesitate to make black or white judgments. No government is entirely devoid of some achievements; equally, no dispensation can have an entirely unblemished track record. The important thing is to profile a balance sheet, ticking the pluses and highlighting the minuses.
After three years, what does the balance sheet look like? First the pluses. Some steps, like the massively subsidised LPG Ujjawala scheme, which commenced in May 2016, have had an impact on the lives of the poor. A degree of financial inclusion is discernible in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, wherein, as per government statistics, over 25 crore accounts have been opened, even if some of them still have zero balances and zero transactions.
The passing of the GST Bill, whose implementation was delayed by several years due to the BJP when it was in Opposition, is also a positive step. Some infrastructure projects, in particular roads, have perked up.
Above all, this government has beaten all previous regimes in the area of publicity and promotion. The ratio between achievement and projection, between delivery and hype, has been somewhere in the ratio of 2 is to 10. This art is something all future governments need to learn.
Now the minuses. There has been a spectacular breach of promises with regard to the MSP promised to farmers and the creation of jobs. Agriculture, which accounts for the livelihood of some 60 per cent of our people, continues to be in crisis, with farmers committing suicide at an alarming rate. In fact, the Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the BJP, publicly questioned the need for celebrations when farmers were in such dire distress.
The failure to create jobs is another example of the yawning gap between promise and delivery. Mr Modi promised the creation of two crore jobs. This naturally carried great appeal in a country where 65 per cent of the population is below the age of 35. But what is the reality? According to government statistics, in 2016-17, only 2.13 lakh jobs were created in eight key sectors, including manufacturing, construction and IT.
As my fellow columnist Patralekha Chatterjee has pointed out in these columns, the All India Council for Technical Education has stated that over 60 per cent of the eight lakh engineers graduating annually are remaining unemployed today.
One of the reasons why job creation has been so abysmally low is that private sector capital formation, which accounts for 75 per cent of total fixed capital formation, grew at a paltry two per cent in 2017 over 2016. This, in turn, is linked to hardly any improvement in the vital area of ease of doing business. Whatever the government may claim to the contrary, as per World Bank rankings, India was placed at the 130th position among all countries in the world in the ease of doing business. Our position is at 155 in starting business, 185th in obtaining construction permits and 166th in enforcing contracts. So much for the much-vaunted slogan of Make in India!
In fact, no one can fault this government for the felicity with which it coins slogans. Swachh Bharat was announced with much fanfare, yet, apart from some high profile photo-ops, little has been achieved because the slogan was not followed up with an institutional nationwide plan for sanitation and garbage disposal.
Similarly, the slogan of Ma Gange was coined, but precious little has been done to clean up the river or remove the obstacles that prevent its unfettered flow.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the abolition of the Planning Commission with considerable flamboyance from the ramparts of the Red Fort, but nobody has yet fully understood what exactly is the role of its replacement — the Niti Aayog. If one mandate of the Aayog is to ensure India’s holistic development, this is nowhere to be seen.
In spite of assurances to do so, least developed states like Bihar have not been provided special category status even though they eminently qualify for it. The Aayog has also said, in response to an RTI enquiry, that it has no idea about what happened to PM Modi’s promise made in 2015 to give Bihar a special package of Rs 125,000 crores.
If economic development is in drift, social amity has received a measurable setback in the last three years. The great legacy of Hinduism has been devalued in the hands of illiterate demagogues who go about killing people in the name of protecting cows, or whip up hatred against people of other religions.
The noble sentiment of nationalism has been debased by the vitriol of ultra-nationalists who consider any form of dissent to be an act of sedition.
Self-anointed moral policemen go about threatening people in the garb of anti-Romeo squads. Every day new threats are issued against the plural and composite fabric of India.
There are other concerns too. No government has displayed such a degree of policy paralysis on Kashmir as this one.
Foreign policy, although not without its theatrics, still lacks strategic coherence, particularly in our neighbourhood, and specially with Pakistan.
The elimination of corruption is a declared goal, and this is commendable, but somehow the caged parrot seems to be focused only on the Opposition, and not on serious allegations with regard to states where the BJP is in power.
In short, there is much for the BJP to introspect about as it completes three years of power. However, whether this is a time to celebrate, is a mann ki baat that is in the minds of many citizens of the country.