The profound thought of a saint defined a civilisational goal that, in its bid to do good to others, does good to oneself. However, before fulfilling the ‘dharma’, the ‘artha’ needs to be realised. When a large part of India’s population is still barely making ends meet, it is their well being that becomes the first and foremost priority of the collective consciousness of the nation.
It is this very consciousness that is reflected in the prime minister’s Independence Day speeches as he addresses the nation and sets common goals. A new culture of target-driven goal setting has emerged in the past four years of the Narendra Modi government. Prime Minister Modi has used the Red Fort’s pedestal to express his government’s intent in clear measurable objective goals while also providing a new direction for people to combine their efforts towards.
Modi's first call for action was made during his first Independence Day speech in 2014, where he brought the nation’s attention to the plight of crores of women who were forced to defecate in the open. He highlighted the problems faced by school-going girls for lack of separate toilets in schools. Thereon, he launched the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ and made the promise of ensuring separate toilets for girls in every school. Within one year of the announcement, 4.17 lakh toilets in 2.61 lakh government elementary and secondary schools were constructed/re-constructed. The entire endeavour was driven with public and private efforts combined. Everyone pitched in, from states, PSUs to private corporates, NGOs and spirited citizens. It is the outcome of concerted efforts by one and all that within the span of four years, the sanitation coverage has risen to 88.9 percent from mere 38 percent in 2014.
In recent times, the government has not only been able to just achieve the set goals but achieve them before the set target date. The goal of electrifying 18,500 villages within 1,000 days, made by Modi on 15 August, 2015, was realised 12 days before the target date. Considering the fact that the said villages were located at some of the remotest areas and had the most difficult terrain, it is no mean feat. Before the pledge was made, the pace of rural electrification had increasingly gone down.
In 2011-12, as many as 7,934 villages were electrified. However, it fell to mere 2,587 villages in 2012-13 and to 1,197 in 2013-14. A firm commitment to the cause and channelising of digital solutions to bring in transparency and probity in the system led to accelerated pace of village electrification.
The power ministry launched the GARV app that mapped India’s six lakh villages and tracked the ongoing electrification process. Power to every village and every home is the precursor to prosperity. By making it a focal point of his administration, Modi has shown how well he is attuned with the aspirations of the people.
It is, therefore, no wonder that when the world doubted Indian’s transition to a digital economy, Modi was firm in his belief. During one of his Independence Day speeches, he had said: "We have to move in a direction where every poor person is able to operate his bank account from his mobile, is able to demand various things from the government, can submit applications, can conduct all his business, while on the move, through mobile governance and if this has to be done, we have to move towards 'Digital India'."
He saw ‘Digital India’ as an opportunity to reach the person at the last mile and empower him/her. For him, it was a great economic leveler. This counter-intuitive ability of the prime minister to catch people’s pulse is evident from the fact that in the year 2017-18, the number of e-payment transactions increased to Rs 2070.98 crore from a mere Rs 220 crore in 2013-14. With BHIM, a biometric payment systems app, the Modi government has further ushered in an era of financial equality. Based on Unified Payment Interface (UPI), it facilitates e-payments directly through bank. One does not even need an internet connection to operate the app. Till now, the app has proven to be seamless and secure. It has managed to surprise people with its world class design and easy operability.
The trend of promise followed by delivery, started by the prime minister, has turned around India’s image from a lumbered elephant to a charging mammoth. Modi announced 'Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana' to open the doors of banks to the poorest citizens of the country in his first address from the Red Fort. Since then, 31.95 crore beneficiaries have been banked with Rs 78,952 crore as the balance amount. The sheer scale of the world’s largest financial inclusion exercise is astounding.
The list of commitments made by Modi does not end here. In his 2015 Independence Day address, he spoke extensively of the need to get rid of deep-rooted corruption. He followed it up by striking hard on black money through demonetisation, forming treaties with Mauritius, Cyprus, Singapore to avoid double taxation, crackdown on shell companies, among others. For farmers, he promised irrigation; for the young, he promised strengthening their entrepreneurial spirit through institutional support and discontinuation of interview for junior-level posts; for our soldiers, he promised implementation of long-standing demand of ‘One Rank One Pension’ and to each, he delivered.
From the ramparts of Red Fort, he stood with the crores of Muslim women fighting against the religious hegemony imposed on them through the archaic tradition of instant triple talaq. He promised them nation’s support in their struggle and he fulfilled his commitment by ensuring smooth passage of the bill in Lok Sabha to ban the practice in the Lok Sabha. He launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to provide a smoke-free life to 5 crore BPL women within three years. He fulfilled the promise 8 months before the intended target date.
The next in line are two significant promises that he has made to the nation. In his efforts to ensure ease of living for the citizens, he intends to provide comprehensive health coverage to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families under Ayushman Bharat and reach the target of housing for all by 2022. With a stellar track record of delivering on his promises, these too seem to be on their way to getting realised.
Every Independence Day speech of Modi is eagerly awaited as to what new direction he would give to the nation. Once he makes an announcement, it is then closely analysed for the results it produces. The government machinery and public come together to achieve that goal that once seemed like a distant possibility. What we are witnessing is a new era of delivery that seems to be setting in with every Independence Day.
Updated Date: Aug 15, 2018 10:08 AM