One month into second term, Modi govt sends strong message on corruption crackdown, sets new benchmarks in foreign relations

It’s been a month since Narendra Modi and his team of ministers assumed office for a second time. Expectations are high, after the ruling party and its allies picked up a massive mandate in 2019’s parliamentary polls despite a combative campaign by the Opposition. It’s a really short period to make any credible assessment, but how has the new government performed so far and what can we expect in the days to come? To analyse and appreciate all this, we should first go back a few days.

The day campaigning for the last phase of Lok Sabha polling ended, Modi made a surprise appearance at the BJP central headquarters where party chief Amit Shah was to hold a media briefing. While concluding his opening remarks, Modi said the heat of canvassing was now over and he was getting back to focusing on governance. He was also supremely certain of his return to power with increased majority and even proffered a 300-plus number.

Modi’s confidence and calm was not misplaced. And on 30 May, shortly after taking oath of office at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, he hit the ground running, holding bilateral meetings with leaders of BIMSTEC — Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation — including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, as also with Mauritius prime minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and Kyrgyzstan president Sooronbay Jeenbekov. These leaders had arrived on Modi’s invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

 One month into second term, Modi govt sends strong message on corruption crackdown, sets new benchmarks in foreign relations

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twitter/@MEAIndia

The composition of Modi government 2.0 generated much interest with the entry of Amit Shah as home minister and former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar as external affairs minister. When the first meeting of the new Cabinet took place, it was clear that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had done a lot of groundwork and was prepared with an agenda which would send a clear message that the government meant business and was not losing any time in implementing key policies, particularly those concerning the welfare of soldiers, farmers and small traders.

As the new government completed its first month, it had already made tangible changes, which gave the BJP workers a talking point to go to the people with and assert that things were on the right track.

Major changes were approved in the Prime Minister Scholarship Scheme under the National Defence Fund. The rates of grants were increased substantially. Moreover, the ambit of the scholarship scheme was extended to the children of state police officials killed in terror strikes or Naxal attacks.

The PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana was extended to include all eligible farmer families irrespective of the size of land holdings. Removal of the previous two-hectare ceiling was Modi’s pre-poll promise. The government also came out with a pension scheme for marginal farmers and small traders.

Formation of the Ministry of Jal Shakti — constituted by merging of the ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and ministry of drinking water and sanitation — was part of a promise made by Modi to comprehensively address water-related challenges.

Exactly a month after he took office as prime minister for the second time, in his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address he put water conservation on the front burner.

In its first month, Modi government 2.0 sent out a strong message that it will crack down hard on dishonest bureaucrats and corruption at any level in the government will not be tolerated. It sacked 12 top officers from the revenue service, income tax and customs departments.

The government had earlier axed 15 customs and central excise officers on charges of corruption and bribery.

To give a boost to investment and create new employment opportunities, Modi set up two new Cabinet committees. The prime minister will head the panels on investment and growth, and employment and skill development.

The UNICEF has made a study on the impact of the Swachh Bharat mission. It concluded that the programme has led to a reduction in the contamination of groundwater.

'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao', another initiative taken by the previous Modi government, is now showing positive results. The all-India sex ratio at birth (SRB) had gone up by eight points since 2015-16 to 931 girls per 1,000 boys till March 2019. Haryana showed an improvement from 887 girls per 1,000 boys in 2016 to 914 in 2017-18 and then 924 in 2018-19.

Another development of importance for common folks in the hinterland, the rural roads push, has won global praise. According to a World Bank report, improved road connectivity in India triggered a shift from farm to non-farm employment and women stepped out of the house to take care of their farms. It shows that the project improved mobility, increased access to economic opportunities and boosted attendance of children in schools.

The Modi government 2.0 manifested its commitment towards the interests of Muslim women by tabling the contentious The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 on the very first day of Parliament after the government took oath.

The legislation aims to protect the rights of married Muslim women and prevent divorce by the practice of talaq-e-biddat by their husbands, was tabled twice in the Lok Sabha in the first term of the Modi government. Modi reiterated his commitment towards them by introducing the Bill again.

The crackdown on the misadventures of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank is a strong political message to those who held the Kashmir Valley and Jammu and Kashmir’s politics hostage to their whims and fancies for the past three decades. Jammu & Kashmir Bank was considered to be the driver of many dodgy elements: from the separatists to the dynasty-based political parties that liked to keep Kashmir on the boil. As a measure to bring in transparency in the functioning of the bank, it was brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act and Central Vigilance Commission. Its chairman was also removed.

The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Amendment Bill, 2019, that aims to crack down on the unauthorised occupants of residential accommodations in public premises, is another marker of the Modi government’s commitment for transparent governance. The amendments aim to facilitate the smooth and speedy eviction of unauthorised occupants from government houses, and those vacant residences will be available for allotment to eligible people.

Modi, even within just a month of government formation, has moved forward with a robust foreign policy. His visit to the Maldives, the grand reception he got, and the subsequent developments show that Modi is undoing the policy blunders caused by the UPA’s apathy over the years. Maldives also honoured him with its highest award. According to media reports, the tropical nation is also on the verge of scrapping a maritime deal with China, tilting the balance of the region in favour of India — a major shift.

Showing his commitment towards the “neighbourhood first” approach to foreign policy, Modi became the first world leader to travel to Sri Lanka following the horrific Easter terror attacks. Also, India’s emergency ambulance service is now available throughout the nine provinces of the island country. This is winning the hearts of the Sri Lankan people as well.

Modi left an impact on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit when he spoke out against terrorism and sought to build a global consensus around it. He said the countries sponsoring, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable as he called for a global conference to combat the menace. It was seen as a major embarrassment for Pakistan, which was also a participant in the summit.

Benefitting 3.6 crore employees and 12.85 lakh employers, and also enhancing ease of doing business at the same time, the Modi government reduced the rate of Employee’s State Insurance (ESI) contribution from 6.5 percent to 4 percent. According to this new plan, employers’ contribution has been cut from 4.75 percent to 3.25 percent and for employees from 1.75 percent to 0.75 percent.

In ensuring that fugitive economic offenders are brought to the book, the Modi government 2.0 has walked the extra mile. The Enforcement Directorate attached properties worth Rs 9,778 crore of Sterling Biotech Ltd in its investigation into a money-laundering case against the pharmaceutical company and others involving domestic and offshore branches of Indian banks in 2004-12. The ED had registered a money-laundering case against the SBL group, Sandesara brothers and others after a case of bank fraud of Rs 5,700 crore was filed against them by the CBI.

Meanwhile, here is what the Antiguan prime minister Gaston Browne said about fugitive fraudster Mehul Choksi: “His (Choksi) citizenship was processed; he got through, but the reality is his citizenship will be revoked and he will be repatriated to India. So, there is recourse. It’s not a case that we are trying to provide any safe harbour for criminals, for those who are involved in financial crimes.” Choksi holds an Antiguan citizenship, and is the owner of Gitanjali Group, a retail jewellery company with 4,000 stores in India.

In the last one month, the Modi government has set new benchmarks in foreign relations by participating in four G20 sessions, nine bilateral meetings, eight pull-aside meetings, two trilateral meetings and one meeting of BRICS leaders. The prime minister has also met leaders from the United States of America, Chile, South Africa, France, Germany, Australia, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

Updated Date: Jul 02, 2019 20:49:01 IST