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The challenge for Modi in the next two years

While the opposition parties have been accusing Modi on several counts, it is more than evident that, by and large, people’s confidence in Modi’s government remains high, writes N.S.Venkataraman

Jun 8, 2017
By N S Venkataraman
 
Ever since Narendra Modi assumed office as India’s prime minister three years ago, he has been stressing the need for rapid economic and industrial development of the country. He has also laid emphasis on several other issues of importance, such as promoting yoga, cleanliness in public places and so on. He has also stressed, on several occasions, the need to respect all religions, though his critics suspect that he has encouraged extremism by some Hindu outfits by not silencing them with the force that is required.
 
With his clear targets, Modi has been moving with great speed, introducing new regulations and drastic measures, of which the most important are his demonetization decision and enactment of the GST. He has also ensured that the government of India under him would not be tainted by corruption charges and has brought about some transparency in the administration directly under him.
 
The prime minister has continued to emphasise the need to eradicate corruption in government machinery and public life, to enable delivery of welfare measures to the poor and downtrodden directly.
 
While the opposition parties have been accusing Modi on several counts, it is more than evident that, by and large, people’s confidence in Modi’s government remains high. Modi’s popularity is evident by results of the number of state and local body elections in recent times that has resulted in a massive vote in his favour.
 
At the same time, even the most ardent admirer of Modi, who has no political affiliations, thinks that Modi’s government has still not made a big impact in the anti corruption drive and in creating jobs and fair distribution of wealth in the country. However, the fact is that people continue to believe that Modi  is capable of rooting out corruption and meeting the aspirations of the youth  with regard to job opportunities. People all over India are discussing why Modi has not been able to make a significant impact on these vital questions. There is animated discussion about what Modi should do in the next two years before the next national election, when his governance would be under trial and test.
 
As far as the level of corruption in the country is concerned, while he has brought down corruption in the central government to some extent, this has not happened at the state government level. In daily life, people come in contact more with the state/local government administration than the central government and levels of nepotism in the state/local government machinery causes hardship to people.   
 
However, people think that Modi is the ultimate arbiter of governance all over India and blame him even if there is corruption at the local body level.  Critics point out that there are several state governments ruled by the same party to which Modi belongs, yet the level of corruption in such BJP- led governments has also not come down.
 
Unemployment remains a serious issue which needs to be tackled by Modi. He has taken several steps like Start up India, Make in India and others to promote small scale enterprises and boost employment growth, but they are not giving results. Three areas which can promote massive employment are the infrastructure and housing sector, road construction projects and the agricultural sector.
 
Agriculture operations are increasingly getting mechanized, reducing the need for agricultural workers at the field level. This is inevitable and Modi has to find jobs for surplus agricultural workers in infrastructure and the construction sector.
 
Unfortunately, until recently, the construction sector, often termed as real estate, has been largely operated by black money which has inevitably increased construction costs and made housing beyond the reach of the poor. Modi attempted to solve the problem by initiating demonetization and by introducing the anti-benami (nameless) law. However, positive results are yet to be seen.
 
Another area of grave concern for the people is that education facilities are becoming beyond the reach of poor and downtrodden. As governments at both state and central level have virtually stopped investing in building more schools and colleges, and left it to the private sector, corrupt elements and business houses have got come in and have made education a costly affair.
 
The inadequate performance of state governments and the level of corruption in the state administration are undoing the good work being done by the Modi government. It remains to be seen how Modi would tackle this.
 
The next two years will be when Modi has to find solutions for the problems of joblessness and corruption. The whole country is watching him with great anxiety and of course, with hope.
 
(The author is with Nandini Voice for The Deprived. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to editor@spsindia.in)

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