Jawaharlal Nehru ruled as Prime Minister from 1947-64 and laid such amazing economic foundations that we went bankrupt in 1991. His daughter Indira Gandhi comes second in the number of years ruled and has the worst human rights record among all Indian Prime Ministers.
Add Rajiv Gandhi’s five years plus Sonia’s ten years by proxy and the Dynasty has ruled us for close to 47 years. Rarely has any family so little to show for such a long reign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in contrast has been in the seat for just 18 months and people are behaving as if it is 18 years and he has nothing to show.
One of Modi’s biggest ad jingles during the 2014 general elections was the coming of “acche din” (good days) when he would take over. While some people are crying “bure din” (bad days) and others say they are not seeing much change, acche din have already come in certain areas.
Here’s a brief look at some of them.
1. The Toilet Revolution: While private education in India is flourishing, government schools continue to be in the pits. One main reason for low enrolment rates and high dropouts (especially of girls) is the lack of toilets.
A simple problem—but one that was ignored and led to a big gap in girls’ education. And now within a year, a whopping four lakh toilets have been built all across India in government schools. This momentous achievement was highlighted by foreign media but played down by many Indian media houses.
India is on course to build millions of toilets just in school and millions more elsewhere. This “Toilet Revolution” is the greatest innovation by a government since the mid-day meal scheme was introduced decades back.
2. Huge energy strides: By some estimates, one-third of India is powerless and the rest face huge power cuts. For the first time a government is targeting 100 per cent electrification of India. Coal reserves are up, the US-nuclear deal has been sorted out and nuclear fuel agreements have been signed with Australia, Canada and Ukraine.
The coal auctions saw more money and powers have been transferred to the States and that will go a long way in sorting out the energy woes of India. BJP States are racing towards minimum power cuts while non-BJP States are seeing power mismanagement.
Again, there’s hardly any focus on this in the media.
3. Spectacular foreign policy: This has been Modi’s biggest achievement and you could say that finally our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru has been surpassed. Modi is being noticed all over the world.
- He has been signing a host of economic deals which is quite important in a globalized economy. India is Top of the Pops in FDI and its brand value is increasing in the world.
- For the first time, stranded Indian nationals abroad are being dealt with on a priority basis. The Yemen evacuations were appreciated all over the world except maybe in certain sections in the Indian media who highlighted General VK Singh’s #Presstitute comment instead.
- The Bangla enclaves were a peculiarity where tens of thousands of Indians and Bangladeshis were stranded in no man’s land. This was also sorted out after 40 years.
- China is being engaged and Pakistan is being isolated. For the first time there is no Zero Sum Game and India is engaging with every country with the world.
Wherever he goes, Modi gets a lush red carpet and a rock star welcome. Only Indian and Indian-origin Communists are trying to put a spoke in the wheel.
4. National security boosts: Troops at the border have been given permission to fire back at Pakistan. Chinese advances have been checked. Indian troops even neutralized threats in Myanmar.
The government is also taking up terror threats with various other countries. Dubai’s use as a base of Dawood Ibrahim being one recent example. In Ajit Doval we have an ace National Security Adviser.
Gangster Chhota Rajan is back in India and so is ULFA leader Anup Chetia. Dawood for the first time is apprehensive of his future.
5. Defence industry plans: There was an inexplicable and huge policy paralysis in the defence sector. It was difficult to understand because usually the Defence Minister keeps changing every 2-3 years but AK Antony stayed for a whopping 8 years.
Arun Jaitley before handing over charge of the Defence Ministry to Manohar Parrikar cleared a whole lot of files as did the latter after taking over. The amount of projects cleared is in excess of one lakh crore.
OROP, priority on security and this all should contribute to the boosting of the morale of the armed forces in the long run.
6. Citizen relief versus the babu: Any Government is an organization. Like any other company, its employees have to come on time, be accountable and focus on long-term goals. Modi is the first Prime Minister who has pulled up the bureaucracy in such a manner.
Everybody at the Centre is coming on time and working all day. They are being asked to set both short-term and long-term visions. The work culture has already seen a drastic change in New Delhi and if this continues for 5-10 years then this it may percolate downwards to the rest of the country.
7. Infrastructure push: This is huge and is not being noticed because it’s a very long-term vision. Roads. Power plants. Industries. Railways. Planning on taking things forward is proceeding at a high pace and we may start seeing changes as early as 2017-18.
This is one of the things alone that may get Modi re-elected in 2019. Infrastructure Minister Nitin Gadkari, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu are some of the stars in this area.
8. Retired defence personnel: One Rank One Pension was scrapped more than 40 years ago by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and after that, many PMs came in, without even giving the issue a second thought.
But now a new government has implemented OROP after just 18 months of being in power. Lakhs of retired defence personnel can heave a sigh of relief. The biggest to benefit is likely to accrue to the lower ranks and those who retired a long time back and were drawing virtually peanuts.
9. Broadband users: In 2005, the Government of India set the definition of broadband as 256 kbps (they were trying to make it 126 kbps!) and that’s how it stayed throughout UPA1 and UPA2. Modi took over in May 2014 and it July itself that was upgraded to 512 kbps.
Now there’s another bumper upgrade. The definition became 2mbps with effect from October and benefits all BSNL broadband users with no extra charge.
10. Anti-Communists: Communists do not even constitute one per cent of India and they have occupied a majority of key posts in academia and a whole slew of government organizations. It was peculiar how an official democracy agreed to this.
But now, key government posts are not going to Communists. While the headlines scream that posts are going to the “right-wing” or to “RSS sympathizers” or to “BJP lackeys,” the real news is that Communists are being shut out of the system.
That’s the real good news for true democrats who never understood how the elite of India turned Red in the first place. As a parting shot, Modi has in fact seen a brilliant start, but his critics refuse to accept that. In terms of doing so much in 18 months he can be compared only to Lal Bahadur Shastri and PV Narasimha Rao in the past.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist. He has previously worked for organizations like the Hindustan Times, CyberMedia, the Centre for Science & Environment and IT market research firm IDC India.