In May 2015, Narendra Modi, who previously served as Gujrat Chief Minister from 2001 – 2014, swept to power on the agenda of change. Born in Sep 17, 1950 and having a strong background of having made his way in the world (as opposed to his chief opponent Rahul Gandhi, who was literally born into political power), and having had a successful stint in Gujrat where the state saw considerable progress during his 13 year rule, the expectation from the masses is huge. While Mr. Modi, our 15th Prime Minister, has shown some promise and some intent, real changes on the ground and still few, more than 8 months after he assumed office. Real ‘change’ on the ground, impacting the lives of the common men are still to be seen.
In light of the above, here is my Top 5 charter of a possible agenda for change that Mr. Modi and his Government could pursue to take their mandate forward…
[dropcap type=”1″]1[/dropcap]Invest in Infrastructure – If you travel across the country, you realize the pathetic roads that we rely on for moving people and goods. If you have driven in the Freeways in the US, you will realize what a stark comparison our Highways are. There are exceptions which are coming up –
The excellent Kota Expressway, the excellent Taj Expressway – just imagine if all the roads connecting our major cities and towns were like that – how easy it would be, not only to travel, but also to transport goods of consumption. Cutting down the time significantly in transporting goods from far corners of the country to the cities would dramatically reduce the cost of living in the cities. Couple this with a set of climate controlled warehouses, and some of the other measures we are talking about, and we will have a great start on our journey to prosperity. This is one sector where we should absolutely welcome FDI, as the costs involved are considerable and we can use every single $ we get. According to a statement released by Goldman Sachs in 2010, India needs to spend $ 1.7 trillion in this decade on infrastructure.
[dropcap type=”1″]2[/dropcap]Invest in Agriculture – With a burgeoning population, with the headcount having tripled since independence; even with a quadruple jump in the production of food, we are still behind as far as nutrition needs of our population is concerned. Focus on nutrition, the right food to the people, at
a cost that can be afforded by the population is an absolute must. While we have already spoken about inadequate storage and sub-par transportation, there are several other problems ailing the sector that has to be addressed, including the quality and availability of seeds, manures, fertilizers and biocides, lack of scientific irrigation techniques, lack of mechanization, Agricultural marketing and scarcity of capital. Focus on all these will help bring quality, affordable food to each and every section of our population and will spar well being and growth across a large section of our population
[dropcap type=”1″]3[/dropcap]Eliminate corruption – Address the parallel economy – All of whatever we are talking about needs money; the challenge is that FDI is not an answer to all our ills. Anyone living and working in India will have tales to tell about the humongous parallel (or black) economy that exists here. Loads of businessmen deal in cash and never declare their incomes and pay taxes, in the small sector;
the salaried classes are overburdened with direct and indirect taxes which go up each year while a section of the rich population never bothers to pay taxes – an arrangement which works with the corruption and nepotism in the Indian polity. In India, we have grown used to all the nepotism and corruption all around us – we do not hesitate to pay a bribe to any official to get simple things done, all civic organizations are a living testimony to this. The rut goes up the ladder. By conservative estimates, there is at least as much money circulating in the parallel economy as there is in the legit one; By Finance Ministry estimates itself in 2012, only 30 Million of the 1.2 Billion people in India paid income tax.
[dropcap type=”1″]4[/dropcap]Invest in Healthcare & Education – The state of public health sector in India is pathetic. If you have been to Government hospitals in India, particularly in the semi-urban and rural areas, you will realize that most of our citizens have only very basic access to quality healthcare.
The private health sector, on the other hand, is significantly more popular. One reason behind this fact is the total lack of fate of the population in public healthcare, and only those who cannot afford would even dream of going to Government facilities; Sadly, the state of Government sponsored education is also very similar, with even the poor aspiring to private education as the only way to a decent future. Both of these need to be addressed on a war footing, and both of these need considerable resources. Just do the maths, if we can address the 50% of ‘black’ economy, this in itself, would provide the funds to give a strong, much needed impetus to both these sectors.
[dropcap type=”1″]5[/dropcap]Make it easy to do business here – This is the only area which I feel the current Government is taking positive steps in. The ruling party’s support base are folks who are strong in the business community, ranging from the small businessmen to much larger business families and houses. While the previous government had been largely patronized by the Top players only whose interests lay in
maintaining the status quo and preventing newer players entering the mix, the current set up encourages opening opportunities for the entrepreneurs to explore growth in this sector. The Make in India initiative, his launching of labor reforms in Oct 14, including a single window labor compliance process, and his Industry friendly image an record combine to make this a possibility that will see early success.
While I feel that the Government has taken some steps to enable ease of doing business in India, the planning and progress around the first four are still to be seen. If Mr. Modi is to make his mark as a leader who played a significant role in building a Modern India on top of the morass of the bleak Nehruvian legacy, I strongly believe that this 5 point charter will help build a foundation for sustained growth and prosperity.