NDA has shown new initiatives

It reflects that the govt will give up the big brother attitude in the development of the country.

After the phenomenal victory of the BJP in 2014 general elections and after a memorable swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi, people thought all that could be promised has already been announced in the election speeches and hence, the President’s address to the joint session of the Parliament on Monday, would be repetition of what has already been said.

To our pleasant surprise, it was not old wine in new bottle but new champaign in newly branded bottle. Though we do find mention of election campaign slogans like ’minimum government, maximum governance’ there are new ideas, approaches and directions in which the country’s development should move. It is going to be a tough job for new finance minister to translate all these new ideas into expenditure programmes, schemes and allocate funds for their implementation.

There is a new approach for every old development problem. Take, for example, energy policy. Quite apart from promising a new policy, the agenda commits for privatisation of coal fields, integrating solar energy with gas-grids and translating old civil nuclear energy initiatives into power generation. In agriculture, new schemes like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana with the motto of water for each farm, are announced to ensure irrigation to dry land agriculture. The agenda abandons the old policy of ‘rurban’ and promises to develop 100 new cities to speed up urbanisation which is crucial for development. 

Affordable housing

The agenda lays down the target of providing affordable housing with drinking water and sanitation to every household within 10 years. There are new initiatives for expanding and modernising education by starting one IIT and one IIM in every state. There is new emphasis on development of science and technology by specific emphasis on new domain fields of science like Nanotechnology, Thorium Technology, Brain research, Material Sciences and Stem Cell research.There is mention of popularising health insurance which implicitly means that privatisation of health facilities will be encouraged. This becomes a contentious policy issue.

While acknowledging the deceleration of GDP growth rate in the past two years, the agenda promises incentivising investment, encouraging 00 per cent FDI where jobs and trade are promised, single window clearance and time bound pragmatic approach to environmental clearances. The agenda promises to continue rationalisation and simplification of tax structure, discard adversarial tax measures and persuade the state governments to agree for the introduction of GST as soon as possible. 

The agenda recognises the dilution of federal spirit in functioning of the governments in India and promises to strengthen federal institutions like NDC and Inter-state Council. It reiterates to restore cooperative federalism in India. Such a policy will go a long way in reassuring the non-BJP state governments. It is heartening to note that the agenda accepts the policy of learning successful sectoral development models from the states. This shows that the central government will give up the big brother attitude in achieving the development of the country.

We see a lot of new initiatives in the field of defence and security. FDI will be allowed in defence production where new technology is brought in for defence purpose. After recognising the failure of Coast Guards  to provide effective security to  India’s sea coasts, it has decided to create a Naval Maritime Authority to ensure security on the seas including the coasts. Similar new ideas like setting up of Veterans’ Commission, are announced to assure the defence forces of their welfare. Even for railway development there is new approach. Modernisation is a must for Indian railways.
 It will include launch of Diamond Quadrilateral High Speed trains. The agenda has some new ideas about tourism development. This sector has got a lot of potential but imaginative efforts are missing. The new government  proposes to break some new ground. 

There is reassurance to the minorities that the new government will follow inclusive growth where they will be equal partners of development. Communal violence will be curbed with the cooperation of state governments. Criminal justice system will be reviewed to curb violence against women. And the new government will support 33 per cent reservation for Women in Parliament and State Assemblies.

Thus the development and modernisation agenda of the new government has thrown up some new ideas. It remains to be seen how the new government is going to achieve them by allocating funds in its first budget.

(The writer is chairman, Institute for Social and Economic Change)

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