June 2015 marked the seventh straight month of decline in exports, year-on-year. During the seven-month period exports have shrunk by 14.11 per cent. The Federation of Indian Exporters Organisation has warned that exports may decline significantly even in volume terms which will lead to lay-offs and retrenchments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15. I listened to his speech with rapt attention, trying to understand his Hindi as much as I could, and I read the newspapers the following morning. It is one year since he made the speech (because I am referring to the speech he made last year) and it is appropriate to take stock of the promises that he made.
So, here is a P & A — Promises (P) and Achievements (A):
P. We take a solemn pledge of working for the welfare of the poor, oppressed, dalits, the exploited and the backward people.
A. Between the budget estimates of 2014-15 and the budget estimates of 2015-16, there was a cut of Rs 135,000 crore in allocation to crucial programmes targeted at the poor including women, children, dalits and the backward. Between the revised estimates of 2014-15 and the budget estimates of 2015-16, there was a reduction of Rs 75,000 crore. Equity suffered a huge blow.
Swachh Bharat, Jan Dhan
P. All schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. This target should be finished within one year and on the next August 15th we should be in a position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.
A. Against a target of 4.19 lakh toilets, by the end of May only 1.21 toilets had been built. On 4-8-2015, the Minister of Human Resource Development claimed that 3.64 lakh toilets had been constructed. Only an audit will reveal how many have running water, how many are cleaned every day, and how many are functional and are used every day.
P. I wish to connect the poorest citizens of the country with the facility of bank accounts. An account holder under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana will be guaranteed an insurance of Rs 1 lakh.
A. The UPA government’s Financial Inclusion programme was re-named as Jan Dhan Yojana. By March 2014, under the UPA, 24.3 crore accounts had been opened. As of 11-8-2015, an additional 17.29 crore accounts have been opened. Nearly one-half of these accounts (46.91 per cent) have a zero balance and are dormant, and therefore these account holders are, presumably, not eligible for the insurance cover or the overdraft facility of Rs 5,000 that was promised.
Not Decisive, but Divisive
P. I appeal to all the people, whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, let us put a moratorium on all such activities for 10 years.
A. If anything, the forces of sectarianism and divisiveness have become bolder and more vocal. Activities such as ghar wapsi, love jihad, ban-this-and-ban-that (books, beef, jeans, channels, websites), attacks on churches, discrimination in housing and jobs, and moral policing have increased in number and spread. None of the perpetrators has been actually punished. In fact, they have been encouraged by the majoritarian streak that runs through the RSS, the BJP and the Modi government.
According to figures of the Ministry of Home Affairs, between January and May 2015, incidents of communal violence had increased by 24 per cent (287 incidents) compared to the same period in 2014 (232 incidents) and deaths in communal incidents had increased from 26 to 43.
P. If we have to promote the development of our country, then our mission has to be ‘Skill Development’ and ‘Skilled India’.
A. The National Skill Development Mission that was launched in 2010 was re-launched on 14-7-2015! Everything else — the STAR scheme, the Skills Councils, the training institutions, the rewards, and the Chairman — are the same.
Signs of Economic Stress
P. If we have to develop a balance between imports and exports, we will have to strengthen the manufacturing sector. Come, manufacture in India. Sell in any country of the world, but manufacture here.
A. June 2015 marked the seventh straight month of decline in exports, year-on-year. During the seven-month period exports have shrunk by 14.11 per cent. The Federation of Indian Exporters Organisation has warned that exports may decline significantly even in volume terms which will lead to lay-offs and retrenchments.
There are other indications of economic stress. Year-on-year growth of the core sector was 3 per cent in June 2015 (versus 8.7 per cent in June 2014). Non-food credit growth was 8.4 per cent (versus 13.5 per cent), the slowest in 20 years.
P. Within a short period, we will replace the Planning Commission with a new institution having a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country.
A. The Planning Commission was abolished. After a long gap, NITI Aayog was established. It has been stripped of the powers enjoyed by the erstwhile Planning Commission, including the power to allocate Plan funds to the state governments and the ministries/departments of the Central government. The current five-year Plan will end in 2017, but there is no clarity whether there will be another five-year Plan at all. If there will be a Plan, it is not clear who will be responsible to make the Plan and who will be responsible for resource allocation.
As I write this on Friday, I look forward to another speech and more promises! Happy Independence Day!