The Modi 2.0 dispensation has hit the ground running. Given the mandate to continue where it had left off before the parliamentary poll, the huge popular endorsement seems to have emboldened the government to set its sights even higher when it comes to delivering on promises. A good indication was available on Thursday in President Ram Nath Kovind’s customary address to members of the two Houses in the Central Hall of Parliament. Delineating in broad outlines what all the government intends to do in the next five years, he touched upon various sectors of the economy and polity in order to better the lot of the aam aadmi. Tackling rural distress seemed to be a number one priority. “Only a strong rural sector can a robust national economy stand.
The government is working towards that. Over the next five years, Rs twenty-five lakh crore will be invested to improve agriculture productivity. And Rs 90,000 crores will be spent this financial year alone on providing financial aid to farmers, up from Rs 75,000 crores allocated earlier under the PM Kisan Scheme.” Given the huge endorsement by the rural voters in the recent poll, it is natural for the government to focus on addressing the farm sector woes on a war footing. That awareness comes through in Kovind’s address. Again, the effort to spur economic growth in order to make India a five-trillion dollar economy by 2024 was reiterated in the address. For this to happen, India will have to grow at 11 per cent compound rate over the next six years. This seems, if not impossible, most improbable.
Yet, Modi has never shied from aiming high. He deserves credit for setting such higher goals for the government. Another such goal is to increase seats in higher educational institutions by as much as one and a half times, or two crore additional seats. This would need a huge step-up in outlays for the educational sector and its complete overhaul, given the poor state of infrastructure and the woeful lack of competent teaching staff. A National Research Foundation to work as a bridge between different government departments, science laboratories, higher educational institutions and industrial institutions is proposed to be set up.
Ten per cent reservation for youth from economically weaker sections of the general category will be available in all these institutions. The address also touched upon various socio-political subjects which often veer towards controversy. For instance, the commitment to press ahead with the ban on triple talaq and nikah-halala, which, the President noted, had been mandated by the apex court in the interest of women equality under the Constitution. Indeed, it was notable for women empowerment that the highest number of women, viz 78, had been elected to the Lok Sabha, underlining the increasing role of women in national development. Various schemes such as ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, Ujwala Yogna, Mission Indradhanush, Saubhagya Yogna’, etc., were specifically meant to benefit rural women. The objective is to make women equal stakeholders in the country’s development and prosperity, Kovind said.
But the address would have remained incomplete without a measure of self-congratulation. And it was there aplenty. “By carrying out surgical strikes and air strikes (against Pakistan), India has displayed its prowess. In future too, we will take all possible steps for the country’s security.” Again, “the world stands with India on the issue of terrorism… UN’s blacklisting of Masood Azhar is proof,” asserted President Kovind. There was more in this vein in the economic sphere:
“The Fugitive and Economic Offenders Act has proved effective in controlling fugitive economic offenders. Now we are receiving information in this regard from 146 countries, including Switzerland… In ‘Ease of Doing Business’ India has leapfrogged 65 positions during the last five year, from 142 in 2014 to 77… Now our goal is to be among the top 50 countries of the world…” Even the troubled State of J and K was on the mend, as testified by the recent peaceful local bodies elections…Poll schedule to the State assembly is likely to be announced in the next couple of months. At the outset, Kovind said that the renewed mandate reflected the peoples’ desire for “unhindered and fast progress…the 2019 election result gave an even higher majority to the single-largest party compared to 2014.” What use that majority is put to can be truly judged only over the course of the next five years. Till then, we keep our fingers crossed. And hope that the loonies claiming to speak and act on behalf of the Sangh parivar do not jeopardize the large mandate for Modi 2.0.