A review of the flagship schemes of the NDA Government, as it completes three years in office, throws a crucial common denominator in the form of a citizen who rightfully finds himself or herself among the top claimants on the national resources. And why not? After all, it is the bottom of the pyramid which had not really reaped the fruits of the development even though India had emerged as a USD two trillion economy, finding a front –ranking place among the world’s Emerging Markets.
It is this person who is now being empowered through the flagship schemes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi so much so that he or she would start asserting her/his claim on the government which is the main custodian of the country’s wealth. In fact, a new political economy seems to be unfolding which works like this: the government reaches out to masses and not classes, resulting into a bondage between those at the top of the governance pyramid and those at the bottom. In a way, it is technology in the middle which facilitates the mind-blowing linkages. It works both ways; helping the state machinery to identify and reach out to the right target and empowering the last person in the queue who does not want to keep standing there and is impatient to move ahead.
This is how, the high beta branded schemes have been designed; they are much more than simple and plain government programmes. They would redefine the way the welfare state has to perform.
Whether it is Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, Bima Suraksha Yojana, Atal Pension or Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme, the objective has been quite clear: Make development inclusive in the real sense of the meaning , wherein a domestic help, security guard, farm labourer or an unskilled construction worker feels empowered to walk into a bank, get his or her account opened , unfolding manifold opportunities. Linked to his unique ID Aadhar number, a single bank account is doing wonders for those who had been left out of the economic mainstream.
The bank account and the Aadhar ID are the most efficient vehicles for reaching the benefits to the target groups, without being pocketed. In fact, every other scheme including the pensions, crop insurance, DBT for LPG subsidy or promoting the girl child , is being implemented through the financial inclusion programme which has been also recognised by several multilateral agencies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Those 28 crore account holders under the Jan Dhan Yojana, having about Rs 64,000 crore to their credit, need not depend on the brick and mortar bank branches. Given the kind of financial literacy being spread through smart phones and other devices, the banking is being done via a good mix of technology and financial products like RuPay cards which can be swiped at the ATMs by a farm worker or a domestic help with as much ease and confidence as an educated urban upper class citizen. Besides, a strong force of 3.75 lakh bank ‘Mitras’ and banking correspondents would reach financial products at the door step of those near and far. The exclusive club, in a way, is shrinking, as every Indian becomes aspirational and is asserting himself or herself.
While those passing out of the IITs and top end engineering colleges may have walked away with some of the start-up headlines, the small and medium entrepreneurs are a lot more active in financial inclusions thanks to initiatives like Mudra Yojana, under which loans of Rs 2.34 lakh crore have been disbursed without collaterals or guarantees in the last years of its launch.
It is one thing to preach about ending the gender bias which has worked against women and the girl child, resulting into a skewed female ratio. The issue is being addressed by several schemes like Sukanya Samridhi Yojana. As much as Rs 11,000 crore have been deposited in one crore such bank accounts which carry higher interest rates than normal deposits. These schemes are a double edged weapon to end the discrimination against the girl child.
Through a slew of plans both for the rural and urban citizens, a culture of insurance and pensions is being developed even for those who work outside the organised sectors of the economy. Anyone in the age groups defined in the respective schemes, can be member of the Surakasha Bima Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the most ambitious and challenging at the same time is the Swachch Bharat scheme which is building its own corpus. The scheme must be seen well beyond the optics of brooms and bins. It encompasses cleanliness through sanitation in both rural and urban areas with focus on toilets, urban waste management and cleaning of rivers and water bodies. It would go a long way in making the country men and women, particularly children a lot more healthy. The costs would be recovered many times over in the form of a healthy India and a better human resource.
There are also schemes like Stand up India for entrepreneurs and Make in India to make the country a global manufacturing hub, so that we become a net exporting , rather than importing country, creating millions of jobs, which are the most pressing need for a vast demography which must be nurtured well for the much –touted dividend. Dividend would surely come by with effective implementation of the flagship schemes both at the Central and state levels with active participation of people.
Prakash Chawla is a senior journalist and commentator. He mostly writes on political-economy and global economic issues.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.