In the past three years, the Modi government has undertaken a series of sweeping economic reforms. In fact, if the 1991 liberalization efforts are characterized as Reforms 1.0, and if the economic changes unleashed by the Vajpayee government from 1998 to 2004 are considered to be Reforms 2.0, then the reforms undertaken by the Modi government are clearly Reforms 3.0. Moreover, in terms of their scope, depth, and likely impact it is increasingly likely that Reforms 3.0 will surpass Reforms 1.0 and 2.0.
On May 20, 2014 PM-elect Modi gave a historic speech in the Central Hall of Parliament to the BJP Parliamentary Party and to its NDA allies. In that speech, he made it clear that the NDA government would be a government of the poor, by the poor, and for the poor. In short, the NDA government would be dedicated to the poor. This unwavering commitment to fully eliminate poverty and enable India’s poor to lead better lives drives Reforms 3.0. It is indeed a transformational agenda.
Eliminating poverty in India has several aspects. The Modi government intends to transform India and has designed its reform architecture to deliver on these various aspects. First, the government intends to place India on an economic growth trajectory that will deliver robust economic growth (GDP growth rate of 7-8%) over decades. A rising tide lifts all boats and India has to grow fast to be able to move people out of poverty. Fast growth generates the jobs, wealth creation, and tax revenues to deliver a full range of opportunities and benefits to all Indians. Fast growth requires well-functioning markets that enable companies to invest and grow with confidence. Fast growth requires ease of doing business, eliminating red tape, and providing corruption-free governance. India will be transformed through sustained fast growth and will move from being a low-income country to becoming a middle-income country in the next two decades.
A second aspect of eliminating poverty is how the Modi government is assisting the poor. The government is focused on empowerment, not entitlement. It has eschewed gimmicky populism for popular programs intended for long-term development. Populist schemes rapidly drain the government’s financial resources while not generating any self-sustaining growth. Moreover, election after election has shown that the poor much prefer livelihood creation and better infrastructure services to short-term giveaways. The Modi government is equipping the poor with the tools, opportunities, and resources that will enable them to lead better lives. They are being encouraged to be independent, self-reliant, and capable of looking after themselves and their families. Every poor family now has an easily accessible bank account, a host of financial instruments for credit and insurance, access to higher quality education and skill training, medical insurance, electricity, roads, and all other necessary infrastructure. Toilets are being built in every rural and urban home. Women are getting the LPG stoves so that they are freed up from using fuel wood and dung for household cooking.
Even as the poor are being empowered, they are also being protected by a social security safety net. This is the third important aspect of eliminating poverty. The government’s safety net delivers the basic necessities including food (through efficient implementation of the Food Security Act), housing (PM Awas Yojana), education (Sarva Siksha Abhiyan), health care, insurance (PM Suraksha Bima Yojana) and income support (MGNREGA). No Indian should go to sleep hungry or unsure about how to survive the next day. To that end, the Modi government has built a powerful social security platform based on the JAM trinity so that each person has a distinct identity, a bank account, and can access government benefits through their mobile phone. Today this social security platform provides convenient and high-integrity delivery of government welfare services to citizens.
A government dedicated to the poor must also deliver on transparent, responsive, and fair governance. For too long, India’s poor people have been discriminated and oppressed by the more powerful. They have been shut out of merit-based career pathways, forced to pay bribes for basic public services, and not been able to get their grievances resolved. The Modi government has undertaken a host of actions for good governance. For instance, interviews have been eliminated for Class IV jobs in government to make selection totally merit-based. Engineering and medical entrance exams are being consolidated across the country through NICE and NEET. To prevent bribe paying, many basic services such as land record mutations and issuance of birth certifications are being computerized. Virtually, every government department is now registering grievances through phone and online channels. Grievance handling is being monitored and strict deadlines have been imposed to resolve grievances in a timely fashion.
The Modi government’s transformation initiatives are dedicated to eliminating poverty in India. In three years, these transformation initiatives have already had massive impact and are reshaping the lives of poor people in India. In my own home state of Jharkhand, many of the perennial problems that had been plaguing the poor are being resolved. Now every poor person is confident that they will get the food and housing that they need, children will get proper nutrition and education, and young people will have access to necessary training. Now virtually every village has been electrified, is connected with an all-weather road, and has access to drinking water. And now every citizen is convinced that the Modi government is working hard on their behalf to ensure a better future for them and their country.
Jayant Sinha is India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation and a Member of Parliament from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. These are his personal views.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s).