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Mera Desh badal raha hai: A Bhakt’s joyous “Eureka” moment

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Its not easy to be a nationalist (rashtravaadi) in Modi’s India. One is likely to be a branded as a “Bhakt” at a speed faster than an incoming Bumrah yorker. When a nationalist is labelled as a “Bhakt”, its not in the exalted bhakti traditions of a Meera Bai or a Chaitanya Mahaparabhu. The term “Bhakt” is used more like a pejorative to run down a nationalist, implying an unintelligent (euphemism for foolish), easy to deceive blind believer, not able to discriminate between truth and propaganda. Its an easy tool to disarm a nationalist in any argument, because more often than not he gets diverted into proving that he is not a bhakt, rather than continue arguing on merits.

However most nationalists are not overly bothered by this label. Most shrug it off as an occupational hazard, some even wear it as a badge of honor. But what troubles and worries them more is the vice like grip of the so called left liberals (LeLi) on the MSM. Though challenged by SM in recent years, MSM still remains the prime purveyor of information for the masses. Calling the largely leftie cabal as liberals is oxymoronic though, because they are anything but liberal. Consumed by their personal dislike for the man, they often chuck the expected objectivity in reporting and work overtime to portray doom and gloom about anything and everything in Modi’s India. Positive news becomes a prime casualty of LeLi’s dogged determination to portray Modi’s India in perennial bad light. 

Like millions of “bhakts”, I also support Modi, not for any personal gains, but for a strong desire to see a prosperous India take its rightful place in the comity of nations in my lifetime. Modi seems to be the best man to deliver that dream of every “bhakt”, hence the dogged support. It would however be dishonest on my part if I don’t admit that the negativity does get me at times. That is why I decided to dig deeper. To check for myself if things are really changing in India or if my support to the man is wasted. It took some time and effort, but the results were  astounding. It would thrill every bhakt to continue dreaming of seeing a stronger, prosperous and developed India in their life time. Pejoratives and abuses are but a small price for the realization of this dream. My country is changing at a speed and scale never seen before. Like the Archimedean joyous “Eureka” cry, the bhakt in me wants to cry out “MERA DESH BADAL RAHA HAI”.

I would like to share my findings in only two key sectors to share my astonishment at the scale of change happening in my country. Most of this information is already in public domain. But when LeLi’s concentrate more on creating a certain “mahaul”, facts are often lost in the fine print.  

Implementation of poverty alleviation and welfare schemes 

Establishing the JAM trinity backbone-

Since coming to power in 2014, this govt is driven by its firm focus on implementing poverty alleviation & welfare schemes on a JAM (Jandhan-Aadhar-Mobile) trinity backbone for efficient targeting of beneficiaries and minimizing leakages. More than 43 crore new bank accounts have been opened under the Jandhan account scheme with total deposit of 1.46 lakh crores. More accounts were opened in last 7 years compared to what was done in previous 67 years. Approx 55% of these new accounts holders are women and 67% are in the rural/semi urban sector, thereby boosting women’s empowerment as well as rural penetration. More than 31 crore “Rupay” debit cards have been issued to Jandhan account holders. Next time when you see your neighborhood watchman or dhobi struggling with his newly issued debit card at a nearby ATM, don’t miss the pride in his eyes about not only having a bank account for the first time in his life, but also being  able to swipe his card to withdraw his money just like his educated “saab” log.

Govt simultaneously  pushed for issuing biometric based identity cards ,called “Aadhar card”, to all its citizens. Total number of aadhar cards issued stands at 129 crore. 99% of the adult citizens in our country have aadhar cards today. In contrast, only around 40% population had aadhar cards before 2014. Number of mobile phone connections has increased exponentially to approx 118 crores from a paltry 34 crores in 2014. Driven by cheap data revolution by Jio, Airtel and others, most of these are smartphone users. In short, govt has managed to get the JAM trinity backbone in place for almost its entire population in last seven years. The idea was not novel. Indeed it had been bandied around for many years and even implemented halfheartedly by previous govts. Where Modi govt scores is the speed and scale of implementation of the JAM backbone.

This JAM backbone has been used by GoI for implementing almost all its poverty alleviation schemes via DBT (direct benefit transfer). The beneficiary is physically identified using biometric based Aadhar, money transferred directly to beneficiary’s newly opened aadhar linked bank account and he/she gets confirmation vis SMS on his mobile phone again linked to his aadhar/bank account. Thus for the first time 100% of the intended help is reaching its actual beneficiary, bypassing all middlemen, just at the click of a button by the govts (state & central). The leakages and pilferages have been almost fully plugged. 

Leaving aside Govt’s routine DBT schemes (MNREGA, PM-Awas, PM-Kisan etc), just assessing the role of DBT scheme in Govt’s covid relief efforts will highlight what a lifesaver it has been in providing succor and relief to the poor in these harrowing covid times. Just in the early days of first lockdown, between Mar 24-17Apr 2020, total of Rs 27,442 crores were transferred directly to 11.42 crore beneficiaries under various central govt schemes. In addition, various state govts used the JAM backbone to transfer Rs 9217 crores during the early days of lockdown. Till Oct 2020, 47 crore beneficiaries received Rs 1.4 Lakh crores of DBT relief under various govt schemes. No wonder India did not see food/money shortage riots which were seen across the world, not sparing even developed nations. 

LPG gas connections- Modi govt started a speedy rollout of LPG gas connections for the poor, named “Ujjwala” scheme. LPG coverage increased from 55% in 2014 to 90% in 2019, on the back of rapid rollout under Ujjwala scheme. Almost 8 crore new connections were given to the poor in its first term by the Govt. While us city folks may not realize the value of this scheme, one has to only talk to few of the Ujjwala beneficiaries, most of whom spent a lifetime on smoky wooden chulhas, to understand what a LPG stove means in their lives. 

Tap water for poor households – Started in 2019 as Jal Jeevan Mission, aims at providing functional tap water connection to every household by 2024. It is progressing at a frenetic pace. Over 5 crore tap water connections have been provided already as of Oct 2021. Again, we city folks may take tap water as for granted, its value in lives of population, esp ladies, who had to trek many miles to fetch clean water, is huge. 

No wonder, Modi is gaming most elections. While biased leli reporters/commenatators attribute Modi’s electoral success to event management, a clueless opposition even goes a step further, attributing it to EVM hacking. Little do they realize that with his deft implementation of targeted welfare schemes, Modi has shaken the ground beneath their feet. The poor and the needy have been convinced that Modi in power is good for them,  as they have got real fruits of Govts welfare schemes for the first time in last seven decades. Modi has not hacked the EVMs but the poor man’s mind has been hacked by him for sure. 

Infrastructure and capacity building

The highways sector recently caught the media headlines when Modi Govt created a record of constructing 534 Km of National highway in a week. This govt has upped the rate of road making from around 11 km/day in 2014 to 28 Km/day in Jan 2021 and aims to take it up further. The NH network increased from approx 90,000 km in 2014 to around 1.4 Lakh Km in 2021, a whopping 55% increase in last 7 years. 

PM Modi recently inaugurated a greenfield international airport at Kushinagar in eastern UP close to Bihar border. It is likely to give a major boost to poor eastern UPA/Bihar belt. At the inauguration ceremony, PM declared an aim to setup more than 200 airports/heliports/water dome in next 4 years. May sound ambitious, but given the “speed and scale” record of this Govt, it might just do it. More than 900 new air routes have been approved till Oct2021 under UDAN scheme (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) out of which 350 routes have already commenced air service. More than 50 greenfield/brownfield airports have been made operational by this Govt. Obscure places like Darbhanga, Hubbali, Rudrapur etc now find a proud place on the aviation map of India. And the list is rapidly growing. The total airports/airstrips in India is now more than 100. It stood at just 65 in six and half decades since independence, prior to Modi govt coming to power. 

Engg and medical colleges/hospitals – There were 7 AIIMS established in almost first seven decades post independence. It has been more than doubled to 15 AIIMS by this govt. 6 new IITs and 16 new IIITs have been opened by this govt in last 7 years. 7 new IIMs have been added by the Modi govt. Admissions to technical/professional courses have been largely standardized under  common exams. Engg admissions thru JEE, Medical admissions thru NEET, law courses thru CLAT etc. This has brought much relief to scores of harried students and their parents running around during entrance exam season. New Education policy framework is being drafted under an expert committee and will be rolled out soon. 

Startup ecosystem –  India has become the 3rd largest startup ecosystem in the world, behind US & China. 2021 has been a landmark year for Indian startups scene. 26 Indian startups have entered the unicorn club this year alone, witnessing a record number of IPOs. Average 3 startups are entering unicorn club every month, fastest in the world. Also in the future unicorns sector, called “gazelles” & “cheetahs”, India is growing at an exponential pace. Clearly the sector shows no signs of abating in near future. The govt alone cannot take all credit for this growth, but surely it has been an able incubator/facilitator and has done well in its “ease of doing business” (EODB) efforts, a primary component of any flourishing startups ecosystem. In fact India under Modi has improved its EODB rankings from 142nd rank to the current 63rd rank, a jump of whopping 79 places. Lot needs to be done for sure, but a lot has been done in a short span of time. Clearly good days are ahead for the startup sector. 

Covid vaccine response – As I write this blog on the 21st day of Oct, 2021, India just surpassed the 100 crore (1 billion) mark for the number of covid shots given. Starting in Feb 2021, India covered this journey at the fastest rate in the free world (Communist China officially did it faster but their data is always taken with a pinch of salt). India was among the first five countries to have developed its own indigenous covid vaccine, Covaxin from Bharat Biotech,  and followed it up with another indigenous vaccine, Zycov D from Zydus. In fact ZyCov D is the world’s first DNA plasmid based human vaccine for any disease, leave aside covid. It has opened a completely new vaccine platform for the world. Every covid shot administered in India is fully traceable up to the batch & bottle number details, based as it is on a aadhar based “Cowin” app platform. Shots are tracked real time and certificates generated online with no human interference, something which even first world has not been able to accomplish, as they are mostly issuing hand written certificates, often prone to tampering. 

While a many steps have been taken in other spheres too like economy, foreign relations, armed forces reorganization etc, I have touched mainly on the above sectors as they represent the building blocks for a resurgent, confident and prosperous India, free of poverty. The bhakts, often ridiculed by their peers, can rejoice that their faith in Modi is not misplaced and our country is indeed changing and how!! 

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