Here’s a fact check after Indian President's glowing tribute to the Narendra Modi government

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind addressed both houses of the Parliament, kickstarting the Budget sessionIANS
  • India’s President’s address was full of praises for Narendra Modi government.
  • However, some of the accolades may be exaggerated or not in sync with facts.
Ram Nath Kovind, India’s President for eighteen months, took the lead to give the country’s Parliament a report card on behalf of the four-and-a-half year old Narendra Modi government.

Kicking off the budget session of Parliament, Kovind, in a speech that lasted over an hour, gave a glowing tribute to the incumbent government that will be seek re-election in less than 100 days from now.

The following are some of the highlights of Kovind’s laudatory speech, each followed by facts that may question the President’s conviction about the Modi government’s performance.

1. “Compromising with security needs is not in interest of present & future of country. New deals in last year, purchase of defence equipment raised morale of defence. After decades, Indian Air Force will use ultramodern Rafale aircraft in coming months & strengthen itself.”

The government auditor – the Comptroller and Auditor General of India – is yet to submit its report on the government’s deal to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft for an undisclosed sum of money. Giving a clean chit to the government on the alleged irregularities may be premature.

2. “Youth are the greatest strength of our nation. India has the largest number of young people in the world, and the policy decisions of my Government have been inspired by the aspirations and dreams of young Indians of 21st century.”

The President said this on the day a report revealed that employment in the Indian economy was at its worst in 45 years, a labour survey that the government has not made public yet.

3. “GST has benefited businesses by bringing in more honesty and transparency."

In December 2018, the All India Manufacturers’ Organisation (AIMO), said small businesses across the country lost over 3.5 million job losses since 2014. The job losses were attributed to a 70% drop in operational profits in the MSME sector since 2014, according to K E Raghunathan, president of AIMO.

4. “By decreasing the burden of income tax and keeping the rate of inflation under control, the government has created new opportunities for expanding the savings of the middle class.”

Despite the government’s best intentions, the “current (consumer) sentiment on the general economic situation dipped further into the pessimistic zone” – this is the finding from a consumer confidence survey conducted in six Indian cities by the Reserve Bank of India. In fact, the consumer confidence is at its lowest it has been since Modi government took charge.

Indeed inflation has been low for much of the current government’s tenure, jobs have been scarce and income growth very tepid, making middle class consumers penny wise.

5. “Demonetisation was a defining moment in the govt’s war on corruption and black money. This decision struck at the very root of the parallel economy thriving on black money; and the money outside the formal system was brought within the ambit of nation’s economy.”

One of the defining steps against black money taken by the Modi government, by its own admission, was demonetisation. However, contrary to the hope that a big chunk of unaccounted cash stashed away will be left worthless, nearly all the banned notes have returned to the system.

What came to a grinding halt was the Indian economy leading to job losses.

6. “Government has approved ₹25,500 crores for ‘Namami Gange Mission’. By stopping the flow from dozens of big drains into the river, by stopping the industrial waste, and by setting up sewer treatment plants, my government has shown proactiveness to clean up Ganga.”

Indeed the money has been allotted and a lot has been spent, but is it working? India’s waterman Rajendra Singh believes that a clean Ganga may still be a distant dream.

7. "Government's digital plan is helping rural India."

Once again, one of the stated goals of demonetisation was to make India a cashless society and push people towards digital payments. It seemed to work in the initial days of the cash crunch, but soon after, people were back to using cash, and in fact, it is now more than before demonetisation.

8. “In 2014, only 59 village panchayats in the country had digital connectivity. Today, 1 lakh 16 thousand village panchayats are connected with optical fibre and about 40 thousand village panchayats have been provided with wi-fi hotspots.”

The other big pillar of the Digital India dream is to allow millions of Indian villagers access to internet through a broadband network that spans the length and breadth of the country.

The network has been laid for the first phase covering one lakh villages, but only 10% of the network is getting utilised. This has reportedly led to the department of telecom warning the two implementing agencies, as recently as last week.

India is ranked 91st among 139 countries on the Networked Readiness Index 2016, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF)).

9. “By enacting RERA law, my govt has ensured that construction of houses is completed and they are handed over to the buyers as scheduled. After enactment of this law, about 35,000 real estate projects have been registered where lakhs of houses are being constructed.”

The Real Estate Regulation Act is a potential game changer for India’s tainted real estate industry, infamous as a haven for ill-gotten wealth, but the reform measure has made little progress since it was rolled out in May 2017. “States have notified the act but, unfortunately, the structures of the RERA machinery in most of the states have not been put in place,” Samantak Das told the IANS in October 2018, adding that, “"After constituting a model act at the central level, the Union government has a role to look at whether the states are adhering to the central legislation and implementing it in true letter and spirit.”

10. “Be it cities or villages, the government is working at a fast pace to strengthen healthcare related infrastructure.”

The government last year set a target of raising annual health spending to 2.5% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, from 1.15% now-- which is one of the lowest proportions in the world.

Nepal (2.3%) and Sri Lanka (2%) spend more on healthcare than the government in India does.

11. “Thirty four crore bank accounts have been opened in the country because of ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ and almost every family is now connected to the banking system. Today, Rs 88,000 crore deposited in Jan Dhan accounts is a testimony to the changing saving habits.”

While it is true that the government pushed millions of Indians to have a bank account for the first time in their lives, it is still not a universal phenomenon.

According to an August 2018 report from NABARD, nearly 190 million people still do not have access to a bank. Only “49% households reported that at least one of their members had saved any money in an institution (banks, post office etc.),” according to the report.

12. "Our daughters are making remarkable contribution in every field today and have brought laurels to the country. It is for the first time since independence that the policies & programmes of the Govt have created numerous new opportunities for enterprise for women"

It is true that there are more conversations about ending the discrimination against women today than ever before, but it is a global phenomenon too. However, presidential speeches have little impact unless it is forced into practice, particularly among public personalities like members of Parliament.

In India’s political sphere, there is more sexism than oxygen in the air. Most recently the newly-appointed Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi was at the receiving end of jibes that called her ‘chocolate face’ and ‘Surpanakha’ (a demon from Hindu mythology).

But is not BJP’s forte alone. It’s something that unites the country’s political class more than anything else.

Meanwhile, in India’s booming private sector, 40% of women engineers in India do not have a job because the country’s corporate culture has a gender bias.

See Also:
Unemployment in India is at its highest in 45 years – says an Indian daily citing an undisclosed jobs survey

Indian government commits to increasing public health spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025—but is that enough?
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