A reformer by conviction
September 19, 2020
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India has had no dearth of skilled politicians — some good at public administration and some good at public welfare. However, what India has truly missed is having a leader at the helm who is a genuine reformer by conviction. We’ve had politicians who’ve displayed foreign degrees and also articulated a great vision. But when it came to genuinely implementing reforms which make a difference in the lives of people, most politicians have not been able to pass the test. This applies to most of our past prime ministers too. P V Narasimha Rao oversaw one of the most reform-oriented eras in our country, but were these reforms truly carried out with conviction or borne out of compulsion? Things are not always black and white, but what is clear are the missed opportunities during the UPA’s rule from 2004-14. An economist became the prime minister but sadly the country saw no new reforms implemented. Was this omission by choice or compulsion? Perhaps only Manmohan Singh can answer this.

The last few years under Narendra Modi have seen the most reform activity ever under any government of India. It was not without reason that Barack Obama called Modi “India’s reformer in chief”. After 10 years of reforms inertia, India saw a slew of reforms because Modi is not a reformer by compulsion but by conviction.

For decades, reforms used to be the sole prerogative of economists and pink papers, as if the common man had nothing to do with them. Modi has changed this system and brought reforms to the centre of public discourse. He has demonstrated to the people how reforms transform their lives. Reforms carried out by PM Modi have brought about a positive change in the lives of crores of Indians. His interventions are not limited to earning plaudits from arm-chair experts but intended to bring real-world change.

Just look at the momentous reforms undertaken in the field of agriculture. India has had dozens of farmer leaders but none took steps to empower farmers. A doctor or an engineer or a lawyer could sell his services to anyone in any part of the country, but a farmer could not sell his produce to anyone except the mandi in his town. This led to a vicious cycle of low remuneration and low technology adoption for the farmers as a result of these prohibitive rules. In one fell swoop, reforms by the Modi Government have ensured that farmers can sell their produce to anyone outside his mandi. This will empower him to sell where he gets a better price and also grow what gets him a better price. Now he will also be able to enter into an agreement to grow and sell specifically to a private player. This will not only bring more stability to his income but will also improve the adoption of modern techniques and technology.

Politicians are often blamed for not being able to envisage the second and third-order effects. However, Modi’s legacy contains reforms which have positive externalities. The IBC has empowered lenders to get back their money while liberating entrepreneurs from the stigma of failed enterprises and enabling them to make a fresh start. RERA is not only removing the information asymmetry and securing buyers’ money but also accelerating project completion. The entry of private enterprises in India’s space sector will make it a win-win proposition for both the sector and the common man.

One constant feature of PM Modi’s governance has been how he is making different sectors more competitive by involving market forces. Today, commercial coal mining is a reality. FDI has been permitted or increased in insurance, real estate, defence, etc. GST would have remained a dream had PM Modi not shown the courage to implement it and spend his political capital on this important reform. To the critics of GST implementation, I would like to ask, should we have waited for another decade for a 100 per cent perfect GST? Sometimes it is better to implement with an open mind rather than not implement at all.

Political scientists and experts often don’t realise a Modi wave till it sweeps the entire opposition off its feet in the results. This is because the Modi wave is not an election phenomenon. The Modi wave has been constructed bit by bit over five years, as people get the direct benefits of good governance and reforms, which they could not see for 70 years. When a poor household gets a gas connection, toilet, house or direct benefit in its bank account, it is because of a reformed process of governance. When a middle-class household gets an income tax refund in weeks or gets cheaper medicines or saves time in daily travel due to a metro, it is because of a reformed process of governance. When an entrepreneur gets faster clearances and one of the world’s lowest corporate tax rates, it is because of a reformed process of governance.

Irrespective of what the political pundits or arm-chair economists feel, 130 crore Indians have seen the impact of Narendra Modi’s reforms in their lives and are giving their stamp of approval through their vote.

Pariksha Pe Charcha with PM Modi
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Why the PM commands an audience
April 09, 2021
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His core remains rooted in ground realities. His practical knowledge emanates from the earthy wisdom that forms the bedrock of Indian civilisation.

One wonders how one of the most powerful men in the world, dealing with numerous important decisions at any given point of time, still finds time to share a piece of his life’s collected wisdom with children. He has, in the truest sense, been a guide and a mentor, giving booster shots of confidence, year after year, to students preparing for exams.

Pariksha Pe Charcha has become a breath of fresh air for students. With everyone around them in a deep frenzy about exams, results, and a career, Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes across as a man with a sense of balance and farsightedness. The life lessons he distils for children come from his lived experiences.

Be it the PM’s memory hack of involving, internalising, associating and visualising a lesson than just trying to memorise it, or his formula for parents to not only stay young but also reduce the generation gap — these are things he has observed in his vast experience of living all across India. It seems simple but is actually the result of a lifetime spent observing human behaviour. The way Modi is able to observe routine interactions and bring out such insightful lessons from them is extraordinary.

During Pariksha Pe Charcha 2021, in order to allay the fear of a student regarding difficult subjects or questions during exams, PM Modi took a leaf out of his own book. He said instead of running away from tough topics, why not take them head-on first thing in the morning? As chief minister of Gujarat and now as prime minister, he applies the same principle to his daily routine, he said. Anything that requires extra effort or seems complicated, he picks up first thing in the morning with a fresh mind. What he finds easy and has a marginal scope of error, he leaves for later. This goes against our usual instinct of picking up what is easy first and then moving on to difficult parts. But it could be because we are instinctively scared to deal with hard tasks and are more likely to procrastinate or sit on them indefinitely.

The examples he quotes give an insight into a man who has risen to the top, but only after going through his fair share of struggles and disappointments and eventually finding a way through. This is the reason there is an instant connect people feel with him as he dissects human behaviour and motivations at a deeper level.

Take, for instance, his answer when a seemingly distressed parent from Punjab asked PM Modi how to ensure that kids do what is expected of them without having to run behind him. This is, in fact, a common refrain among parents, often leading to children withdrawing into their shell or acting out in a way that bewilders parents. But the PM’s reply to the question gave enough food for thought to parents regarding where the problem emanates from.

Instead of realising a child’s unique potential, parents try to box them into pre-existing societal norms and structures. He rightly pointed out that we tend to neglect an extremely important step — training the mind towards self-motivated action. Training cannot take place in isolation. It is part of a child’s daily experience at home. By introducing children to the benefits of inculcating a habit in creative ways instead of constant nagging, parents can lay the ground for moulding their mind in a certain way. This opens up the possibility of a child feeling motivated enough to make it a part of his routine. This would not only save parents’ energy but also create a positive, more open environment for children to engage with parents without feeling stressed or threatened.

Often, to have such insights into a child’s mind, one has to be a child psychologist or someone who has children of his or her own. But PM Modi does not belong to either of these two categories. Yet, his knowledge is not derived from books, but is earned through a lifetime of lived experience, especially from his pre-CM days, when he travelled extensively all across his state and the country. His discernment of human behaviour is reflective of having spent a considerable amount of time studying families closely.

Despite holding the highest office in the country and enjoying wide-scale popularity that is achieved once in a century, PM Modi does not indulge in impractical grandstanding or complicated jargon. Even after being at the centre of the most powerful circle of people, he has a rare ability to think like a person who’s a part of every family in India.

His core remains rooted in ground realities. His voice is the voice of a common man. His values are reflective of the best values of any average Indian family. His practical knowledge emanates from the earthy wisdom that forms the bedrock of Indian civilisation.