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On March 24th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the few heads of government who had announced a stringent nationwide lockdown, for 21 straight days. At a time when India was seething with anger at China for its aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Modi took the decision to direct Indian consulates in China to approach factories that produce RT-PCR kits and load them on aircraft specially dispatched from New Delhi. Over the next several weeks, the prime minister followed a punishing schedule of considered decision-making, determined to win the battle against the spread of Covid-19. It was past midnight sometime in August when he chanced upon a report that showed the rising incidence of influenza-like cases in a remote district of Tripura. Modi dialled Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb in Agartala, without any hesitation about the late hour, and directed him to collect information urgently, hold a meeting with his administration and get back to him (Modi) with a detailed action-planned report by the next afternoon. Modi was relieved when the report that reached him the next day noted that the incidence of flu in the specified area was not uncommon during that time of the year. Deb added that efforts were being made on a war-footing by the local administration to contain its spread. That is a hectic pace that Modi has kept up through the many weeks of lockdown and the unwavering battle against the spread of the coronavirus and its fatalities.

There’s an interesting public health study published by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) on ‘Lessons learned from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota’ that resonates, at multiple levels, with the measures taken by the Modi Government in the wake of the Covid pandemic, the biggest in a century. The study outlines in detail the struggles faced by civilians with timely but controversial decisions on public lockdown and mandatory mask usage imposed by medical health experts in both towns to pummel the spread and fatalities. Of particular concern was the reluctance to report infections due to imposed isolation and the larger inclination to focus on positive news during the sensitive time of war. As with Covid infections, there were many unknowns that both the civil administration and the medical fraternity had to battle. With comparatively limited progress in science, there were many imponderables—they believed it was a bacterial outbreak, for starters—to deal with urgently. And city administrators rose heroically and firmly to the task. The Spanish Flu (February 1918 to April 1920) killed more than 50 million people worldwide.

A century later, in India on March 24th, when Modi announced the politically risky decision to impose a countrywide lockdown, not much was known about the nature of the spread of the virus. Governments of countries reacted with shock and awe initially but had to grudgingly accept later that this was a bold and imperative decision for a nation of over 1.3 billion people. In spite of a heads-up, many nations, including the UK, had not opted for a lockdown and had to pay a high price on public health consequently. Months down the line, India has just crossed the one crore mark in Covid infections, second only to the US in reported cases. But the recovery rate of infected patients is no longer in the red zone and in many states, many public amenities and private businesses have begun to reopen, signalling an upturn in the economy, albeit still with conditionalities and caution. There is a general consensus now—despite the campaign by Modi baiters—that the infections and fatalities could have been worse, many times over, had a stringent decision, however unpopular, not been taken by the head of the Government. This, on locking down public amenities, banning big gatherings and directing mandatory use of masks and physical distancing.

Tried and tested templates for leadership exist only in armchair leadership manuals and management textbooks. Real decisions are actually forged in the rough and tumble of life experiences, in the crucible of challenges, shaped by considered risk-taking, a big leap of faith, boldness and compassion. A case study only emerges as a final product after many improvisations, testing alternative approaches and after key decision-makers switch from one set of solutions to another, experimenting with tailored responses and drawing the most appropriate inferences from constantly unfolding events. The successful solutions eventually adopted are then identified with the decision-maker as his or her model.

In responding to the pandemic, Modi displayed a firm belief in optimising social capital and the power of the collective. No leader proved as acutely aware that when a nation is up against a dangerous enemy, strategising cannot be left to health workers or administrators alone

In the past, whenever a large crisis hit the nation, the public tended to view the response of those in power and the policies unleashed with more than a little suspicion. Devoid of considered and informed policy initiatives, they either threw money at the problem in the hope that it would go away or drowned out critics and turned up the hallelujahs from acolytes. A noticeable trust deficit in the leadership persisted especially since the key decision-makers were regular shape shifters and breakers of promise. In September 2008, when the fourth-largest investment bank in the US, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy, the ripples hit several economies hard worldwide. This was a bigger crisis than that of Enron’s or WorldCom’s and its impact was felt in hundreds of development projects and rendered economies fragile. India’s GDP growth took a hit and plunged to 6.2 per cent in 2008-2009 compared to the earlier 9.32 per cent. ICICI was the bank most affected, thanks mostly to the exposure to Lehman Brothers by its UK arm. Investors and customers panicked in a big way here. Also affected were the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Punjab National Bank (PNB), although to a lesser extent. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor at the time, D Subba Rao, said they used both “conventional and unconventional methods” to minimise the negative impact. The Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) and Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) were cut, foreign exchange liquidity was eased through liberal norms for External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) and Non-Resident Indian (NRI) inflows and interest rates were cut by an unprecedented 1 per cent. Also, lines of credit were extended to not just banks but mutual funds and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs). The package was that of a rattled, clueless Government throwing money in barrels at the problem in the hope that it would go away. A huge waste of public money ensued, ballooning delinquency on the part of borrowers, with no attendant benefits to the people that they were actually meant for. It is entirely another matter that the acolytes the Government nurtured drowned out criticism and intimidated detractors into
suspending all disbelief.

WITH HIS DECISIVE end-March nationwide lockdown that came despite widespread misgivings, Modi punctured the concerted attempts by his critics—they mainly pointed to the exodus of distressed migrant workers from cities back to their villages—to showcase him as a populist inclined to edicts, buoyed by a hegemonic political belief. Their mockery of his use of a widely practised religious-cultural gesture (banging thalis and clapping hands in honour of medical workers at the forefront of the fight against Covid) to gain wide support for the “self-imposed janata curfew” as a trial run on people’s support for the 21-day lockdown that would follow was a key case in point. In the immutable narrative of the so-called progressives, Modi was an authoritarian leader with strong impulses rooted in his upbringing in the Hindutva ideology of the Sangh Parivar. ‘Disdain drivers’ among Modi baiters had fuelled this narrative to argue that his decisions, whether on battling Covid or with demonetisation, were divorced from the considered public good and alienated from reasoned policy-making.

Modi’s leadership in the fight against the Wuhan-origin virus, however, highlighted how difficult it was to rigidly box the prime minister in the dogmatic constructs of his most strident critics, in both politics and civil society. Contrary to the contrived perception-engineering by his detractors that he heeded solely his own and often uninformed counsel, marginalising expert advice (Modi himself has publicly weighed in on the side of ‘hard work’ as opposed to Harvard), the prime minister widely consulted experts, public health policy-makers, virologists and medical personnel when the extent of the crisis first became clear, before deciding to ban flights to India. That ban came a whole week before even the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 officially a pandemic. Announcing a nationwide lockdown despite the risk of a tanking popularity rating staring him in the face could not have been easy. Not an easy task, by any means, given the size and demographic complexity of the subcontinent, multiplicity of opinions and a political class opposed to his every move. But Modi prevailed and went ahead with preparing the nation to face the problem despite the fact that a pandemic of this proportion had not been witnessed by the world or India in a century. And that the institutional experience of the country to tackle it was virtually nil. Resources were scarce, facilities were limited and everything, from hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, containment centres, ambulances, medical and paramedical personnel, hazmat suits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, sanitisers, Covid combat literacy, to even face masks, appeared to be in short supply. The logistical challenges alone seemed insurmountable. In opting for a decisive response, the prime minister was ostensibly setting himself up for a Himalayan failure, a political self-goal.

But Modi did not wait. Unlike his counterparts, US President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro (both of whom tested positive for Covid-19 later), he did not shun advice. India was among the first countries to ban international flights, with a 24X7 monitoring system firmly in place. In the initial phase of the battle, he realised it was necessary to slow the spread of infection and did not balk at using innovative and imaginative ways to prepare citizens to face the problem by encouraging a voluntary, people-driven ‘janata lockdown’.

The period was used to fortify logistics and urgently ramp up facilities, PPE kits, ventilators, etcetera. Synchronising the logistics across India in an effort of this proportion, with a virus strain about which information was still nebulous, would be exhausting. In the second phase of governmental action, Modi harnessed trains and flights to methodically and expeditiously address the issue of essential commodity supply for locked-in citizens, especially from the economically weaker sections. Trains transported grains to the entire country and while existing programmes on the Public Distribution System (PDS) were reinforced, newly tailored ones targeted them aggressively to the needy, even beyond the officially registered poor. Flights were pressed into service to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in other countries: students, business people, pilgrims and tourists. India was among the first to do this, even as desperate Pakistani citizens posted videos on the internet crying for urgent rescue from strict lockdowns in other countries. Further down the road, the Government would tailor programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, to help the poor tide over their hardship during the lockdown. Announced in March at a cost of Rs 1.7 lakh crore, it was later extended till November, into the Diwali-Chhat Puja period, at an additional cost of Rs 90,000 crore, to benefit over 80 crore of the poor, with the supply of five kilograms of rice or wheat and one kilogram of pulses for free per month, during the lockdown.

Trains transported grains to the entire country. Flights evacuated Indian citizens stranded in other countries. The government tailored programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, to help the poor at a cost of Rs 1.7 lakh crore

Modi’s detractors pegged a bulk of their attacks to his policy-making during the Covid period by hyping the unprecedented exodus of thousands of jobless migrant workers—many, including the old and very young, were on foot or bicycles, braving police action and enforced state government detention and isolation in terrible conditions—from urban centres back home to their villages. Less than four months into the lockdown, Modi launched an employment scheme for migrant workers who returned to villages in their home states. The Rs 50,000 crore job scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, was implemented on mission mode in 125 days across 116 districts in six states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha) that received the most number of returning migrant workers. The works covered rural housing for the poor, plantations, drinking water provision through the Jal Jeevan Mission, construction of panchayat bhavans, community toilets, rural roads and mandis, cattle sheds and Anganwadi Bhavans.

There is a tendency to tar all populist leaders with the same brush, but Modi adopted a course that was divorced from other populist leaders. Choosing to lead by example, he aggressively promoted the use of a face mask in public regularly by appearing fully masked on public television. At some events, he chose to use a gamchha, or a locally made cotton towel used all over rural India, to advertise the need for face mask of any sort to protect both oneself and others from Covid. In this, he was distinct from both Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom had often scoffed at the ‘fear mongering’ over Covid and even ridiculed the effectiveness of masks for protection against infection. Unlike them, Modi also chose to take firm control of decision-making centrally, instead of delegating responsibility in an uncoordinated mess to innumerable regional centres. Brazil’s Bolsonaro, in studied contrast, had called the pandemic a “little flu” and maintained that the cost of a nationwide lockdown would be worse than the disease itself. In Mexico, where thousands had succumbed to the infection, President Andrés López Obrador was compelled to reactivate the economy even while infections were rapidly rising. In the US, by mid-November, a staggering 250,000 had died of Covid. In comparison, by end-November, India, with a much bigger population, had only witnessed 1.33 lakh deaths due to Covid.

Thanks to proactive measures, as early as May this year, India had become the second-largest maker of PPE kits for medical and paramedical personnel on the frontlines, next only to China. From a situation of import, the Government quickly pulled out all stops to ensure that from only one lakh PPE kits per day, India moved to making a peak 2.06 lakh PPE kits daily. In January, it was importing 2.7 lakh PPE kits. By May, India was able to create a buffer stock of 16 lakh PPE kits, even exported 23 lakh more to the UK and some African nations. More than 600 companies had been lab-certified to make quality-tested PPE kits. Automakers were asked to make ventilators and many alcohol producers switched swiftly to making essential alcohol-based sanitisers. Thousands in home isolation, including self-help groups (SHGs), micro ventures and cooperative groups, started making affordable and disposable/non-disposable cloth masks even as it became clear that surgical masks were not imperative. Ventilator production was upped from a mere 2,500 in February to almost 6,000 by March. By August, 60,000 home-produced ventilators were part of government buys. By July, 18,000 ventilators had been supplied to government hospitals across the country. In comparison, the total Indian market for ventilators in 2019 was a mere 8,195.

Trains transported grains to the entire country. Flights evacuated Indian citizens stranded in other countries. The government tailored programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, to help the poor at a cost of Rs 1.7 lakh crore

Modi’s determination to enable India to triumph in the battle against Covid persisted in the face of derision and attacks. The concerted disdain, harnessing every issue from the economic impact to joblessness to his efforts at earning the cooperation of an embattled citizenry by encouraging them to ring bells and light lamps to honour medical professionals, all of this peaked with the demonising of his motives and questioning of his intentions about the distress of migrant labourers.

Responding swiftly to each trial thrown up by the war against Covid, Modi displayed a firm belief in optimising social capital and in the power of the collective. No leader of a government proved as acutely aware that when a nation is up against a dangerous enemy of unknown strength, the strategising cannot be left to health workers or administrators alone. It cannot be won without enlisting a majority of the citizenry.

By successfully doing this, he achieved three goals: One, he shored up the morale of the health professionals who were working against heavy odds. Both Italy and Spain faltered in the initial months because of lack of support for health professionals and had to send SOS messages to Cuba, which had beaten back infections significantly, as had Vietnam. Second, he raised their status to the level of soldiers on the border, giving them a central position in a critical national mission. Third, at a time when calls for defunding the police were peaking in the US, he heaped praise on the police for doing their duty in a time of crisis. This, despite widespread reports of police personnel indulging in overzealousness against lockdown violators. Modi knew that valorisation of the police force was imperative to keep law and order from disintegrating. His studied response was to only signal state governments to reopen economies when the danger on both infection count and fatalities was reduced. It was time then to switch the focus from protecting lives to protecting livelihoods. None of these decisions was universally supported or adhered to without question in a country where indifference to ordinary rules and resistance to following protocol were commonplace—and in a prolonged situation of dwindling incomes, job losses, and other attendant forms of distress. None of these was guaranteed to translate into a political super bonus. Yet, Modi persisted.

Among the toughest battles that Modi may have to fight in the context of Covid-19 will be its adverse impact on the economy, which contracted by 23.9 per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year. Government data showed that all sectors of the economy, with the exception of agriculture, shrank in the first quarter. Economists have projected that India’s economy may be among the worst hit by Covid, well up to 2025. Some estimates say that growth could drop to only 5 per cent from the 6 per cent prior to lockdown and over 7 per cent before the global financial crisis. The bad news on this front seemed unending. A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) survey pegged India’s GDP growth at (-)4.5 per cent for FY21, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) pegged that at a 4 per cent contraction and Moody’s forecast an 11.5 per cent contraction in India’s economic growth in FY21. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that GDP will shrink 10.3 per cent in the year till March 2021 as a consequence of the nationwide lockdown freezing all economic activity. A recent HSBC Holdings Plc study projected a 4.5 per cent potential growth over the next five years, lower than the 6.5 per cent before Covid hit the economy. An RBI paper worryingly pointed to a historic technical recession in Asia’s third-largest economy.

But there are already indications of the shoots of economic recovery as activities gradually resume and a sharp rebound has been forecast by some economists. Automobile, real estate, horticulture and nurseries, online retail trade and online education have all begun to show robust growth. None of the doomsaying by economists has, however, deterred Modi. Critics have been aggressively pushing for largescale measures to boost demand. Throwing money at the problem would be an easy, popular option. But the lessons learnt from the 2008 package have prompted Modi to reject these exhortations for jumbo relief measures. With the economy already under stress, Modi has chosen to take measured steps towards boosting recovery and growth and not give in to the loud chorus. He has prioritised focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws besides targeting cottage industries, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the working class and the middle class—in that order—for spurring growth. It is a leap of faith that he is confident will pay off handsomely for India, in terms of growth.

In her book Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times, business historian Nancy Koehn chronicles the lives of five extraordinary people who found themselves at the centre of a crisis but battled turmoil, long odds and trials by fire to become stellar examples of determination and leadership. Abraham Lincoln, former US president, was shaped by the decisions he was compelled to make to keep the Union together despite the heavy death toll in the Civil War. Rachel Carson, marine biologist and nature writer who empowered the global environmental movement, quietly but firmly took on a powerful pesticide lobby with her path-breaking book Silent Spring. Talking about the protagonists and how battling crises shaped them, Koehn said, ‘If you read their stories, you realise that part of what fuels each of them…is the mission. The goodness of what they’re trying to do gives them the energy to take the next step. It’s not like they wake up and are born with the genes of Jesus or that they’ve been endowed with a prophet’s sense of purpose…’ Narendra Modi could well fit that bill. In the crucible of his time in New Delhi, the leadership skills of India’s prime minister have been forged by fire.

Modi’s detractors pegged a bulk of their attacks to his policy-making during the Covid period by hyping the unprecedented exodus of thousands of jobless migrant workers—many, including the old and very young, were on foot or bicycles, braving police action and enforced state government detention and isolation in terrible conditions—from urban centres back home to their villages. Less than four months into the lockdown, Modi launched an employment scheme for migrant workers who returned to villages in their home states. The Rs 50,000 crore job scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, was implemented on mission mode in 125 days across 116 districts in six states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha) that received the most number of returning migrant workers. The works covered rural housing for the poor, plantations, drinking water provision through the Jal Jeevan Mission, construction of panchayat bhavans, community toilets, rural roads and mandis, cattle sheds and Anganwadi Bhavans.

There is a tendency to tar all populist leaders with the same brush, but Modi adopted a course that was divorced from other populist leaders. Choosing to lead by example, he aggressively promoted the use of a face mask in public regularly by appearing fully masked on public television. At some events, he chose to use a gamchha, or a locally made cotton towel used all over rural India, to advertise the need for face mask of any sort to protect both oneself and others from Covid. In this, he was distinct from both Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom had often scoffed at the ‘fear mongering’ over Covid and even ridiculed the effectiveness of masks for protection against infection. Unlike them, Modi also chose to take firm control of decision-making centrally, instead of delegating responsibility in an uncoordinated mess to innumerable regional centres. Brazil’s Bolsonaro, in studied contrast, had called the pandemic a “little flu” and maintained that the cost of a nationwide lockdown would be worse than the disease itself. In Mexico, where thousands had succumbed to the infection, President Andrés López Obrador was compelled to reactivate the economy even while infections were rapidly rising. In the US, by mid-November, a staggering 250,000 had died of Covid. In comparison, by end-November, India, with a much bigger population, had only witnessed 1.33 lakh deaths due to Covid.

Thanks to proactive measures, as early as May this year, India had become the second-largest maker of PPE kits for medical and paramedical personnel on the frontlines, next only to China. From a situation of import, the Government quickly pulled out all stops to ensure that from only one lakh PPE kits per day, India moved to making a peak 2.06 lakh PPE kits daily. In January, it was importing 2.7 lakh PPE kits. By May, India was able to create a buffer stock of 16 lakh PPE kits, even exported 23 lakh more to the UK and some African nations. More than 600 companies had been lab-certified to make quality-tested PPE kits. Automakers were asked to make ventilators and many alcohol producers switched swiftly to making essential alcohol-based sanitisers. Thousands in home isolation, including self-help groups (SHGs), micro ventures and cooperative groups, started making affordable and disposable/non-disposable cloth masks even as it became clear that surgical masks were not imperative. Ventilator production was upped from a mere 2,500 in February to almost 6,000 by March. By August, 60,000 home-produced ventilators were part of government buys. By July, 18,000 ventilators had been supplied to government hospitals across the country. In comparison, the total Indian market for ventilators in 2019 was a mere 8,195.

Trains transported grains to the entire country. Flights evacuated Indian citizens stranded in other countries. The government tailored programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, to help the poor at a cost of Rs 1.7 lakh crore

Modi’s determination to enable India to triumph in the battle against Covid persisted in the face of derision and attacks. The concerted disdain, harnessing every issue from the economic impact to joblessness to his efforts at earning the cooperation of an embattled citizenry by encouraging them to ring bells and light lamps to honour medical professionals, all of this peaked with the demonising of his motives and questioning of his intentions about the distress of migrant labourers.

Responding swiftly to each trial thrown up by the war against Covid, Modi displayed a firm belief in optimising social capital and in the power of the collective. No leader of a government proved as acutely aware that when a nation is up against a dangerous enemy of unknown strength, the strategising cannot be left to health workers or administrators alone. It cannot be won without enlisting a majority of the citizenry.

By successfully doing this, he achieved three goals: One, he shored up the morale of the health professionals who were working against heavy odds. Both Italy and Spain faltered in the initial months because of lack of support for health professionals and had to send SOS messages to Cuba, which had beaten back infections significantly, as had Vietnam. Second, he raised their status to the level of soldiers on the border, giving them a central position in a critical national mission. Third, at a time when calls for defunding the police were peaking in the US, he heaped praise on the police for doing their duty in a time of crisis. This, despite widespread reports of police personnel indulging in overzealousness against lockdown violators. Modi knew that valorisation of the police force was imperative to keep law and order from disintegrating. His studied response was to only signal state governments to reopen economies when the danger on both infection count and fatalities was reduced. It was time then to switch the focus from protecting lives to protecting livelihoods. None of these decisions was universally supported or adhered to without question in a country where indifference to ordinary rules and resistance to following protocol were commonplace—and in a prolonged situation of dwindling incomes, job losses, and other attendant forms of distress. None of these was guaranteed to translate into a political super bonus. Yet, Modi persisted.

Among the toughest battles that Modi may have to fight in the context of Covid-19 will be its adverse impact on the economy, which contracted by 23.9 per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year. Government data showed that all sectors of the economy, with the exception of agriculture, shrank in the first quarter. Economists have projected that India’s economy may be among the worst hit by Covid, well up to 2025. Some estimates say that growth could drop to only 5 per cent from the 6 per cent prior to lockdown and over 7 per cent before the global financial crisis. The bad news on this front seemed unending. A Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) survey pegged India’s GDP growth at (-)4.5 per cent for FY21, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) pegged that at a 4 per cent contraction and Moody’s forecast an 11.5 per cent contraction in India’s economic growth in FY21. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that GDP will shrink 10.3 per cent in the year till March 2021 as a consequence of the nationwide lockdown freezing all economic activity. A recent HSBC Holdings Plc study projected a 4.5 per cent potential growth over the next five years, lower than the 6.5 per cent before Covid hit the economy. An RBI paper worryingly pointed to a historic technical recession in Asia’s third-largest economy.

But there are already indications of the shoots of economic recovery as activities gradually resume and a sharp rebound has been forecast by some economists. Automobile, real estate, horticulture and nurseries, online retail trade and online education have all begun to show robust growth. None of the doomsaying by economists has, however, deterred Modi. Critics have been aggressively pushing for largescale measures to boost demand. Throwing money at the problem would be an easy, popular option. But the lessons learnt from the 2008 package have prompted Modi to reject these exhortations for jumbo relief measures. With the economy already under stress, Modi has chosen to take measured steps towards boosting recovery and growth and not give in to the loud chorus. He has prioritised focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws besides targeting cottage industries, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the working class and the middle class—in that order—for spurring growth. It is a leap of faith that he is confident will pay off handsomely for India, in terms of growth.

In her book Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times, business historian Nancy Koehn chronicles the lives of five extraordinary people who found themselves at the centre of a crisis but battled turmoil, long odds and trials by fire to become stellar examples of determination and leadership. Abraham Lincoln, former US president, was shaped by the decisions he was compelled to make to keep the Union together despite the heavy death toll in the Civil War. Rachel Carson, marine biologist and nature writer who empowered the global environmental movement, quietly but firmly took on a powerful pesticide lobby with her path-breaking book Silent Spring. Talking about the protagonists and how battling crises shaped them, Koehn said, ‘If you read their stories, you realise that part of what fuels each of them…is the mission. The goodness of what they’re trying to do gives them the energy to take the next step. It’s not like they wake up and are born with the genes of Jesus or that they’ve been endowed with a prophet’s sense of purpose…’ Narendra Modi could well fit that bill. In the crucible of his time in New Delhi, the leadership skills of India’s prime minister have been forged by fire.

'മൻ കി ബാത്തിനായുള്ള' നിങ്ങളുടെ ആശയങ്ങളും നിർദ്ദേശങ്ങളും ഇപ്പോൾ പങ്കിടുക!
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നടന്നു പോയിക്കോളും എന്ന മനോഭാവം മാറ്റാനുള്ള സമയമാണിത്, മാറ്റം വരുത്താനാവും എന്ന് ചിന്തിക്കുക: പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി മോദി
Modi govt's big boost for auto sector: Rs 26,000 crore PLI scheme approved; to create 7.5 lakh jobs

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Modi govt's big boost for auto sector: Rs 26,000 crore PLI scheme approved; to create 7.5 lakh jobs
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ഇന്ത്യയിൽ, വിമാനയാത്രയുടെ ജനാധിപത്യവൽക്കരണം: ജ്യോതിരാദിത്യ സിന്ധ്യ
August 28, 2021
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"പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി നരേന്ദ്ര മോദിയുടെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ കേന്ദ്രസർക്കാർ ഇന്ത്യയിൽ ശക്തവും താങ്ങാവുന്നതുമായ പ്രാദേശിക വ്യോമയാന സംവിധാനം കെട്ടിപ്പടുക്കുന്നതിനുള്ള മഹത്തായ ദൗത്യം ആരംഭിച്ചിട്ട് നാല് വർഷമായി. ഉഡാൻ പദ്ധതി അതിന്റെ പ്രഭാവത്തിൽ വളരെ പ്രധാനപ്പെട്ടതാണ്. ഇതുവരെ പരിഗണിക്കപ്പെടാത്ത മേഖലകളിലേക്കുള്ള കണക്റ്റിവിറ്റി.

ദർഭംഗ, ജാർസുഗുഡ, കടപ്പ, നാസിക്, ബെലഗാവി, ജഗദൽപൂർ, ഹുബ്ലി, കിഷൻഗഡ് തുടങ്ങിയ പ്രാദേശിക വിമാനത്താവളങ്ങളുടെ വികസനവും വിപുലീകരണവും മൂലം ഇന്ത്യയുടെ വ്യോമയാന ഭൂപടത്തിൽ പുതിയ ലക്ഷ്യസ്ഥാനങ്ങൾ കൊണ്ടുവന്നു, ഈ പ്രദേശങ്ങളിലെ പുതിയ സാമ്പത്തിക അവസരങ്ങൾ (ചരക്ക് പോലുള്ളവ) അഞ്ച് വർഷം മുമ്പ് വരെ പൂർണ്ണമായും അറിയാതെ പോയിരുന്നു.

ഉദാഹരണത്തിന്, സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യസമയത്ത് നിർമ്മിച്ചതും 1950 മുതൽ 1962 വരെ പൂർണ്ണമായി പ്രവർത്തിച്ചിരുന്നതുമായ ദർഭംഗ വിമാനത്താവളം വ്യോമയാന ഭൂപടത്തിൽ നിന്ന് തുടച്ചുനീക്കപ്പെട്ടു. ഉഡാൻ സ്കീമിന് കീഴിൽ ആ എയർസ്ട്രിപ്പിനെ പുനരുജ്ജീവിപ്പിച്ചു, ഇപ്പോൾ രാജ്യത്തിന്റെ മറ്റ് ഭാഗങ്ങളിലേക്കുള്ള വടക്കൻ ബീഹാറിന്റെ നിർണായക കവാടമായി ഇതു  മാറി. ഈ വിമാനത്താവളം ആറ് മുതൽ 10 പ്രധാന നഗരങ്ങളുമായി കണക്റ്റിവിറ്റി വാഗ്ദാനം ചെയ്യുന്നു, നിലവിൽ പ്രതിവർഷം 150,00 യാത്രക്കാരെ കൈകാര്യം ചെയ്യുന്നുണ്ട്.

ബെൽഗവി വിമാനത്താവളം വിദ്യാഭ്യാസ കേന്ദ്രമായ ബെൽഗാമിലേക്ക് വിദ്യാർത്ഥികൾക്ക് യാത്ര ചെയ്യാനുള്ള സൗകര്യം ഒരുക്കി. ചരക്ക് പ്രവർത്തനങ്ങൾക്കും ഈ വിമാനത്താവളത്തെ ഉപയോഗപ്പെടുത്തുന്നു, താമസിയാതെ ഒരു ഫ്ലൈറ്റ് ട്രെയിനിംഗ് സ്കൂളും ഇവിടെ പ്രവർത്തിപ്പിക്കും - എല്ലാം ഏതാനും വർഷങ്ങൾക്കുള്ളിലാണ് സാധ്യമായത്. അതുപോലെ, അസമിലെ റുപ്സി എയർപോർട്ട് നിലവിൽ അസമിലെ നാല് പ്രധാന ജില്ലകളിലും അയൽ സംസ്ഥാനങ്ങളായ പശ്ചിമ ബംഗാൾ, മേഘാലയ, ഭൂട്ടാന്റെ ചില ഭാഗങ്ങളിലും സേവനം നൽകുന്നു.

രണ്ടാം ലോകമഹായുദ്ധ കാലഘട്ടത്തിന്റെ മറ്റൊരു അവശിഷ്ടമായ ഒഡീഷയിലെ ജാർസുഗുഡ വിമാനത്താവളം 2019 ൽ പ്രവർത്തനത്തിനായി പുതുക്കി. ഇതിനുമുമ്പ്, മുഴുവൻ പടിഞ്ഞാറൻ ഒഡീഷ പ്രദേശം സംരക്ഷി, മാത്രമല്ല ഒഡീഷയിലെ ഏക വിമാനത്താവളം ജാർസഗുഡയിൽ നിന്ന് 339 കിലോമീറ്റർ അകലെയുള്ള ഭുവനേശ്വറിലായിരുന്നു.

UDAN പദ്ധതി സ്പെക്ട്രത്തിന്റെ മറുവശത്ത് അതായത്  എയർലൈൻ ഓപ്പറേറ്റർമാരുടെ കാര്യത്തിൽ നിരവധി വിജയ കഥകൾക്ക് ജന്മം നൽകി.  പുതിയ പ്രാദേശിക കാരിയറുകളുടെ വ്യാപനത്തിന് നാം സാക്ഷ്യം വഹിച്ചു, ചിലർ തങ്ങളുടെ ബിസിനസുകൾ ഉഡാൻ മാതൃകയിലേക്ക് മാറ്റി. കഴിഞ്ഞ രണ്ട് വർഷത്തിനുള്ളിൽ പ്രാദേശിക ഗതാഗത പദ്ധതിയായ-ഉഡാനിൽ എയർലൈൻ ഓപ്പറേറ്റർമാരുടെ പങ്കാളിത്തം അഞ്ചിൽ നിന്ന് 11 ആയി ഉയർന്നു.

കൂടാതെ, കഴിഞ്ഞ വർഷം കോവിഡ് -19 മൂലമുണ്ടായ തടസ്സങ്ങൾക്കിടയിലും ഞങ്ങൾക്ക് ഏഴ് വിമാനത്താവളങ്ങളും രണ്ട് ഹെലിപോർട്ടുകളും ഒരു വാട്ടർ എയറോഡ്രോമും പ്രവർത്തിപ്പിക്കാൻ കഴിഞ്ഞു.  എന്തുകൊണ്ടാണെന്ന് കാണുക.

നമ്മുടെ മെട്രോ റൂട്ടുകൾ ഇപ്പോൾത്തന്നെ വേണ്ടത്ര സേവനം നൽകുന്നുണ്ട്, ഡൽഹി, മുംബൈ തുടങ്ങിയ പ്രധാന വിമാനത്താവളങ്ങൾ ഇതിനകം തന്നെ യാത്രക്കാരെ കൈകാര്യം ചെയ്യാനുള്ള ശേഷിയുടെ ഉന്നതിയിലെത്തിക്കഴിഞ്ഞു. സിവിൽ ഏവിയേഷന്റെ വളർച്ചയ്ക്ക് ഇനി മുന്നോട്ടുള്ള പാത കൂടുതൽ പ്രാദേശികവും വിദൂരവുമായ കണക്റ്റിവിറ്റിയോടുകൂടിയതും കൂടുതൽ പരിഗണിക്കപ്പെടാത്തതും ഉപയോഗത്തിലില്ലാത്തതുമായ എയർപോർട്ടുകളും എയർസ്ട്രിപ്പുകളും നിർമ്മിക്കുകയും പ്രവർത്തിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുക എന്നതാണ്.

പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി പറഞ്ഞതുപോലെ, "ഹവായി ചപ്പൽ" ധരിക്കുന്ന ഒരു വ്യക്തിക്ക് പോലും "വിമാനത്തിൽ" സഞ്ചരിക്കാവുന്ന രീതിയിൽ സിവിൽ ഏവിയേഷനെ ഇത് അടിസ്ഥാനപരമായി മാറ്റും.

വ്യോമയാത്രയുടെ ജനാധിപത്യവൽക്കരണവും സിവിൽ ഏവിയേഷനായി ഉയർന്ന അളവിലുള്ളതും കുറഞ്ഞ നിരക്കിലുള്ളതുമായ ഒരു മാതൃക തുറക്കുന്നതിലൂടെ, ഇന്ത്യയിലെ ടെലികോം വിപ്ലവത്തിന്റെ പാതയിൽ, എയർ കാർഗോ പോലുള്ള അനുബന്ധ മേഖലകളിലും അത് വളരെ ശ്രദ്ധേയമായ സ്വാധീനം ചെലുത്തുമെന്ന് മാത്രമല്ല, കോവിഡ് -19 കാലയളവിൽ അത് കുതിച്ചുയർന്നിരുന്നു. അന്താരാഷ്ട്ര ചരക്ക് ബിസിനസ്സിലെ ഇന്ത്യൻ കാരിയറുകളുടെ വിഹിതം കഴിഞ്ഞ രണ്ട് വർഷത്തിനുള്ളിൽ 2% ൽ നിന്ന് 19% ആയി ഉയർന്നു.

ലോക്ക്ഡൗൺ സമയത്ത്, എയർ കാർഗോ അവശ്യവസ്തുക്കൾക്ക് മാത്രമല്ല, നമ്മുടെ കർഷകർക്കും പെട്ടെന് കേടാവുന്ന കാർഷികോൽപ്പന്നങ്ങൾ പ്രത്യേകിച്ച് വടക്കുകിഴക്കൻ ഭാഗങ്ങളിൽ നിന്ന് അയയ്ക്കാനുള്ള ഒരു ജീവനാഡിയായിരുന്നു.  ഇപ്പോൾ, കൃഷി ഉഡാൻ സർക്കാരിന്റെ പ്രധാന പരിഗണനയായി മാറിയതിനാൽ, വ്യോമ ചരക്ക് ഗതാഗതം, ഇന്ത്യയിലെ സിവിൽ ഏവിയേഷൻ മേഖലയുടെ മൊത്തത്തിലുള്ള വളർച്ചയ്ക്ക് ഒരു പ്രധാന ശക്തി ഗുണകമാകും.

വിശാലതലത്തിൽ, ഈ പദ്ധതിയുടെ യഥാർത്ഥ ഗുണങ്ങൾ ദീർഘകാലാടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ വലിയ സാമ്പത്തിക നേട്ടത്തിന്റെ രൂപത്തിൽ ലഭിക്കും.  ഇന്റർനാഷണൽ സിവിൽ ഏവിയേഷൻ ഓർഗനൈസേഷന്റെ (ICAO) ഒരു പഠനമനുസരിച്ച, വ്യോമയാന മേഖലയുടെ ഉൽപാദന - തൊഴിൽ ഗുണിതങ്ങൾ യഥാക്രമം 3.25 ഉം 6.10 ഉം ആണ്, അതായത് വ്യോമയാന മേഖലയിൽ ചെലവഴിക്കുന്ന ഓരോ 100 രൂപയും സാമ്പത്തിക ഉൽപാദനത്തിന് 325 സംഭാവന ചെയ്യുന്നു;  വ്യോമഗതാഗതത്തിൽ ജനിക്കുന്ന ഓരോ 100 നേരിട്ടുള്ള ജോലികൾക്കും സമ്പദ്‌വ്യവസ്ഥയിൽ 610 തൊഴിലവസരങ്ങൾ സൃഷ്ടിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു.  അതുകൊണ്ടുതന്നെ, സർക്കാർ ഈ സാധ്യതകൾ നേരത്തെ തന്നെ തിരിച്ചറിഞ്ഞ്, വ്യോമയാന മേഖലയെ സജീവമായി പിന്തുണയ്ക്കുകയും ഇടപെടുകയും ചെയ്തു.

കോവിഡ്-19-ന് മുമ്പ്, ഇന്ത്യ ലോകത്തിലെ മൂന്നാമത്തെ വലിയ ആഭ്യന്തര വ്യോമയാന വിപണിയായിരുന്നു, സാമ്പത്തിക വർഷത്തിൽ 341 ദശലക്ഷത്തിലധികം യാത്രക്കാർ യാത്ര ചെയ്തു.  ലോകമെമ്പാടുമുള്ള കോവിഡ്-19 മുന്നിലെത്തുന്നതുവരെ മൂന്ന് വർഷത്തിനുള്ളിൽ രാജ്യം മൂന്നാമത്തെ വലിയ വിപണിയായി മാറാൻ തയ്യാറായിരുന്നു.  എന്നിരുന്നാലും, വിമാനയാത്രക്കാർക്കിടയിൽ ഒരു വലിയ അസമത്വം ലോകമെമ്പാടും നിരീക്ഷിക്കപ്പെട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.  ക്ലൈമറ്റ് കാംപയിൻ ഗ്രൂപ്പിന്റെ പഠനം അനുസരിച്ച്, ഇന്ത്യയിലെ കുടുംബങ്ങളിൽ 1% മാത്രമാണ് 45% വിമാനങ്ങളിൽ കയറുന്നത്, അതിനാൽ, നമ്മുടെടെ സാധ്യതകളുടെ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ, നാം ഉപരിതലത്തിൽ മാന്തുക മാത്രമാണ് ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളത്.

പ്രധാനമന്ത്രി മോദിയുടെ ദീർഘവീക്ഷണമുള്ള നേതൃത്വത്തിലുള്ള ഗവൺമെന്റിന്റെ മുൻനിര ഉഡാൻ പദ്ധതി, ഫസ്റ്റ് ക്ലാസ് എസി ട്രെയിൻ ടിക്കറ്റിന്റെ ചിലവിൽ വിമാനയാത്ര നടത്താൻ ആദ്യമായി യാത്ര ചെയ്യുന്നവരുടെ വലിയൊരു ഭാഗത്തെ അനുവദിച്ചു.  പ്രാദേശങ്ങളെ ആകാശമാർഗം ബന്ധിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിലൂടെ, നമുക്കെല്ലാവർക്കും “ആകാശത്തേക്ക് എത്താൻ” കഴിയുന്ന ആ തത്വം ജനാധിപത്യവൽക്കരിക്കാനും സാർവത്രികമാക്കാനുമുള്ള പ്രക്രിയ ഞങ്ങൾ ആരംഭിച്ചു!