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My biggest challenge was to end the environment of gloom and restore confidence: PM Modi
In two years, I can say with utmost confidence that India has regained the trust & the strength that it is supposed to have: PM
Jan Dhan Yojana has linked the country’s poorest to the mainstream of the economy, its banking system: PM Modi
Have undertaken the maximum reforms in the last two years: PM Narendra Modi
There are far more reforms undertaken in the last two years compared to “big bang” reforms of last 10 years: Narendra Modi
Trying to create a concept of competitive cooperative federalism so that there is some competition among the state governments: PM
Want to structure the country’s economy around the three pillars: one third each of agriculture, manufacturing and services: PM Modi
Private and public sectors provide the bulk of job opportunities. My focus is to create a third sector, the personal sector: PM
Want people to become job creators through entrepreneurship: PM Narendra Modi
We have allowed 100% FDI in defense, insurance & railways in two years: PM Modi
In World Bank’s ratings of countries in terms of ease of doing business, India has jumped about 12 points in a short span of time: PM
Labor reform should not just mean “in the interest of industry.” Labor reform should also be in the interest of the laborer: PM
India is not standing in a corner. It is the world’s largest democracy and fastest growing economy: PM Narendra Modi
So far as the relationship with the U.S. is concerned, it’s the world’s oldest democracy and we are the largest: PM
True that Obama and I have a special friendship, a special wavelength: PM Modi
This is the era of development. Our focus should be development: PM Modi
Have made India a destination which welcomes capital by liberalizing FDI policy, increasing the ease of doing business: PM
The role of the State in the economy is best described in my maxim “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”: PM
Our reform measures are now beginning to take full effect. We have a strong foundation therefore for further improvement: PM Modi
In my approach to governance, I emphasize transparency, on speed and on effective implementation: PM Narendra Modi
With a 7500-kilometer long coast line, India has a natural & immediate interest in the developments in the Indo-Pacific region: PM Modi
My government’s proactive agenda for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood began from the very first day of my government: PM Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first two years in office haven’t included the overhauling of economic policy some had anticipated. Mr. Modi has turned out to be more of an economic policy tinkerer than the radical reformer some optimists had expected

Despite the disappointment of the investors and executives who had hoped Mr. Modi would become New Delhi’s most business-friendly prime minister ever, India’s economy has been doing better: Better relative to other countries and much better compared with the country before Mr. Modi and his party took over in New Delhi.

A look at 12 key indicators shows that Asia’s third-largest economy is now on much better footing than it was under the last government led by the Congress party and headed by Manmohan Singh.

In the fiscal year ended March 31, India’s gross domestic product rose 7.6%, helping it overtake China as the fastest-growing big economy in the world. That’s up from 6.6% in the last full fiscal year Congress was in power.

Inflation is almost half ofwhat it was at a couple of years ago. India’s budget deficit has shrunk to 3.9% of GDP from 4.4%. Foreign-direct investment and foreign exchange reserves have reached new peaks.

“India’s macroeconomic prospects have definitely improved relative to the period just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office,” said Chua Han Teng, Asia analyst at BMI Research.

Of the 12 indicators picked by The Wall Street Journal, as many as eight did better during the last fiscal year compared with the year before Mr. Modi came to power.

India’s stock market, exports and the money raised through the sale of stakes in state-controlled companies were all better during Prime Minister Singh’s last year but otherwise India seemed to experience some sort of Modi momentum.

Mr. Modi’s government has relaxed foreign-investment rules in more than a dozen sectors including insurance, pensions and railways, cut red tape and pushed through legislative proposals to simplify bankruptcy procedures and strengthen intellectual property rights. It has also fast-tracked road building, railway and highways expansion.

It has had some big legislative failures including the inability to get lawmakers’ approval for the crucial Goods and Services Tax as well as a new law to streamline the process of acquiring land for important projects.

Meanwhile, the strong economic fundamentals has not been doing much to lift corporate profits or consumer spending and India’s banks have been struggling to control a growing mountain of bad debt. Skeptics also point to the fact that much of India’s world-beating growth is a result of change last year in how GDP is calculated.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India scores the government seven out of 10 for its work in the past two years, describing it as a “work in progress.”

Some economists say the Modi administration needs more time for its policies to bear fruit.

“We think most investors under-appreciate the medium- to long-term positive impact of some of the policies being pursued by the current government,” Standard Chartered Bank said in a research note. “Although policy changes have been gradual and incremental, they are moving in the right direction.”

WSJ Source

Read an Edited Transcript of The Wall Street Journal’s Interview With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

WSJ: Tim Cook was just in India. He seemed to enjoy his trip. Did that go well?

Mr. Modi: This was Tim Cook’s first visit to India. He was very excited about it. I think he got exposed to the full strength and measure of India’s diversity. I am myself quite techno savvy so I think our wavelengths matched quite quickly.

WSJ: I think it’s fair to say that when you were elected there was a tremendous amount of excitement around the world about your extraordinary victory. We’re two years in now from the initial excitement. How so far is the process of transforming and improving the Indian economy?

Mr. Modi: My election in 2014 had a context. There was a sense of policy paralysis, bad economic conditions and corruption. These issues were widespread and shadowed my country in 2012 and 2013. My biggest challenge was to end this environment of gloom and restore confidence.

Two years down the line, I can say with utmost confidence and a sense of belief that India has regained the trust and the strength that it is supposed to have. If you look at the statements that emanated around the time that the elections took place, what people used to say about BRICS was that the ‘I’ has fallen off. I think I can safely say that I have taken India to a position now where ‘I’ is actually topping the BRICS.

When I referred to a sense of policy paralysis, it was also accompanied by a sense of negativity and a sense of deep inertia in the government machinery.

If you see my Jan Dhan Yojana, you’ll find that I mobilized the whole government machinery so that in a definite period of time, the country’s poorest could be linked to the mainstream of the economy, its banking system. I can actually give scores of other examples like this.

The third issue when my government took over was corruption and the lack of transparency in government decision-making. My country had lost a lot of face on account of corruption relating to the coal scam, the scam involving auctions of the 2G network. But within a short and fixed time period, we have ensured transparency. Auctions are now actually held openly and online in front of media.

WSJ: All of those things have clearly changed in the past two years, but it is also true that people were expecting certain major reforms that your government has proposed, like land acquisition and changes in tax structure. You haven’t yet been able to achieve those. Were we right to expect those changes?

Mr Modi: Do allow me to respond to that in a slightly lighter vein if I may. When I came to the government, I used to sit down with all the experts and ask them to define for me what is the “big bang” for them. What are the reforms that they think would be categorized as “big bang?” I am sorry to say, but nobody could tell me clearly what was the “big bang” that they were looking for.

Secondly, in so far as the Land Acquisition Act is concerned, it was not there either in my party’s manifesto, or on my party’s agenda. But after we came into the government, my minister in charge of rural development chaired a meeting of chief ministers of different states. We found all the chief ministers, irrespective of their party affiliation, stating clearly that they will not really be able to undertake major development initiatives in their states unless this law was changed. So when all the chief ministers of different states of India requested the government, we, naturally, thought of taking it to Parliament. So we took the decision to take the Land Acquisition Act to Parliament. But what happened was that as soon as it was taken to Parliament, parties started taking a political position. When that happened, we called the chief ministers again and asked them how they wanted us to proceed. And their response was that the government should leave it to them to decide because it is a state subject. If we want to move forward, we’ll reform, if we don’t want to move forward, we won’t. They said this is their subject and the federal government shouldn’t get involved.

Some of the state governments have gone ahead and undertaken such reforms and the central government has supported that.

In India, reform in the insurance sector, reform in the defense sector, reform in the Bankruptcy Code had been pending for years. So I have actually undertaken the maximum reforms in the last two years. Now, had all these reforms not taken place, people would have said Modi’s “big bang” is stuck. Now that these have happened, it is no longer considered “big bang.”

In fact, if you were to compare the “big bang” reforms of the last 10 years with what we have done in the last two years, you will find that far more reforms have been undertaken in the last two years.

WSJ: In two years, have you created a more dynamic Indian economy as a result of what you have done? What else do you need to do?

Mr. Modi: See, so far as the Land Acquisition Act is concerned, it is over now. State governments can go ahead and we will give them permission. So what is actually called reform has happened. As far as GST is concerned, we expect to realize it within this year. By and large, all parties except the Congress are on board. We will get by in the numbers game [in Parliament’s upper house] also.

I have an enormous task ahead for myself and a dream for my country. Currently, the relationship between the federal government and the states essentially works as a cooperative federalism. What I am trying to do is to create a concept of competitive cooperative federalism so that there is some competition among the state governments in so far as their economic growth is concerned.

What I also want is to structure the country’s economy around the three pillars: one third each of agriculture, manufacturing and services, which I think is important for balanced and sustainable growth of the country’s economy. A major priority for me is, of course, the youth. The youth, in fact, matters a lot to me because around 800 million of India’s population is below 35 years of age and to create a skill set for that youth population, to create job opportunities for them, is a priority and a focus area for my government. Traditionally, you would hear of private and public sectors, two sectors that provide for the bulk of job opportunities. My focus is to create a third sector, the personal sector. Essentially implying that a person doesn’t merely look for jobs in the market but actually becomes a provider of jobs. He becomes a job creator through entrepreneurship.

WSJ: The last NDA government under Prime Minister Vajpayee was praised and made a big mark with the privatization of public-sector companies. Should we expect that and, if not, what does that tell people about how you view the role of the private sector in helping you achieve your goals?

Mr. Modi: Actually, in any developing country in the world, both the public sector and the private sector have a very important role to play. You can’t suddenly get rid of the public sector, nor should you. But if you look at the last two years of my government, and if you look at the entire post-independence phase of the country, you will find that in terms of money volumes the maximum disinvestment has taken place in the last two years.

WSJ: So no privatization, then?

Mr. Modi: Disinvestment has taken place in that process. I’ll talk about privatization. In defense, in my country, there was no private investment. Today I have allowed it to 100%. In insurance, private investment was not allowed. I have allowed it. In the railways, I have for the first time developed a public-private partnership model for railway stations, which will raise the economic strength and efficiency of railways. I have allowed 100% foreign direct investment in the railways. I’ve taken all these initiatives in two years, and you can see the big results.

WSJ: Do you believe that colonial-era labor laws need to be changed? Is there a reform program for BJP–ruled states that you can prescribe that other states can then emulate? Right now, the process is quite slow.

Mr. Modi: I don’t think the process has been slow. It has actually been fairly rapid. If you take, for example, my government’s target to develop smart cities all around India, we are actually working on something known as “the challenge route,” which has expedited interest among states to develop smart cities within their own jurisdiction. If you look at the ease of doing business, we have partnered with states very intensely and very extensively. As a result of that, in the World Bank’s ratings of countries in terms of ease of doing business, India has jumped about 12 points in a short span of time.

Our focus is to associate as many states as possible irrespective of their political affiliation. Because ultimately every state is a key unit of economic activity within the country and we realize that we can’t really progress without them.

Labor reform should not just mean “in the interest of industry.” Labor reform should also be in the interest of the laborer. I am in favor of different kinds of reforms so that we have a win-win situation for both. We have changed the laws for internships. We had an inspector raj earlier under which inspectors would turn up for inspection anywhere at will. But we said no, there shall be a computer draw and an inspector can visit only that company so that the company is not harassed. There are some states that don’t have industry but are primarily agricultural. They don’t need labor reform. Those states that have a substantial manufacturing sector, they need labor reform. And their state assemblies can adopt them. It is a joint subject of the states and the center, and if they send it to me, I will allow them.

WSJ: Do you need to ease hire and fire rules?

Mr. Modi: This is a western phrase. In India, we have an environment of closeness. In our social milieu, in a family, the grandfather may be a driver and when he gets old, his grandson may be doing the driving. But all three remain employed in the family. That is our environment. You need to understand that environment. Just a play of words won’t work. You have to move beyond that.

WSJ: I travel a lot in Asia and everywhere I speak to governments they express concern about China’s increasing assertiveness. The U.S. is very keen on India, the rising power that India is, to be part of, if not an alliance, then at least a grouping that can stand up to some extent to China. Where do you see India taking a position on the global stage?

Mr. Modi: There is no reason to change India’s non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has been in place. But this is true that today, unlike before, India is not standing in a corner. It is the world’s largest democracy and fastest growing economy. We are acutely conscious of our responsibilities both in the region and internationally.

So far as the relationship with the U.S. is concerned, it’s the world’s oldest democracy and we are the largest. Many of our values match. Our friendship has endured, be it a Republican government or a Democratic. It is true that Obama and I have a special friendship, a special wavelength. Beyond our bilateral relationship, whether it is global warming or terrorism, we have similar thoughts, so we work together. But India doesn’t make its policies in reference to a third country. Nor should it.

We don’t have any fighting with China today. We have a boundary dispute, but there is no tension or clashes. People-to-people contacts have increased. Trade has increased. Chinese investment in India has gone up. India’s investment in China has grown. Despite the border dispute, there haven’t been any clashes. Not one bullet has been fired in 30 years. So the general impression that exists, that’s not the reality.

WSJ: But you have talked recently about countries taking an 18th century expansionist approach to the region, to Asia. I am guessing you were referring to China there. Is that correct? Would you be willing to work more closely militarily with the U.S. and Japan to reassure others in the region that are concerned about China?

Mr. Modi: There are two issues. It is my general principle that 18th century thinking won’t work in the 19th, 19th century thinking won’t work in the 20th, 20thcentury thinking won’t work in the 21st. My philosophy in this broad perceptive is that there was an era of expansionism, but today is the era of development. I have said for many years that our focus should be development.

There was an age when the world was divided into two camps. That is not true anymore. Today, the whole world is interdependent. Even if you look at the relationship between China and the U.S., there are areas where they have substantial differences but there are also areas where they have worked closely. That’s the new way. If we want to ensure the success of this interdependent world, I think countries need to cooperate but at the same time we also need to ensure that there is a respect for international norms and international rules.

WSJ: I want to ask your response to these three words: President Donald Trump

Mr. Modi: If I was a political worker, I could have commented on that. But I am the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. My views on the internal politics of any country and that too at the peak of their election cycle won’t be in fitness of honoring democratic values. I should maintain my discipline.

As an aside, if elections were ongoing in the U.K., I wouldn’t comment [on Brexit.] But no elections are ongoing and there is a discussion there about whether it should or not stay in Europe. I have said publicly that for us, the U.K. is the gateway to Europe and, in the situation that the world is in, a united Europe would be favorable.

WSJ: You’ve heard what Donald Trump has said about Muslims and about a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Your country has nearly 200 million Muslims, the second largest Muslim population in the world. That must be of concern to a lot of Indians. Is it of concern to you when you hear something like that from a man who could be the President of the U.S.?

Mr. Modi: I think that an election is taking place there. These are issues of debate in the election. A government shouldn’t respond to that. After a new government is formed, if they bring any new thoughts, whoever wins, we will surely respond as a government. But as a part of the election debate many things will be said there, who ate what, who drank what, how can I respond to everything?

WSJ: Do you support the reappointment of Mr. Rajan, the central bank governor?

Mr. Modi: I don’t think this administrative subject should be an issue of interest to the media. Besides, it will come up only in September.

In supplemental written responses to questions, Mr. Modi said:

WSJ: Your election has sparked enormous optimism about the Indian economy. What are the most important steps India can take to thrive in the changing global economic order?

Mr. Modi: When we took office, the economy was in a nose-dive with policy paralysis, rampant corruption and loss of confidence among both domestic and international investors. Our first task was to end the dive and bring the economy to a level flight path. The second task was to begin to ascend. We have successfully done both. It is a paradox that when global growth was consistently high, India did not take advantage of it, and now when India has taken off, the global economy is doing badly.

In two years, we have done a lot to position India to thrive in the changing world. To set a strong foundation for sustainable growth, we have run the most prudent macro-economic administration in decades, reducing fiscal and current account deficits. We have made India a destination which welcomes capital by liberalizing foreign-direct investment policy, increasing the ease of doing business and bringing predictability in taxation. We will continue our upward trajectory on all of these.

WSJ: When you think about building the Indian economy of the future, which countries do you look to as models? Which countries provide cautionary tales?

Mr. Modi: India is such a large and diverse country that we can learn from different countries in different areas and follow those best practices. We can learn from American regulatory practices, Japanese quality improvement, European social protection etc. But above all our model has to be our own, rooted in our ethos.

As regards cautionary tales, I believe that our growth model has to stay close to Indian ‘sanskriti’ or culture to avoid the environmental problems of the developed world. This teaches us to live life in moderation, care for nature and avoid waste. Our forefathers always consumed less than they could have, and left more for the next generation. This applies to the environment as much as to the economy. I think this ethos will help India not only achieve sustainable growth but also improve the environment at the same time, and show a new path to the world.

WSJ: What is the proper role for the state in the economy?

Mr. Modi: The role of the State in the economy is best described in my maxim “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.” The state should be an enabler: a fair and transparent enabler creating an environment for sustainable growth and job creation, and giving a sense of belief to the people.

In a developing economy, state enterprises do have a role in some sectors. They have to be managed professionally and efficiently. We have given them operational freedom and brought in talent from the private sector as well to facilitate this. The state need not do business in certain sectors. We have a new policy on strategic disinvestment. We are in the process of identification of entities for strategic sale.

WSJ: Is India ready to scale back this entitlement spending? What would be the political consequences of doing that?

Mr. Modi: Programs to provide a social-security net are found in every country including yours, where you provide unemployment benefits and food stamps. In the case of NREGA, instead of a dole, some form of employment is provided. After coming to power, we have given priority to the dignity of labor, for which economic empowerment is the first step. We are eliminating through technology the leakages which were discrediting such programs. We are re-orienting them towards creating assets like water bodies which protect the environment, and towards creating permanent skills through training.

WSJ: How is being prime minister different from being chief minister in Gujarat?

Mr. Modi: Only a few other prime ministers had worked earlier as chief minister and none of them had spent as much time as I had as chief minister. In our federal structure, most of the programs that touch the common citizen are implemented at the state level. Therefore I have found, as prime minister, that my experience as chief minister is my greatest strength. I believe in cooperative federalism and all the states are equal partners. We make no distinction between states ruled by different parties and actively encourage all states to promote reforms that benefit the country.

WSJ: Do you think India is growing at its full potential?

Mr. Modi: Our current growth has to be viewed in context. We took over at a time of economic crisis. After we took over, we have faced two consecutive years of drought, and global recession. In these adverse circumstances, we have achieved a high rate of growth. The reform measures we have taken are only now beginning to take full effect. We have a strong foundation therefore for further improvement. If global conditions improve, then India’s prospects will be even better. However, for a country like India, high growth for a few years is not what we need. Global experience shows that to transform any country, we need sustainable high growth for 30 years.

WSJ: How does your economic philosophy, approach to governance and views on fighting poverty differ from those of Congress?

Mr. Modi: There are two ways to fight poverty. The government can fight poverty, or the government and the poor can jointly fight poverty. When the government tries to fight poverty, it essentially attempts to “help” the poor. When the government and the poor join to fight poverty, the poor are empowered, made self-reliant and given the tools to transcend their poverty. The government’s role in this joint fight is to provide the poor with resources, opportunity and hand-holding. I believe in the joint fight against poverty. In approach to governance, the key difference is my emphasis on transparency, on speed and on effective implementation.

WSJ: Could you share your thoughts on the idea of “economic reform” in India?

Mr. Modi: For me, reforms are those that transform the lives of ordinary citizens. We have passed legislation covering a new insurance law with enhanced foreign-investment limits; inflation targeting with an independent monetary policy committee for the Reserve Bank; a Bankruptcy Code; and a regulatory framework for real estate. Through executive action, there have been sweeping reforms including opening up nearly all sectors, including defense, to foreign investment; de-controlling fuel prices; permitting listing of stock exchanges; licensing many new banks; and ensuring every family including the poorest, has a bank account. There was a time when these were called “big bang” reforms. The point I have been making is that one should not forget what is done and refer only to what remains as “big bang”.

WSJ: What is driving your decision to deepen bonds between New Delhi and Washington?

Mr. Modi: There was a time when relationships between countries were confined to the capitals: Washington and Delhi or London and Beijing. The U.S. is India’s important strategic partner. We have enjoyed a warm relationship with the United States, regardless of whether the United States has a Republican or Democratic administration. During the last two years, President Obama and I have led the momentum; we are capturing the true strength and scale of our strategic, political and economic opportunities, and people to people ties. Our ties have gone beyond the Beltway and beyond South Block.

Our concerns and threats overlap. We have a growing partnership to address common global challenges viz., terrorism, cyber security and global warming. We also have a robust and growing defense cooperation. Our aim to go beyond a buyer-seller relationship towards a strong investment and manufacturing partnership.

WSJ: What is your view of China’s increasing investments and military presence in the Indian Ocean region? Could India gain from joining China’s efforts to better connect Asia and Europe, such as the new Maritime Silk Road initiative?

Mr. Modi: With a 7,500-kilometer long coast line, India has a natural and immediate interest in the developments in the Indo-Pacific region. We have excellent relationships with the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. India is a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. We, therefore, watch very carefully any developments that have implications for peace and stability in this region.

Connectivity has been central to human progress over centuries. We are engaged with many countries to develop infrastructure, in our region and beyond, for better connectivity. With regard to the Maritime Silk Road initiative, it is a Chinese initiative. We feel that the world needs to hear more from China on this initiative, especially its intent and objective.

WSJ: What led to the recent breakthrough with Pakistan and drove your decision to personally visit to Prime Minister Sharif in Lahore? Do you think improving ties will help curb terrorism?

Mr. Modi: My government’s proactive agenda for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood began from the very first day of my government. I have said that the future that I wish for India is the future that I dream for my neighbors. My visit to Lahore was a clear projection of this belief.

I have always maintained that instead of fighting with each other, [India and Pakistan] should together fight against poverty. Naturally we expect Pakistan to play its part.

But, there can be no compromise on terrorism. It can only be stopped if all support to terrorism, whether state or non-state, is completely stopped. Pakistan’s failure to take effective action in punishing the perpetrators of terror attacks limits the forward progress in our ties.

In my view, our ties can truly scale great heights once Pakistan removes the self-imposed obstacle of terrorism in the path of our relationship. We are ready to take the first step, but the path to peace is a two-way street.

WSJ Source

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Congratulations on completing two decades in government. Two decades is a long time. It has indeed been a long, also quite an eventful, time for someone who was reluctant to enter the electoral arena until circumstances thrust him into the office of Gujarat’s chief minister in the aftermath of a catastrophe. How has been the experience of a tumultuous journey? And what have been your most satisfying moments?

You used the word reluctant.

In a way, you are right…let alone reluctance to join electoral politics, I had nothing to do with the political domain itself. My surroundings, my inner world, my philosophy—these were very different. Right from my younger days, my bent was spiritual.

The tenet of ‘Jan Seva Hi Prabhu Seva’ (Serving people is akin to serving the divine), which was propounded by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda always inspired me. It became a driving force in whatever I did.

As for politics, I did not even have a remote connection to it. It was much later that due to circumstances, and at the insistence of some friends, that I joined politics. Even there, I was in a position where I was primarily doing organisational work.

Twenty years ago, the circumstances became such that I had to enter a completely unchartered territory of heading an administration. And this happened in 2001, when Gujarat was adversely affected by one of the most devastating earthquakes our nation has seen.

Having closely seen the deep trouble people were in, I had no time or opportunity to even ponder what the new turn in my life meant. I immediately got into relief, rehabilitation and rebuilding Gujarat.

If you were to ask me…achieving or becoming something has never been a part of my inner being.

My innermost instinct has always been to do something for others. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, there is a desire to do something or the other for people. Working for others is what has always instilled a feeling of ‘Svantah Sukhaya’ or self-fulfilment in me.

In the eyes of the world, being prime minister and chief minister may be a very big thing but in my own eyes, these are ways to do something for the people. Mentally, I keep myself detached from this world of power, glitz and glamour. And due to that, I am able to think like a common citizen and walk on my path of duty just like I would if I were given any other responsibility.

You asked about satisfying moments. Well, there could be quite a few but let me give you a recent example.

“Twenty years ago, the circumstances became such that I had to enter a completely unchartered territory of heading an administration”

In the last few months, I got to meet and interact with our Olympic and Paralympic heroes. Tokyo 2020 has been India’s finest so far. Yet, naturally there were several athletes who did not win medals. When I met them, they were lamenting their inability to win medals. But each of them only had praise for the efforts of our nation in supporting them in their training, facilities, and other kinds of assistance. At the same time, they were determined and energised to give their best to win more medals.

In my mind, I thought…see how far we have come. Earlier, our sportspersons used to worry about lack of facilities, support, etcetera. These were things they could not do anything about.

But now they feel that part is sorted and their whole focus is on things they can control and their thirst for a medal has taken centrestage. They had a sense of satisfaction that the county has supported them and the determination to do something extraordinary for the nation and bring home more medals in the times to come. This change is satisfying.

You have travelled a long distance. From someone who was forced to hawk tea and whose mother had to work in others’ homes to provide food for the family to the top political office of the world’s largest democracy, and arguably the most popular prime minister, it is really stuff legends are made of. Do you get awed by the trajectory you have traversed?

I don’t get awed by the trajectory of my own life. I get awed by the kind of country we are and our people, who can pick a poor child and make him reach where I have. I feel privileged that the people of this country have given me such huge responsibilities and continue to repose their trust in me. This is the strength of our democracy.

As for me selling tea as a child and later becoming the prime minister of our nation, I see this very differently from how you see it.

I feel that the 130 crore people of India have the same capabilities that I have. What I have achieved, can be achieved by anyone.

If I can, anyone can!

A nation of 130 crore capable people…the contribution that our country can make to humankind is tremendous!

And so, where I started, where I reached, what I did, what my individual experiences are, these things do not matter much. What matters is that this shows that any Indian can achieve anything.

“In the eyes of the world, being prime minister and chief minister may be a very big thing but in my own eyes, these are ways to do something for the people”

That is why empowering people by making upward mobility achievable has become one of the fundamental motivations for me. It is important that every youngster get opportunities. And when I speak of opportunities, I do not merely refer to assistance that keeps them dependent but the support that makes them self-reliant to fulfil their aspirations, with dignity.

You have defied the caricatures of your being a gung-ho free-market liberaliser or a champion of what your critics call RSS-endorsed upper-caste orthodoxy. Your opponents concede in private that they have not been able to figure you out completely. Were the populist portrayals incorrect to begin with, or is it that they have turned out to be incorrect because you keep changing course to meet the temper of the times or the diktats of practical politics?

The problem here is not Modi…but when any person tries to see anything with a preconceived mindset, then either he is able to see only half of the view or is inspired to see wrong things. And if he is not able to see anything as per his preconceived notion, then he creates a perception to feed his preconceived mindset.

We all know it is the nature of Man to not accept his mistakes easily. It takes courage to accept truth over your wrong notions. And it is because of this that one forms notions about a person even without meeting, knowing or understanding him. And even if they meet you in person and observe something different (as compared to their notion), they will still not accept it just to feed their ego. This is a natural tendency.

If someone had only analysed my work, he would not be under any confusion about me. After I became chief minister, the first thing which I did, about 20 years ago, when I didn’t have any prior experience of administration…I first of all went to the people affected by the Kutch earthquake. I publicly stated that this is first Diwali after the earthquake, so we will not celebrate it and I was there with the families of the earthquake victims on the day of Diwali and shared their suffering.

“Right from my younger days, my bent was spiritual. The tenet of ‘Jan Seva Hi Prabhu Seva’ always inspired me”

And the first public function which I did after becoming chief minister was the Garib Kalyan Mela. If someone would have understood all this, then the work done by me today, like building toilets in poor people’s homes or providing free ration to the poor, would have been easier for them to understand.

And it does not mean that Modi has no faults or there is no point on which Modi can be criticised.

Secondly, I feel, and this is my conviction, that for my own healthy development, I attach a big importance to criticism. I, with an honest mind, respect critics a lot. But, unfortunately, the number of critics is very few. Mostly, people only level allegations, the people who play games about perception are more in number. And the reason for this is that, for criticism, one has to do a lot of hard work, research and, in today’s fast-paced world, maybe people don’t have time. So sometimes, I miss critics.

From your question it seems that outdated theories of the last century like private sector versus public sector, government versus people, rich versus poor, urban versus rural are still on your mind and you seem to fit everything into this.

Global experience says that government should be there for those for whom nobody is there. Government’s whole focus should be on helping them. Take the example of our aspirational districts programme to ensure that no region should be left behind in India. We created an atmosphere of healthy competition, mobilised resources, enthused confidence among citizens. Even those districts that were lagging behind in several parameters have come up and improved drastically. A breakthrough has been achieved and you will see great results in the future.

Like everyone thought that sport was restricted to a certain class of society, but we have extremely talented people in poor and backward regions. If we reach them, sport can go a long way in the country and results have showed that. Kids of Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and even of villages can be seen these days competing in the playground.

“All governments were formed under a person from Congress Gotra. Thus, there was no difference between their political and economic thought”

So, I would like to say that if our work was evaluated then the question you asked shouldn’t have arisen. This question is on the basis of perception and not on the basis of the real situation.

You are seen as a risk-taker. While you chose not to press ahead with your plan for amending the land acquisition laws, you showed your readiness to venture outside the box by demonetising high-denomination notes, crossing the Rubicon on labour reforms and by refusing to roll back the farm laws. Are you not worried about the consequences of these risky, although essential, forays into the taboo zones where your predecessors feared to go?

The politics of our country is such that till now, we have seen only one model in which governments are run to build the next government (sarkar banane ke liye sarkar chalayi jaati hai).

My fundamental thinking is different. I believe we have to run the Government to build the nation (desh banane ke liye sarkar chalani hai).

The tradition has been to run the government to make your party win but my purpose is to run the Government in a way to make our country win.

And due to this basic concern, I take decisions based on Gandhiji’s talisman that sees how my decisions will benefit or harm the poorest or weakest person.

While taking decisions, I stop even if the slightest of vested interests is visible to me. The decision should be pure and authentic and if the decision passes through all these tests, then I firmly move forward to implement such a decision.

“There is a problem in the way sections of our political class view the Indian people. They only see Raj Shakti. They do not see the innate Jan Shakti”

The things that people of India are entitled to, those benefits that they should have received decades ago, have still not reached them. India shouldn’t be put in a situation where it has to wait any longer for the things that this country and its citizens are entitled to, we should give it to them. And for this, big decisions should be taken and if need be, tough decisions should also be taken.

In such a large country as India, is it possible to make a decision which is acceptable to 100 per cent people? Although if a decision is not acceptable to even a small number of people, they are not wrong. They may have their own genuine concerns but if the decision is in larger interest, then it is the responsibility of government to implement such a decision.

If a political party makes a promise and is unable to deliver on that promise, then that is one aspect which the political class must improve upon. But there is another aspect which is completely different from this and is a particularly undesirable and, I would say, detestable trait in certain sections of the political parties. This trait I am talking of is the trait of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi.

There are political parties which will grandiosely make promises before elections, even put them in their manifestos. Yet, when the time comes to deliver on the same promises, these same parties and people do a complete U-turn and worse, spread the most malicious kind of misinformation on the promises they themselves had made.

If you look at those who are opposing the pro-farmer reforms today, you will see the real meaning of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi.

These were the same people who wrote letters to chief ministers asking them to do the exact same thing that our Government has done. These were the same people who wrote in their manifesto that they would enact the same reforms that we have brought. Yet, just because some other political party, blessed by the will of the people, is enacting the same reforms, they have made a complete U-turn and in a brazen display of intellectual dishonesty, completely disregard what will benefit the farmers and only seek what they think will benefit them politically.

“If you look at those opposing the pro-farmer reforms today, you will see the real meaning of intellectual dishonesty and rajneetik dhokhadhadi”

We are committed to empowering the small farmers in every way. The farm laws about which you are talking, the Government has been saying right from the first day that on whichever point there is a disagreement, the Government is ready to sit together and discuss those issues. Many meetings have also been held in this regard but no one till now has come up with a specific point of disagreement that we want this to be changed.

You can see the same rajneetik dhokhadhadi when it comes to Aadhaar, GST, farm laws and even crucial matters such as arming our security forces. Promise something and make arguments for it but oppose the same thing later without any moral fibre.

Don’t you think political parties were making a mockery of themselves when their members spoke about the need for a new Parliament, previous speakers said that a new parliament was needed? But if someone tries to do it, they oppose it by making some excuses, how correct is this?

Those who create these types of controversies think that the issue is not whether these decisions would benefit people, but the issue for them is that if these types of decisions are taken, then no one will be able to stop Modi’s success. I want to urge everyone that the issue is not whether Modi succeeds or fails, it should be about whether our country succeeds.

When analysts look at these matters, they also seem to only see it as a political matter and not as a matter of moral and political consistency. But these things are far beyond politics and have real-world consequences for the people and our country.

Many experts have come around to concede that the measures taken by you for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance, and strengthening infrastructure are steps in the right direction. But they also say the benefits will take time to manifest and you will not be able to reap the rewards in 2024.

This question is also the result of old thoughts of political pundits. If this would have been true, then I would not have been given the opportunity by people to work as a head of government for 20 years.

Those who think along these lines neither know the people of their country, nor their thinking. The people of the country are smart enough to understand all good work done with good selfless intentions and support it. And that is why I have been given the opportunity by the people of the country to work as head of the government for 20 continuous years.

The person who plants a seed should not bother who will get its fruits. The point is not whether I get to reap the benefits of my economic policies or not, the point is that the nation will.

“I am grateful to the experts for conceding that measures taken by us for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance are steps in the right direction”

I am grateful to the experts for conceding that measures taken by us for accelerating growth, reforming the economy and governance, and strengthening infrastructure are steps in the right direction.

The benefits may take time to manifest but the people of India are smart and are watching our policies and evaluating them positively. People are seeing the renewed interest among global agencies and companies about economic momentum and growth in India.

People are noting the record FDI inflows, people are noting rising exports, people are noting good GST numbers, people are noting dozens of startups becoming unicorns, people are noting the high frequency indicators showing an uptick.

The ideological play of your Government, articulated by you on several occasions, is pro-poor and pro-business. In the pro-business category, the Government has rolled out many measures like scrapping redundant laws, lowering taxes, ease of doing business and PLI, to name a few. The new economy players, particularly digital, are already running with them. Some say the old India Inc is a little slow. But there is unanimity that you are breaking into their mindset with things like the latest defence agreement with the private sector to manufacture aircraft. The pro-poor agenda is even bigger. The approach to governance has changed. You have knocked down corruption through disintermediation. You have taken forward the idea of JAM. It has given an economic GPS to the Government to locate the poor. The amount of savings from DBT is phenomenal. It has directly empowered people. Your thoughts on how things have changed.

The syllabus and environment for primary students, secondary students and the students doing PhD are different but it doesn’t mean that they are in conflict with each other.

Our country is not a developed country yet, we are still grappling with poverty. Every person in society should get opportunities according to his needs and ability. Then only, development is possible.

The poor need one type of opportunity and wealth creators need another type of opportunity. When the Government believes in ‘Sarvajana Hitaya , Sarvajan Sukhaya’, then its approach can never be unidirectional; rather it becomes multidirectional. The things in which you see contradiction, I see an inter-linkage.

“The poor need one type of opportunity and wealth creators need another type of opportunity. Why are pro-poor and pro-business mutually exclusive categories?”

Why are pro-poor and pro-business mutually exclusive categories? Why should we divide policies into one or the other of these buckets? According to me, policymaking should be pro-people. By creating these artificial categories, you are missing out on interdependence in society. Business and people are not working with opposing objectives.

For instance, don’t the poor benefit when the PLI scheme allows companies to expand manufacturing capacity and creates new job opportunities in the manufacturing sector? The objective is to create more jobs through the PLI scheme. When we save thousands of crores of rupees by preventing leakages in public service delivery through JAM, does that not benefit the middle class, taxpayer and businesses? In fact, when the poor and farmers receive direct transfer, they consume more, which in turn helps the middle class and the overall economy.

In many ways, you have changed the governance paradigm of every issue. Look at One Nation, One Card. You have made it portable. While programmes like MGNREGA stay, you have brought in accountability. You have also layered this entitlement programme with empowerment. Same is the case with Ujjwala, power, delivery of foodgrains. In all these schemes, governance is layered with actual proof of concept. Past governments faced a trust deficit on account of poor delivery. How far has the Government moved on trust in the past seven years?

You very well know that I do not come from a royal family. I have lived my life in poverty. I spent 30-35 years as a wandering social worker. I was away from corridors of power and have lived among the people and because of that I know very well what the problems, aspirations and capacities are of the common man. That is why my decisions (when the country has given me the opportunity to work) are an effort to work towards alleviating the hardships of the common man.

Toilets were never seen by anyone as a way to serve the people. But I felt that Toilets are a way to serve the people.

And that is why when I take decisions, the common man feels that this prime minister understands us, thinks like us and is one among us. This sense of belonging among them leads every family to feel that Modi is just like a member of our family. This trust is not developed because of perception created by PR. This trust has been earned through sweat and toil.

I have attempted to live a life where I walk on a knife’s edge, experiencing and living every issue concerning the people. I had promised three things to people when I came to power:

I will not do anything for myself.
I will not do anything with wrong intention.
I will create a new paradigm of hard work.

People see this personal commitment of mine even today. This is how people develop trust.

The immense mutual trust between the Government and citizens has been the foundation for whatever we have been able to achieve in the last seven years.

There is a deep problem in the way many sections of our political class view the Indian people. They only see Raj Shakti and view the Indian people only through that lens. But they do not see the innate Jan Shakti in Indians, they do not see the skills and strengths, the ability and capability of the people.

“Whether in permitting self-attestation or in reducing thousands of compliances for businesses, we have built a faith-based system”

Take the example of digital payments. I remember a speech by a former finance minister in Parliament in February 2017. In typical condescending tone, that comes to those who only know Raj Shakti, he asked: “[B]uy potatoes and tomatoes digitally in a village fair. What will the poor lady do? Does she know digital payments? Is internet there?”

The answer to him was given by the Jan Shakti when India became the number one digital payments country in the world just three years later, in 2020, with over 25 billion transactions. In just August 2021 alone, over
₹ 6.39 lakh crore was transacted using UPI, which is a completely homegrown solution by our youth.

This Digital Revolution is powered by the same people who were underestimated: the pushcart vendors, the small shopkeepers, the samosa and chaiwallas in roadside corners, the women who buy daily groceries and have found a secure way of payments. They have all not just empowered themselves but by their Jan Shakti empowered India globally by going digital.

This same phenomenon of underestimating our people happened in many other cases.

When we built toilets, they said people won’t use it and go back to defecating in the open. When we gave gas connections, they said people will use it the first time and not take refills. When we gave collateral-free loans to small entrepreneurs, they said the money would never come back. The irony was these people gave loans to their cronies and created the NPA problem but were against giving loans to small entrepreneurs.

Such an attitude towards the poor and common citizens of our country is sad and unfortunate.

We see the Jan Shakti in our people as a way to take the nation forward and bow to its immense potential.

“Our experience shows that it is the poor who get the maximum benefit of technology. They do not have to pay a bribe or stay behind in the queue to avail services”

One of the reasons we have affected a paradigm shift in governance is because of the mindset change we have brought about. Whether it be in the scope of the schemes, the scale of the delivery, or in the nature of the schemes themselves. However, the biggest mindset change is that we trust our people. Whether it be in permitting self-attestation or reducing thousands of compliances for businesses, we have built a faith-based system.

Crores of households across the country voluntarily gave up their LPG subsidy in the last few years. This happened because they knew that the subsidies forgone would ensure that crores of poor households across the country could access clean LPG fuel. The public would have never trusted us enough and given up thousands of rupees if they didn’t appreciate our performance. Similarly, tax evasion has declined since 2014. Apart from various reforms and improved oversight by the Government, there is a lower intent to evade taxes. As people started witnessing that their tax contributions were being effectively utilised, intention to evade taxes reduced considerably.

If you look back at India’s last 74 years, there have been four stages: first was Nehrunomics. Then Indira Gandhi. The Indira Gandhis of the 1970s and 1980s were different. First she talked about self-reliance and poverty programmes. Then she started diluting her stand in the 1980s, dialling down and beginning economic liberalisation. It was a period of reforms by stealth. In the third phase, PV Narasimha Rao capitalised on this strategy in a big way. Now, we have Modinomics. In Modinomics, boldness of reforms is unprecedented. That flows from your full majority in Parliament. You are someone who is using social capital for social good.

All governments formed in our country were fundamentally formed under the leadership of a person from Congress Gotra. And that is why, for each of them, there was no difference between their political thought process and economic thought process. Atalji was given an opportunity by people but he didn’t have a full majority, it was a coalition Government. I am fortunate that this is the first non-Congress Government that was given a full majority by the people. This means that the people of this country voted for complete change (Poorna Parivartan).

“If we had changed our policies on maps on time, perhaps India could have become the global leader in map technology”

I had in front of me people’s experience of the past 70 years and because of that it was easy to judge what was right and what was wrong. The successes and failures of the past seven decades were in front of me. And because of this, I adopted policies and strategies such that the common man benefited and the country also moved forward.

After years of compulsive reforms, we have brought in reforms through conviction.

We did reforms in the Covid period, something that was unique if you look at countries across the world. Whether in established sectors like insurance, agriculture and labour, or in futuristic sectors like telecom and space.

There is not a single sector where we have not brought fundamental reforms. We also created a conducive environment for state governments to introduce various reforms.

Our reforms are not only aimed at achieving our economic objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat but also focused on Ease of Living, unlike earlier governments which viewed economic reforms through a narrow prism of facilitating business ventures.

For instance, our Government gave additional borrowing facility to states if they implemented ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ which will allows crores of migrants to receive PDS entitlements. Does this not help improve the lives of crores of the poor?

But how beneficial are economic reforms if there are no matching and simultaneous governance reforms? We have worked on both in tandem and in parallel. Over 1,600 old laws have been scrapped. Multiple reforms across the board have made compliance easier for business and for people. Many more such measures are in the pipeline.

“This Digital Revolution is powered by people who were underestimated: pushcart vendors, small shopkeepers, samosa and chaiwallas”

In our entire reforms journey, we have taken people along. In our country, it is perhaps the legacy of the British that people and government are considered separate entities and governments alone are expected to work towards betterment of the country. Our model is different; we consider people as partners in the journey for developing India and hence are able to deliver better results.

Vaccination, too, is a classic governance play. You used digital technology to reach everyone. Vaccines reached people and not the other way round. This had never happened in India. And how did it reach the people? It was up to them—where they wanted to go and when. It was the same country where you could not buy ration beyond the designated shop.

Your question itself contains many answers. I would like to appreciate your understanding of the success of India’s vaccination drive. As you rightly pointed out, it is the same country where a person could not buy ration beyond the designated shop and it was our Government that brought in the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.

Imagine if our country had not come up with a vaccine. What would be the situation? We know that a large population of the world doesn’t have access to Covid vaccines. Today, our success in vaccination is thanks to India being Atmanirbhar.

Some years ago at a science conference, I said that it is time to move on from “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan” and work on the mantra of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jay Anusandhan”. We had accorded top priority to research.

“Unfortunately, independent commentators have also become accustomed to ‘silos’. They have no idea what the results are of an ‘integrated approach’”

We started planning for the vaccination drive right in May 2020 when no vaccine was even close to approval anywhere in the world. We had decided as early as then that we did not want this vaccination drive to be run in the old way where it could take decades to vaccinate people. We wanted to run this in a fast, efficient, discretion-free and timebound manner.

But as the people of our country understand, vaccinating such a large number of people comes with its own share of complexities. Ensuring proper temperature control of vaccines, cold-chain infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country, timely deliveries from the manufacturing plant to the remotest vaccinating centre, supply of needles and syringes, training of vaccinators and preparing for adverse reactions, from quick registration to certificate generation to reminder for next appointment…And [smiles] in the midst of all this, we also had people who knowingly tried to create panic and anxiety. I can go on and on. There are so many things which went on behind the scenes of such a large initiative. We need to look at the entire logistics, planning and progress to understand the success of the vaccine drive. It is a huge effort with so many people mobilised across the country. I hope the media will take out time to highlight the efforts of our people in making the world’s largest vaccination drive a stunning success.

We made sure that technology formed the backbone of the vaccination process. In the last seven years, we have leveraged technology as a means to save the poor from injustice. Our experience shows that it is the poor who get the maximum benefit of technology. Thanks to technology, the poor do not have to pay a bribe or stay behind in the queue to avail of services they rightfully deserve. They have equal rights as anyone else. Imagine a poor migrant who is now empowered to take his second dose of the same vaccine in the city he works in, even though he took the first dose in his village. Technology ensures that he gets the right vaccine at the right time and seamlessly.

“The biggest lesson from the Covid-19 fight is that India has an unparalleled ability to unite and a tremendous capacity to deliver when a need arises”

We managed to save the lives of a large number of people during the pandemic. We also cannot forget those we have lost. For their families, it would be an irreparable loss. When we compare India’s situation in the world, we have done better than many developed countries. However, we have in our midst vested interests whose only aim is to tarnish India’s name. Covid-19 was a global scourge with all countries equally affected. In this scenario, India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding such negative campaigns. I have trust in our people and they have set an example for the world.

And the Government is constantly challenging holy cows. Ending geospatial monopoly is one big step in that direction. Map-making was once sacrosanct. You can now map ration shops, toilets, and so on. If someone creates a GPS-controlled app which tells you about the nearest toilet, it solves a big problem. What was your idea when you thought about it? How do you plan to take this ‘triangulation of India’ forward?

I will share an old experience with you. Some 15-20 years ago, when the Sardar Sarovar Dam was being made, a lot of people used to visit it when there was a lot of water. But there were signboards there saying, “Photography Prohibited”. I used to ask what is the use of banning photography when the same dam can be clearly seen in satellite imagery. I asked the logic of such a move. The system only said that this is the law. I decided that such laws have become irrelevant and need to change. Instead, I started a photography competition at the Sardar Sarovar Dam and as a result the dam became even more popular. We also started a nominal ticket for visiting the dam. It is a very heartening memory for me that we awarded the tourist number 5 lakh at the dam and it was a young couple from Baramullah.

See, I have got an experience of 20 years in governance as a head of government. But even before that, I have travelled far and wide and observed things very minutely.

If we had changed our policies on maps on time, perhaps India could have become the global leader in map technology. Instead, our policies remained archaic and our innovation-oriented and creative youth left the country for better opportunities.

The youth of our country have an immense potential and spark in them. We must make them part of the process, part of the system, part of the decision-making apparatus.

We have often seen that the more different data sets become accessible, the more they become an asset. You can see this in our approach when we came up with NaVIC, a homegrown navigation system. Now with the reform on maps, it can significantly improve ease of living once our young innovators use them to make interesting products.

The reforms in geospatial technology will create economic opportunities for many startups and even businesses. Startups are often founded not on an idea, but to find a solution to a problem. Now, when we empower our youth to come up with their own products on maps, they will certainly solve problems being faced by our drivers and our entrepreneurs.

Our politics prioritises the divisions among Indians for electoral success. In the last seven years as prime minister, how difficult has it been for you to get unifying ideas accepted in the political system?

I would request you to hear my speeches, be it as chief minister of Gujarat or prime minister of India over the last 20 years.

What did I always say? Earlier when I was in Gujarat I said 6 crore Gujaratis…and now I say 130 crore Indians.

What does this imply? That when I am speaking, I speak for the entire population without a shred of discrimination.

Our development policies aim at complete saturation or 100 per cent—be it in electrification, housing, toilet coverage, among others. When the scale is this big, when we are aiming at complete transformation, where is the scope for discrimination? We are motivated by the mantra of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.

Let me give you an example of a subject that has divided the nation for decades—that of reservation. Pick up the history books and you will see there were movements, counter-movements, so many painful events relating to this one issue of reservation.

“Covid-19 was a global scourge. India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding negative campaigns”

But a few years ago when our Government had the honour to provide 10 per cent reservation to the poor from the general category, was there any bitterness? Did anyone protest? No. The decision was hailed across the social spectrum. Such a smooth process, without any protest, is a very big thing and something that deserves greater study by political scholars.

I will give you one more example.

Over two decades ago, the NDA Government under Atal Ji created three states. This was done with a spirit of cordiality. There were celebrations in the new states and in the states out of which the new states were carved. In contrast, see how the UPA Government handled the Telangana-Andhra Pradesh issue. The bitterness of their mismanagement lingers even now.

Let us talk about language, another subject that has divided people for decades. Due to frequent politicking, the importance of one’s mother tongue kept getting reduced over the years. Our Government took a decision to impart medical and technical education in the local language. Forget causing divisions, this move was welcomed.

In the same spirit, let me mention something related to agriculture. Our Government has worked tirelessly for the small farmers. But does that mean we have taken decisions that are against the interest of the large farmers? Absolutely not.

We are striving to work for economic prosperity but we also believe in catering to the needs of ecology. Why do we do that? Because at the root of our thought process is the ideal of “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas, Sab ka Prayas.”

It is also rightly said — संघे शक्ति कलौ युगे—there is strength in unity.

What are the lessons about the state and preparedness of the healthcare system during the Covid-19 fight that you plan to now change and transform?

The pandemic started in other countries before India. I was observing the global situation and trends. I could see confusion everywhere and also a lack of seriousness at an individual level. We knew that India would also be invariably affected. I started planning on how to bring the entire country on board for this. Eventually, it would be people’s resolve and discipline that would matter and without it, it would be impossible to deal with this pandemic. It is then that the thought of Janata Curfew came to me. It spread the intended story far and wide. It is a big success story.

“There is not a single sector where we have not brought fundamental reforms. We also created a conducive environment for state governments to introduce reforms”

Similarly, in the pandemic, the biggest role was of the healthcare and frontline workers. There was a need to boost their morale. The banging of thalis and lighting of diyas became a big mass movement and it helped boost the morale of our healthcare workers. It can be a big case study. This also led to fewer cases of misbehaviour with medical personnel and respect for them went up. People saw medical personnel as gods in white coats.

My experience of 20 years as head of government says that people in government often underestimate people’s power. When we trust their power and connect with them, we get results. The country has seen this during the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Give It Up, etcetera. I have seen this in my Gujarat days too.

The biggest difficulty of the governments in our country is the ‘silos’. And unfortunately all the independent commentators have also become accustomed to silos. Because of this, they have no idea what are the results of an “integrated approach” and “whole of government approach”.

The biggest thing that I have learned from my 20 years of experience in governance is that if I start something, I do not start it in isolation. There is a progressive unfolding of the vision and in the beginning I do not tell everything. Take the example of Jan Dhan accounts, people felt that it is just a financial inclusion programme. Take the example of Aadhaar, people felt that it was just an ID card. But at the time of this pandemic, when governments across the world wanted to send money to the needy, they were unable to do so. India was able to do it in the midst of a pandemic with the click of a button, crores of our mothers got money directly in their account.

It shows how our approach is integrated, holistic and futuristic.

And just like money was sent, foodgrains were made available to the needy and this scheme is still on. I heard somewhere that in the pandemic in the previous century, a large number of people died due to starvation. So, we were very conscious of this and in this hour of crisis, from the very first day, we have been giving free ration to such a big population for many months. One could easily make headlines by quoting the total money transferred when one gives cash, but ensuring that foodgrains reach the poor without corruption, without delay and without discretion for a long period of time is a big thing.

The biggest lesson for us from the Covid-19 fight has been that India has an unparalleled ability to unite, find a common purpose, come together, and a tremendous capacity to deliver when a need arises. From being a net importer of PPE kits, we have now become one of the biggest manufacturers across the globe.

Similarly, we not only managed to exponentially increase the number of ventilators but also did so largely through domestic manufacturing. India achieved this despite limited global knowledge about the virus, the economic impact of lockdowns and existing state capacity constraints. Is there any better evidence of our ability to bring transformative change? In the last seven years, we have built a temperament of collective efforts for national goals. For us, it was clear in the last seven years that we can achieve tremendous results if we harness the latent energy of our citizens. But now, this has been a key learning for everyone I think.

Apart from this, the Covid-19 fight has also made us realise that we need to further strengthen our efforts for building world-class medical infrastructure. A lot of people today speak about the need to augment healthcare infrastructure. However, we need to remember that it cannot be merely done by adding more beds or rooms, it needs skilled and trained medical personnel. Over the last seven years, we have been actively working towards this. From six AIIMS in 2014, we are now building 22 AIIMS. From around 380 medical colleges in 2014, today we have around 560 medical colleges. From around 82 thousand undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats, we now have around 1 lakh 40 thousand undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats. Recently, we came out with a scheme to help states ramp up medical infrastructure in all categories, including paediatric facilities. We are also working on launching a massive scheme to boost health infrastructure that will address a lot of legacy issues.

Another key realisation for everyone has been to look at the health sector holistically. We are actively focusing on preventive healthcare. From improved sanitation to water supply, from yoga to Ayurveda, from strengthening diagnostic centres in remote areas, we are doing it all.

We realised the importance of Telemedicine and, at the beginning of the pandemic, we came out with a policy on Telemedicine and removed all the restrictions that it had. Recently, we have launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). It will enhance access to healthcare for the poor, boost innovation and make treatments seamless across geographies.

Source: Open Magazine