Friends, this is the beginning of the Year 2018. My best wishes to you all! This is the first official programme in this building. It was inaugurated on 7th December 2017, but this marks the first official programme which is being organized in this building. But I am glad that this is associated with that great man whose ideas and thoughts have been discussed at global level. The significance of the on-going programme in this building increases manifold because Babasaheb had been battling for Social Justice throughout his life.
Our Constitution also provides a Framework for those requirements. Now Social Justice is not limited to just one social order. An area remaining backward also amounts to injustice. In such a scenario only one village or one entity does not remain backward but this injustice is being done to the people as well who are living there; as their facilities, rights, opportunities and every such thing are being compromised. Therefore, 115 districts will become a part of every effort to achieve systematic solutions of Babasaheb Ambedkar's commitment to social justice for their development. So, in that sense, I believe that the first programme in this building with this subject is an auspicious sign in itself.
You have been discussing and debating for the past 2 days. On the basis of my experience I can say that nothing is impossible in our country if we are determined to do something. Even after the nationalization of banks, the system remained inaccessible to about 30 crore people. But once this country is determined that whatever has happened is the story of the past and now this is not acceptable, the opening of Jan-Dhan accounts has become a mass movement so that the person in the remotest corner of the country realises that he has become a part of the mainstream. This very country, the government and the people have proved this fact and that too within the time limit.
We used to say that there should be toilets; programmes were being implemented; budget allocations were made; reports were prepared and progress made. We used to be satisfied on knowing that we have progressed 5 steps or 6 steps or 7 steps. We used to find easy solutions but the root cause of the problems continued to plague the system. The lack of toilets and problem of sanitation led to dropout of girls from schools. But once we were determined to come out of the problem, to sensitize everyone and to enhance our pace of work manifold than the previous average, the same team and system achieved the objective of constructing toilets in more than 4 lakh schools under real time monitoring. Everyone had uploaded photographs and anyone could verify them. This very country and this very government system had proven itself.
When it came to providing electricity to 18000 villages in 1000 days, the officers said that on the normal course it would take 5 to 7 years to complete. But once they accepted this as a challenge, the same team with the same set of rules, system and techniques successfully carried out the work of electrifying 18000 villages in a time bound manner.
Soil testing was a new topic and the farmer was not familiar with these things. Moreover he did not know anything about the benefits arising from this. But once they were told that soil testing must be done and soil health cards must be made and soil should be analysed, the same system, same set of people, same team decided to accomplish it. I was told that the target would be achieved before time as per one report.
With these examples I want to tell you all that we have immense potential. We are leading the system in the age of immense possibilities and we can give birth to a number of possibilities as well as to the number of achievements. I am gaining experience; learning and my beliefs are growing stronger. We worry about the pending things and feel that these will be accomplished. I believe that every government at some point of time would have felt the pain of having a low ‘ease of doing business’ score. Everyone might have thought how long would it continue in this manner? How long would we stay behind in the world arena? Today it is indispensable for India to position itself in the global order according to the global environment. There is no other option. The attraction towards India could be changed into an opportunity and to her benefit.
With that belief the hurdles on the way of ease of doing business were identified and new paths were charted. A small workshop was organised systematically and the chief ministers and chief executives were called and sensitized. The department came up with new solutions; a lot of homework was done and rolled out. Consequently, no other country than India got the opportunity to make such a big leap in the rankings of ease of doing business. In the year 2014 our rank was 142 which improved to 100 in 2017. We moved ahead by 42 ranks. How was this possible? It was not because of an editorial page or because of a politician’s photograph on TV or because of a splendid speech by a politician. This was possible only because of your efforts, hard work and dedication; by you I mean the team of my country. Therefore my belief has strengthened and I believe that we can find solutions to the problems if the root cause of the problems can be identified. Things that are imposed can also be accomplished, but with half-hearted efforts. The things done with half-hearted efforts are lifeless and neither have any identity nor do you get any results.
You are those people who have gone through the same circumstances; you are the decision makers today but a gap of 15, 20 or 25 years has been created. Today the world has transformed, the aspirations of the people have changed; the thinking process has changed and the system has changed. You know this very well because you have gone through the same situations. What should I do? Will I not be able to fulfil those dreams which I had taken to Mussoorie at that time? 5 or 7 years later such responsibilities may change and I may not be in a position to fulfil them.
Today this is one of the greatest opportunities. What do you think? What does your experience say? How can your experience be prioritised while creating a roadmap? I could see all these features in your presentation. I can feel that the person is well aware of the fact that everything else is fine, the budget is fine but the root cause of the problem is somewhere else. If someone solves this problem then a new pathway can be opened up.
Today I could feel the clarity of thought in your presentation. I could feel the faith and conviction in your presentation and your self-confidence was well reflected in the way you were talking with conviction. I was not only looking at the person who was making the presentation, but also paying attention to the slides and the audience. I could see a spark in the eyes of everyone. I could see the 'New India'.
Therefore it is a collective sentiment which could be carried forward with everyone's efforts. It is human nature to finish the easier tasks beforehand. I have worked in public life and I have spent several years of my life working for my organisation.
Even in our schools our teacher used to tell us to attempt easy questions first in a three hour examination and attempt the difficult ones later. As a result we have developed that mind-set of doing easier things first. In this process could not reach and face the challenge and became sick by the time we reached there. Therefore, we tend to live in our comfort zone. If a department feels the need of showing some work, to achieve some all India target in agriculture or MSME or any industry, some sincere people are selected who are pushed to work and the average of the department becomes good. Thus, a strategy is set wherein some people who work are overburdened with work and the national level goals and figures are maintained in this manner.
When I was the Chief Minister, initially I did not get any benefits. When the Planning Commission existed our turn used to come at the end. But I had learnt this technique. So I used to be conscious in the month of January as to which departments had not utilized the budget. I used to identify the departments that were struggling to use their allocated budget amount. I used to send the officers to identify the gaps. I noticed that whatever I didn't achieve in the beginning was achieved later and that too in greater quantity. This is because the people, who have the habit of performing, perform well wherever there is good governance in place. We should come out of the old mind-set. Adding two teaspoon of sugar to a sweet tea won't make much of a difference as sugar will anyway be consumed; but if sugar is added to a sugarless tea, it will be a sweet experience indeed. Therefore, in our attempt to focus on 115 districts, efforts are being made to select at least one district from each state. Even in a well-developed state, one or the other district may remain backward. As a result even psychologically it affects. For example, if an officer gets appointed in a backward district, everyone else starts pointing out, “Oh! You got this district!” Consequently the person becomes demotivated to work. Such a district can never grab opportunities. Officers and teachers pass time and try to move out of that place. The government too keeps quiet and accepts the way things are moving. It avoids taking action or punishing. A psychology of merely passing the time develops. Consequently, the districts remain in the same place without any improvement. The experts of development sciences know that the state which is developing looks good initially but gradually after a point such regions start pulling down the not-so-developed regions. In that case, it becomes difficult to control the situation which may take 5 to 7 years. One should not let this saturation point to be reached when it becomes extremely difficult for the backward regions to catch up with the developed ones as that state can never develop in that case.
One way to change this situation was to come out of some of these problems. Now you have formed many strategies. Problems of every district are not the same. India is full of diversity. Each one has its unique issues. Each one also has its own opportunities. Is it possible to achieve the targets by focussing upon low hanging fruits based on five or six parameters? This is important because as per the experience, you might have experienced by and large in these regions that even if you are extremely enthusiastic, committed and dedicated, you will find some people in your office to demotivate you by saying – ‘there is no point working here, nothing will change, you are wasting your time, you are new so are unaware’. They will shower you with such knowledge. Therefore, to change the psychology, there needs to be a success story. Success stories build up their confidence - yes this is possible! Your foremost strategy should be to turn the pessimistic mind-set to an optimistic system. What can be the ways to achieve this? Like, I have suggested one way of achieving the low hanging fruits immediately. You only will do the work and achieve the targets which can prove to be encouraging.
The second task is not so easy - mass movement. Initiating a mass movement is not an easy task. By and large, there is always a sparking point for possibilities of a mass movement in a negative way; but to create a mass movement in a positive way requires educating the core team. 'Meeting of mind' is extremely important. Gradually a single layer, then double layers, and multiple layers will develop to create a team and a system where your ideas will become the ideas of your team. Ultimately what was the purpose of this two-day workshop? This was it. There should be a perfect alignment of the ideas and thoughts of the people of the Indian government and you all. A meeting point has to be decided by negotiating. 'Meeting of mind' needs to be created only then will it click between both the parties.
This two-day exercise was not to throw knowledge at you or to show that you don't know anything and only these people sitting here know everything. It was also not that they were here to teach you everything. They also wanted to incorporate the experiences that you all have in the policy making exercise. Therefore, this workshop has its own greatness. Can you carve out a tehsil in your district? Can a district be chalked out? This programme churns that kind of thinking. What can happen? What are our capabilities? What are our limitations? But if adopt a casual attitude then possibly you won't be able to convince people about your ideas. They might not find it interesting and may not show interest in associating with it.
Suppose there is a person locked inside a room. He takes his hands out through a small hole made on the door. People outside are asked to shake hands with that person. People are standing in a queue to shake hands with a person they are not aware of. You tell me what will happen? Try to imagine. There is a person locked inside a room with only the hands out through a hole on a door and you have to stand in a queue to shake hands. You can imagine what will happen. But if you are told that the person inside the locked room is Sachin Tendulkar, the scenario will suddenly change. The way of shaking hands will also change. Just look at the power of information. If the people you want to involve in your work are well informed, there will be a better cooperation. You can imagine how your third generation will feel proud of it. They will start associating themselves with it.
Public participation- it is not possible unless you prepare a systematic scheme to connect people. Swachh Bharat Mission - media has played a very positive role with visible impacts. The team has made efforts to involve itself from top to bottom. It has made a natural impact and consequently everyone is contributing in his or her way and feeling proud of it. You must have seen that children are in the core of success of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. They have turned out to be Ambassadors of the programme. Even in their homes the children stop their grandfathers from littering. They say ‘Modi ji has prohibited that act’. This strength of messaging brings the change. Is it appropriate to say about ‘malnutrition’ or shall we say about ‘nutrition’? Shall we call it a backward district or an aspirational district? This is because it leaves an impact on the psychology.
We should make our vocabulary positive. This too is a cause for developing a positive mind-set. You can automatically notice the impact of this activity in your surroundings. I clearly remember one of my friends living in Mumbai. He had this typical habit. He was elder to me. Now the people of Gujarat in particular and the country in general have this habit of inquiring about a person's well-being on meeting. So if someone used to enquire about his health while meeting he used to retort - ‘I have problems with my sleep....’ So on and so forth. In a way it used to give him pleasure by talking like that. Those of us who knew him well once decided in a practical way that whenever we would meet him we should start our conversation in a positive way: ' wow! You look great! Looks like you are in your best of health!' Suddenly there used to be a glow on his face. The situation changed. His pessimistic attitude had totally gone. Our conversations should be laden with positivity. Which one will work: malnutrition or nutrition? You yourself will find the right direction. For example, the word ASHA worker in itself is laden with so much strength and positivity. That lady is working there. Whatever she does, the people become hopeful of positive outcomes.
Such narratives will be different for different languages. A single word is not used in every region of the country but locals should develop these things. Secondly, talking of malnutrition, can we have a poetry competition on nutrition? Now you all may feel that how will Modi's poetry competition lead to nutrition? But see, in schools the teachers will encourage poetry writing. Can we have drama programmes organized on nutrition? I clearly remember, once I had attended a 15 minute programme conducted by children of Anganwadi. One child played the role of a tomato, another of a carrot and yet another of a cabbage and delivered their dialogues - like I am a carrot and these are my benefits. In this way, all the children came to know about the benefits of carrots and were encouraged to consume carrots. Earlier the child never touched carrots even after repeated insistence of mother. But after the programme the child himself started demanding carrots -' Mother I will eat carrots'. What I mean to say is that can we connect people to such mass movements through slogan competitions? In the beginning the results of Nutrition may not be visible but gradually it will gain momentum.
Now suppose we meet some influential people of an area and ask them to cook meal and serve it to the children of Anganwadis on some special occasions like birthday, marriage anniversary or death anniversary, you will get 70-80 days in a year to get involved here. They will be satisfied to have engaged with Anganwadi children. You can see a positive change in the environment.
If we talk of school dropouts, sometimes tour programmes are organized for the kids. What type of activities is organized? They are sometimes taken to temples or to the banks of a river and sometimes to a garden. Can these children be taken to a nearby primary school? These kids will see the school students playing in the ground and themselves will play with them. They can have the midday meal with the school students. The children of Anganwadi will start developing the interest of going to school. 'I want to attend this school. It is a good school, big school with a nice playground.' It is a small thing but change begins from here.
You might be aware that I had started a small programme. Whenever I am invited to a convocation ceremony I request the university to allow 50 special guests as well to be seated in the front rows. Well, no one can refuse the request made by a Prime Minister. They are under the impression that those guests will be from BJP. It is natural to think that way as this is the convention. Then I reveal that 50 poor students from government school should also be invited as special guests as I talk to them after the convocation. Whenever these children look at the students wearing gowns and the special caps receiving their degrees, aspirations arise in their minds to be on the same platform one day. This cannot be achieved even with a long lecture. It is essential for the people of aspirational districts to have aspirations in them. We shall identify the aspirations. I am not asking to develop new aspirations but to channelize those already existing. In this way we can accomplish tasks by public participation.
Every school conducts assembly in the morning. Every day one student can talk on some topic for 10 minutes regarding our target of 2022, be it help or nutrition and so on. In this way the subjects start spreading. What I mean to say is that unless we connect these things to the masses we will not be able to achieve the results.
Secondly, suppose we have some 6 target points. We can achieve One Target properly then move on to the second one to accomplish it successfully. Can we develop these 6, 10 or 15 things as models within 3 to 4 months? Then this will set an example for the people of other districts. People will feel that this is possible even in their districts or villages. If we go by this tradition then I believe the targets set for the 115 districts will also be achieved.
Another issue is that of infrastructure. It is true that there is a demand for construction of roads and sometimes there is a constraint of budget but if a condition is imposed on the masses to plant trees on both sides of the roads as a prerequisite for the construction of the road, automatically a sense of responsibility will develop in the villagers. They will start planting trees immediately and later the road can be constructed through MGNREGA and contractors will arrive. The aspirations of the people should merge with the schemes of the government with public participation. Simplicity increases with public participation. There is one more problem. A few officers are really creative and dynamic. He comes up with new ideas and initiatives but wants those things to end with his tenure. Unfortunately, in most of the states there is a lack of stability. Sometimes the officers are transferred within one or 1.5 years which is a cause of concern. Anyway, with outcomes new paths will be discovered. But if we form a team, even without any leadership if the team is a robust one, with division of labour, clear roadmap, monitoring system, and a fixed time frame, results can be automatically obtained. I believe we should make efforts in that direction. You can very well accomplish that with the enthusiasm and excitement that I could see. You don't know but these 115 districts of the society that have become a burden on them will soon lift their heads up and will never stop after that.
You must have seen some places in India that later developed due to one or two main reasons. You will find 50 to 100 such areas in India that have suddenly developed. With a single breakthrough, things will start developing. Can imagine that even if these 115 districts move ahead by ten steps then how much this country is going to transform? Even the government will start focusing on those areas and prioritising them.
It is human nature to wish for a window seat in a train. Similarly a person would wish for a comfortable seat to obtain more leg space while travelling in an aeroplane. This is human nature and I don't consider that as bad. While getting posted we all know that some districts of every state are good and some are backward and undesirable. If someone is posted in a backward district, his friends will also say- 'Man, you are stuck now! But don't worry it's just a matter of 6-8 months'. This psychology begins from there only. I believe that the developed districts will by and large suit them. But the young officer can never improve his life there. He jumps into that road and continues with his hunky dory life. But the person, who rides onto a difficult terrain, bears the suffering in a posting which is a bad one in the eyes of some of the colleagues, will one day realise that even though it was a difficult phase of life, it made him a stronger person.
You will see that whenever you talk to an officer of a high stature, he would have worked hard, passed exam, completed his training in Mussoorie and entered the service but there would be hidden struggles in his life that had pushed him to work with dedication. He would tell you all that had happened while he was working as a Deputy Director and how one incident had changed his life. All the people of high stature usually have had faced a lot of hardships while those who were born with a golden spoon in their mouths, may get a good posting with a big bungalow of 2 acre area; but that person faces hurdles later in life even though in the earlier phase he leads an easy-going life.
I believe that those who have been given the responsibility of looking after the 115 districts are fortunate because they can feel satisfied in their life. Nobody notices the good initiatives in the already developed areas. There is nothing to be satisfied about even for you. It was the same and will remain the same. But if someone plants a single sapling in a desert, that is more satisfying as we can give life to something. You are those who have got this opportunity to deal with the challenges and you have the power to change the situation. You can evaluate yourself - the way you have progressed from your initial position. Challenges have their own strength and I don't consider those people who have never faced any challenge in their lives as fortunate. Only those who are capable of facing challenges can actually live a fruitful life. These help a person in his journey of life. I can feel the positivity in this room that is reflecting from your willingness and dedication. I believe that this is a great strength in itself and we should move ahead with this strength. This is the month of January and Babasaheb’s birth anniversary is on 14th April. Can we prepare a timetable till 14th April to monitor the progress of 115 districts? I wish to visit the district that will be making a rapid progress and spend time with the team to understand its modus operandi. I will try to learn that myself. There is nothing new in what we will be doing in these 3 months; the system is in place but we have to instil new energy and new strength by also incorporating public participation and other new experiments. After that I would like to make it a routine in my work.
I believe that the country should move forward and make big strides. The country should change and the lives of the common man should change. It usually begins with the change in a small unit. This has a cumulative effect and the changes are visible in the country as a whole. It acts like a catalyst and you are like the change agents that lead the country. I believe that this vision, strength and possibilities will work like catalyst to accomplish the objectives by the year 2022 that marks 75 years of India's independence. In the bureaucratic world we usually hear the contributions made by the great officers who once worked with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or some other officer who might have worked with some other great personality in that period. We often hear the discussions regarding officers of high stature and seek inspirations from their contributions; the way they provided a new direction and history is a witness to their contributions. But very few things are highlighted at the district level. There had to be an officer even at that level who might have spent his youth in some work that could be at the root of that change. For the past 70 years we have heard of the contributions made by high level officers, took inspiration from them and would continue to be inspired by them. But it's high time a voice was raised from the district. It should produce a success story. We should now get to hear of success stories of the officers at district level too.
I was quite active on social media since the beginning but now I do not get enough time for it. But at that time I was quite involved. Two days back I was surfing the internet. I came across a tweet from a lady IAS officer which was quite interesting. Now she is a senior officer. Her photograph was also displayed but I am forgetting her name. She had written - “it is a moment of great satisfaction in my life. Why?” She continued - “I was a junior officer at that time. Once I was traveling by a car when I came across a child who was grazing his cattle outside a school. I had stopped my car, called the teacher of that school and asked them to admit the child. I rebuked the child and compelled him to join the school. After 27 long years, a head constable saluted me during one of my visits and asked me –‘Madam, could you recognize me? I am the one who was once grazing his cattle and you had sent me to school. Today I have reached here just because of you’.” The officer tweeted further that how a small thing can bring about a sea change. We have opportunities in our lives which we should not let go.
The country has several expectations from us. If something goes wrong, then the people of the country blame the Almighty. No other country has such a good fortune as India, because even today the people blame their fate or the Almighty; but never the government. No one can get a greater public support and faith. If we fail to identify this then probably there will be a day when we would not have answers for ourselves. Therefore friends, the job of transforming the fate of 115 districts would also become the fate of the country. We can form a strong foundation for our new India from that work that has been entrusted to you. My best wishes to you all. Thanks a lot!