Several people, who watched Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on Independence Day, expressed inspiration from the speech. However, the question is, will everybody do their own bit for the improvement of India as a whole?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the nation from the historic Lal Quila (Red Fort) made several announcements and launched schemes for betterment of lives of people. Several people, who watched his speech, expressed inspiration from the speech. Especially, the twitterati was quite vocal on social media. However, the main question is, will everybody do their own bit for improvement of India as a whole?
Toilets for girls, women, poor households
Stressing on the “dignity of women”, the Prime Minister urged parliamentarians and corporate sector to help build separate toilets for girls in schools across the country by next year. “I want to start work from today. There should be a toilet in all the schools of our country. A separate toilet for girls...it is only then our girls will not have to quit schools," he said.
According to the Economist, some 130 million households in India lack toilets. More than 72% of rural people relieve themselves behind bushes, in fields or by roadsides. The share is barely shrinking. Of the one billion people in the world who have no toilet, India accounts for nearly 600 million, the report says.
The United Nations University’s Canada-based think-tank for water, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health (INWEH) cites a rough cost of $300 (about Rs15,000-Rs18,000) to build a toilet, including labour, materials and advice. Zafar Adeel, Director of UNU-INWEH says, “The world can expect, however, a return of between $3 and $34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, realized through reduced poverty and health costs and higher productivity – an economic and humanitarian opportunity of historic proportions.”
However, the question is not only about whether India can afford the cost and build toilets at every household and separate toilets for women. It is the lack of sanitation and hygiene habits that are affecting use of toilets, especially among rural folks. At several places, including villages and towns, the government had built toilets and latrine. However, almost all are in bad and pathetic condition due to lack of maintenance and care. They all emit an unbearable stink. These facilities built by government are treated by everyone as 'public property', which in other words means everybody is free to use it as he/she pleases without caring for it. Will the public start caring for these facilities now?
Modi talked about cleanliness and toilets from the Red Fort. Can we follow it at least from our own locality? Or will we simply clap approvingly the speech and move on to do exactly what we have been doing so far? Even the affluent people are found stopping on expressways to relieve themselves, when there are toilets along the way.
One model village in every constituency developed by MPs
Prime Minister Modi announced a scheme under which all members of Parliament (MPs) will develop one model village each in their constituencies. Modi said he would like state legislators also to participate in the development scheme. There are nearly 800 MPs and close to 4,000 members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and legislative councils (MLCs) across different state legislatures.
There are two different approaches followed by two of the country's prominent model villages, Punsari in Himmatnagar, Gujarat and Hiware Bazar in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Punsari model, which was studied by union rural development ministry few months ago, relies solely on funds from central and state-sponsored schemes. Hiware Bazar
, on the other hand follows twin principles of self governance and self reliance and is the village with highest GDP in India.
The most important thing for both the model villages is active participation from residents. So, unless resident themselves are not willing to or ready to make changes, mere funding from an MP or MLA will not be able to develop the village as model village.
Jan Dhan scheme to take banking services to the poor
PM Modi also launched ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’ to help the poor open bank accounts which will come with the facility of a debit card and insurance cover of Rs1 lakh. The Union Cabinet has already cleared the two-phase financial inclusion scheme under which bank accounts will be opened for 15 crore poor persons with an overdraft facility of Rs5,000 and accident insurance of Rs1 lakh.
The scheme, to be pushed by the Government in mission mode, seeks to provide two accounts to 7.5 crore identified households by August 2018. The main features of the scheme include a Rs5,000 overdraft facility for Aadhaar-linked accounts, a RuPay Debit Card with an inbuilt Rs1 lakh accident insurance cover and minimum monthly remuneration of Rs5,000 to business correspondents who provide the last link between the account holders and the bank.
Now, let’s take a look at this ambitious financial inclusion plan, which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been trying to implement without much success since 2005. In fact, several thousand new bank accounts, opened under pressure from RBI, remained dormant or did not have a single transaction.
In addition, there is a cost factor attached with opening a bank account, issuing a debit card as well as paying premium (whatever it may be) for the insurance coverage. So who will bear the cost? For example, the basic minimum cost for issuing a debit card would be over Rs50. Even if we assume it is Rs50, then for 15 crore people, the cost comes out to be about Rs750 crore. Who will bear the cost? The banks, who are already reeling under pressure from maintaining inoperative or dormant accounts and allowing customers from other banks to allow using its ATMs? So will regular bank customers and taxpayers be made to bear the cost of this humongous task?
Financial inclusion and empowering the poor is a necessity. There is no doubt at all that the poor are forced to borrow at significantly higher rates, are badly exploited by moneylenders and also forced to pay more for all goods and services. When financial inclusion was attempted though micro-finance, it led to exploitation by rapacious micro financiers, insurers and others.
Will Modi sarkar succeed in getting the same government officials to deliver where others have failed? Will moneylenders not exploit the Rs5,000 overdraft facility for repayment of old borrowings? What will the Modi government do to prevent poor, unbanked, rural folk from blowing up the overdraft, as they usually do, on marriages and religious ceremonies and on liquor?
Citing RBI, a report from Livemint, says, nearly 50% of the basic saving bank deposit accounts that were opened during the “Swabhimaan” campaign remained dormant. Although RBI has asked banks not to levy any charge or penalty on dormant accounts that cannot maintain a minimum balance, there still is a cost to banks for maintaining these records.
Remember, last year while urging the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take a relook at RBI's proposal on Aadhaar authenticated biometric ATMs, independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, had said, "Public policy towards financial inclusion should be devised intelligently with objective of lower banking costs and increased access for consumers and not using ill-conceived, brute force methods involving significant additional spending and increase in costs to consumers and please make no mistake, these costs will be passed on by banks to consumers.”
Will it happen this time as well? Will the regular bank customers made to pay for accommodating unbanked population, who may or may not even use their 'free' bank account?
‘Make in India’ and ‘Made in India’
In his speech, Narendra Modi called to make India a hub for exports. “I want to appeal to all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, 'Come, make in India', 'Come, manufacture in India'. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here. We have got skill, talent, discipline, and determination to do something. We want to give the world an favourable opportunity that come here, 'Come, Make in India' and we will say to the world, from electrical to electronics, 'Come, Make in India', from automobiles to agro value addition 'Come, Make in India', paper or plastic, 'Come, Make in India', satellite or submarine 'Come, Make in India'. Our country is powerful. Come, I am giving you an invitation,” the Prime Minister said.
The economy of India is the tenth-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). India was the 19th-largest merchandise and the 6th largest services exporter in the world in 2013; it imported a total of $616.7 billion worth of merchandise and services in 2013, as the 12th-largest merchandise and 7th largest services importer.
Starting in 2012, India entered a period of more anaemic growth, with growth slowing down to 4.4%. Other economic problems also became apparent: a plunging Indian rupee, a persistent high current account deficit (CAD) and slow industrial growth. Hit by the US Federal Reserve's decision to taper quantitative easing, foreign investors had been rapidly pulling out money from India though this has now reversed with the stock market at near all time high and the CAD narrowing substantially.
India is ranked at 134 out of 189, overall, in World Bank's 2013 ease of doing business index. However, this score masks the underlying data: in terms of starting a business, dealing with bureaucratic permits and enforcing contracts, it is ranked among the 10 worst in the world; while in terms of protecting investors, general operations and other measures, India ranks very favourably among 189 countries. Will the PM be able to ease issues being faced by the entrepreneurs? Will the lakhs of local babus who extort from businesses day in and day out have a change in conscience. Will Modi make the laws less onerous so that the babus don't have too many sticks to beat the businessmen with?