A SENIOR editor with India Today magazine and a political analyst, Ahmedabad-based Uday Mahurkar has covered politics for the magazine for three decades.
An alumni of the Department of Indian History and Archaeology of the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara, Uday is also a keen researcher on radical Islamic movements and their rise in South Asia.
He has seen the phenomenal rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the time he entered the BJP from the RSS in the mid-1980s, and later after he became the chief minister of Gujarat. Over the years, he has been closely monitoring Modi’s development vision. Excerpts of an interview with Uday:
WORDS: URVASHI THAKAR
With the BJP promising many schemes for the nation, do you think there are noticeable changes that are emerging?
Yes, there are many noticeable schemes which have been brought in and they sure are making a difference. In poverty elimination, there have been great steps taken by the Modi government.
If you take Jan Dhan, we couldn’t imagine that about 40% of India’s population is out of the banking system. Another example that we can take is the Ujjwala scheme, which provides subsidised LPG to the below poverty line citizens.
We couldn’t imagine that after 70 years of India’s independence, there are 25 crore people in the country who eat food cooked in challahs, damaging their lungs to a level we can’t even imagine. In just two years, the Modi government has completed the task of giving LPG cooking kits to 3 crore families.
People talk about being jobless due to demonetisation and GST; I agree that there should have been more planning done while implementing the GST, but corrections have been made now.
If you’re talking about joblessness, then you can’t ignore a scheme like Mudra, which provides loans to small skilled professionals without any collateral guarantee. In the last three years, loans have been given to around nine crore people.
Many think that these loans are given as a donation but in fact they are not; in a span of three years the repayment has been 98% which means people are repaying the loans.
The loans are given to people like carpenters and small business aspirants in villages where they want to expand.
But when you expand, you will at least hire one helper; for example, if out of eight crore if half of them hire, at least four crore citizens will get employment. I personally feel there is a sincere attempt this time to remove poverty.
What are the visible changes in terms of development that you have seen between the BJP-ruled states and the non-BJP ones?
If you look at most of the parameters of development or rather any other parameters, the BJP-ruled states have with no doubt done more progress than the non-BJP ones. Without being able to go into a lot of details, even if you were to see the development sheets of the BJP governments and the Congress ones, the former are doing better. Any economist or anyone with a good eye on development will admit this easily.
The BJP Modi model of development has promised a wave of difference and some of them are even being implemented. How well do you think these models are making an impact in the country?
There is one big difference – like I spoke of the different schemes with the emphasis on poverty removal, you still must look at this with a very different angle. The schemes in the country have remained on paper, with the help of good bureaucracy, selecting good officials and using technology, the government is trying to ensure precise delivery.
If you look at the data of below-poverty line people, you’ll find that there are a lot who are not poor, but they manage to get inside the below-poverty line data. This is a common thing in India.
In Gujarat in 2010, Modi came out with a method to remove such names from the ration cards and the moment he implemented this method the number of ration card holders came down by 16 lakh, from the figure of 1.25 crore.
The reason behind this was that there were ghost card holders. The BJP government has come up with good monitoring measures. For example, there is a new one called Dash Board Based Governors which is an application.
The day to day progress of every scheme in the country is placed on the dash board with Geotech pictures, which is a big development for the country. The reason for this being a revolutionary step is because Geotech pictures are those that are taken from the mobile and one has the liberty to show where the picture has been taken, the place, the date, and the time.
About 48 to 50 schemes are being monitored under this application. When a person’s name is selected for government aid to build his house then pictures are taken stage wise, starting with his house being
‘unbuilt’ and moving on to the ready house. In terms of monitoring and delivery, I think there is a huge change after Modi’s arrival.
Do you think the ‘affordable housing’ scheme has been a success? In what ways could it have had more impact?
We have to see this in two parts. Rural housing is doing very well. Modi had set up a very ambitious target and officials were scared if they would be able to meet the target on time because of this monitoring he was using.
But there is a problem in urban housing. Land is not available plus there is some amount of competition among the ministers because it is prestigious to give housing to poor people. There is some competition also within the party which is preventing the scheme from progressing. The scene on urban housing is not good but rural housing is going well.
Are there any changes in the education segment in rural areas? What do you think should an ‘ideal’ rural school be like?
School education is a state subject. I think the centre should sit with the state governments and come up with a uniform policy, a work which has not been done so far. It varies from state to state.
There are some states, for example Bihar, which is considered to be very good in primary education. In Gujarat, 20 years ago education was poor.
One thing is corruption. In posting of teachers there is a lot of corruption involved and so in the case of appointments. Another problem is of teachers not going to the rural areas. In such a scenario the biometric system can be installed.
In Gujarat they have done well but they could have certainly done better. For school education the central government has to make a real effort to have uniformity in their policies.
How can there be more job openings in the country?
You see jobs are driven by the economy. The government can only create jobs through schemes like Mudra, and this is the most the government can do. The job scenario as such depends on the state of the economy.
For the government to create jobs directly, it has to come up with policies where jobs get created. And this process is on right now at the central level but then state governments also have a big role to play in it.
What is your understanding of the term ‘vikas’?
For me ‘vikas’is every Indian having ‘Roti, Kapda aur Makan’. I think this is the true definition of ‘vikas.’ Even if one person is left without these things, I believe we have not achieved ‘vikas’ at its best.
While every political party offers a new development scheme before elections, what according to you are the basics one should expect from them?
I would expect them to promise less but do what they promise. What we see is that there is a flurry of schemes which are promised before the elections and then they forget all about it. So I would expect every party to promise less but show commitment towards achieving it once they come to power.