How India has been Modi-fied

PM Modi has pushed through a slew of big-bang reforms, including the introduction of GST, a reduction in fuel subsidies, and the implementation of an inflation target


PM Narendra Modi also embarked this month on the biggest gamble of his political career through a controversial ban on high-value currency notes. Photo: Reuters
PM Narendra Modi also embarked this month on the biggest gamble of his political career through a controversial ban on high-value currency notes. Photo: Reuters

From digital connectivity to sanitation and child mortality, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure has impacted day-to-day life for over 1.2 billion people.

Modi has pushed through a slew of big-bang reforms, including the introduction of a goods and service tax, a reduction in fuel subsidies, and the implementation of an inflation target. Modi also embarked this month on the biggest gamble of his political career through a controversial ban on high-value currency notes. India’s biggest crackdown against corruption in almost four decades risks an economic slowdown and a popular backlash.

At the halfway point of his five-year tenure, these charts show how the prime minister has Modi-fied one of the world’s fastest-growing large economies.

Hearth and home

In June of 2015, the Cabinet approved Modi’s ‘Housing for All by 2022’ programme, which aims to rehabilitate urban slums and promote affordable housing.

According to a report from KPMG LLP, the project will likely cost $2 trillion and about 11 crore (110 million) houses—distributed almost equally between urban and rural areas—would need to be developed to fulfil the vision. That equates to about $250 billion to $260 billion annually until 2022, or more than double the annual investments reported in fiscal-year 2014, the report said.

Tackling corruption

A crackdown on rampant corruption remains central to Modi’s national agenda. On 8 November, the prime minister abruptly banned high-denomination bank bills in a controversial move against black market money and bribery.

According to Transparency International, India was placed 76th out of 168 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in 2015. The country obtained a score of 38 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean)—the same level as in 2014—alongside Burkina Faso, Brazil and Thailand.

The Basel Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Index indicates that India scored 5.69 in 2016 on a scale of zero, or low risk, to 10, which is considered high risk, marking itself as the 78th most corrupt country among the 149 nations surveyed.

Hygiene and sanitation

Even before he took the top position in the government, Modi emphasized the importance of sanitation so much that his ‘toilet over temple’ mantra in 2013 drew ire from the country’s religious communities.

When Modi assumed office in May 2014, Sarika Saluja, project manager for India at the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, expected “an affirmative action” in eliminating open defecation.

The Modi government subsequently launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission in October of 2014, and set an aim of building 110 million toilets by 2019.

“People feel that there’s need for toilets but find it difficult and expensive to build and maintain toilets,” Saluja said in an interview. “But the problem is that people, especially in rural areas, are not aware that the government pays 100% for that. So the first step is to let people know.”

The ministry of drinking water and sanitation posted on its website that almost 28 million toilets have been built since the start of the project including 10.4 million as of Tuesday in the financial year of 2016-2017 .

“This is not about raising the number of toilets but about achieving the open defecation free status,” added Saluja. “Changing the long-held habit of people is difficult but I think Modi’s on a slow but right track.”

Boosting connectivity

One of Modi’s signature programs is the Smart Cities Mission, which aims to convert 100 cities by 2020 to ‘smart cities’ to boost the quality of life through urbanization.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s annual report, the number of phones per 100 people in India has increased from 75.23 in 2014 to 79.38 in 2015, the latest available data.

Modi has been keen on his ‘Digital India’ initiative, which aims to achieve goals such as providing high-speed Internet in rural villages and offering government services online. Overall wireless subscribers, which includes cell phone services and the like, grew from 904.51 million people in 2014, to 969.9 in 2015. In the rural part of the country, growth was significantly stronger with the number of wireless subscribers jumping from 371.78 million in 2014 to 414.8 million in 2015, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority.

That growth is expected to accelerate this year with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the wireless telecom service of Reliance Industries Ltd, launching free service from 5 September to 31 December. The company aims to add 100 million subscribers by the end of 2016.

Reducing preventable deaths

Another key campaign promise of Modi is to put an end to preventable deaths of mothers and children.

Speaking at the Call to Action Summit in New Delhi in August 2015, the prime minister said: “Let us acknowledge the sad reality that the world continues to lose about 289,000 mothers and 6.3 million under-five children every year” and pledged to improve maternal and child health.

According to the World Health Organization, under-five deaths in India have decreased 5.4% and 4.75 year-on-year, respectively, in 2014 and 2015.

While maternal health has also improved for the past few decades, India reported the world’s second highest number of deaths (45,000) in 2015, accounting for 15% after Nigeria’s 19% , said the United Nations in a 2015 report.

Bloomberg

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