Last month, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s longest river bridge – the Dhola Sadiya bridge – that connects Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and named it after the legendary Bhupen Hazarika.
This was enough for the social media handles of Congress folks to go into a tizzy on Twitter. This was their grouse:
Built by Dr. Manmohan Singh
Inaugurated by Narendra Modi https://t.co/UKLhXSpK4R
— Dr Ajoy Kumar (@drajoykumar) May 26, 2017
They went on and on about how the foundation was laid in 2010 by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and all that Modi did was to take credit for Manmohan Singh’s work.
But then Social Media is an evil place to be. It soon emerged that the go-ahead for the design of this bridge was given by the Prime Minister of India in 2003, and I don’t have to remind you, the enlightened reader, who the PM was in 2003!
So essentially the bridge was announced in 2003, foundation laid in 2010, construction started in 2011 and inaugurated in 2017 – the story of any project in India.
Nonetheless the issue here is this claim by the Congress party and the ecosystem. This “allegation” has been a trend ever since the Narendra Modi government started rolling out welfare schemes. The Congress party (and the English media) have constantly been saying that all the programs are a mere rehash of old UPA programs.
While researching to write this article, guess what I found? An article in 2001, in India Today that said – “Most of the rural development schemes announced by Vajpayee are merely repackaged versions of populist programmes of past prime ministers.”
In the aforementioned article, only 4 schemes are mentioned and only 2 are in continuum, and more importantly note how despondent that article sounded on what would eventually become one of the biggest successful infrastructure programs – the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (which incidentally is *not* a repackaged program!).
Guess what I did not find? Any headline, from 2004 to 2014, that says – “Most of UPAs schemes are repackaged versions of NDA”.
Only fellow tweeter “thinkerspad” exposed this thievery of the Congress party, way back in 2013, here. And Prime Minister Modi touched upon this in his speech here (from 8:16 minutes onward, for about 3-4 minutes).
So, essentially, this is a media template. And I can just stop here and blame it all on media bias and propaganda, and I will not be wrong. But let us still look into the facts about welfare schemes by the Narendra Modi government, and whether they are mere rehash of some old Congress/UPA schemes, as is being claimed on Twitter by a few these days:
Jan Dhan Yojana
The accusation is that the Jan Dhan Yojana is a mere rehash of “Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA) with max publicity”. First of all – how did the UPA even want to propagate this program with such a complicated name? Imagine a customer who doesn’t know English going to a bank and the executive telling him/her that there is this awesome “Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account” that will change your life!
This claim was made by no other but former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram who wrote in 2015 that this BSBDA, started in 2012, was basically an extension of “No Frills” accounts introduced in 2005. He goes on to claim that 24.3 crore accounts were opened under this scheme, without any boasting or advertisement. Safe to assume that he means they opened 24.3 crore new accounts in a period of 9 years.
He further goes on to tell us that there was a big problem – “Most zero balance accounts had a zero balance and no activity whatsoever.”
Enter Jan Dhan Yojana. The name is instantly connecting with people. It now includes an added insurance cover, and interest on deposit. It now includes the bank officials going to the homes of people to get them an account.
Within no time, it creates a Guinness Record – 27 crore accounts opened in ~2.5 years; 75% zero balance accounts have now become ~28% zero balance and nearly INR 65,000 crores have come into the banking system.
So basically, all the shortcomings of earlier schemes were effectively addressed, new benefits were provided, and most importantly, some exemplary implementation guaranteed unprecedented success.
To say that Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana it is merely a repackaged version of BSBDA is like saying that motorbike is just a repackaged version of bicycle.
Neem Coated Urea
Here is the accusation: “Neem coated Urea started 13 years ago. Modi Govt increased the production ceiling fm 35% to 100% and that’s it.”
“That’s it”? Let’s quickly understand what this Neem coated urea is all about. As per the website of National fertilizers limited: (emphasis added)
“Agronomical trial on Paddy and Wheat crops with Neem coated Urea as source of Nitrogen has produced significantly higher yield at research and farm level.”
“National Fertilizers Limited, in the year 2002, standardized the techniques for production of Neem Coated Urea in situ, at its Panipat Unit.”
“Looking into the potential of Neem Coated Urea and its acceptance by the farmers, Ministry of Agriculture in July 2004, included the Neem Coated Urea in FCO.”
Let’s just focus on two timelines – standardization of technique in the year 2002, and adoption in July 2004.
Now, urea as a fertilizer is widely used and because of this, it is (was) also one of the highly pilferaged fertilizer in the country. Urea that was supposed to land in the hands of the farmer, often ended up with chemical industries or even rogue elements that used Urea to prepare adulterated milk.
So – it’s a open-and-shut case – move all Urea production to 100% neem coated, both to increase yield and stop the pilferage and misuse.
What did the UPA do? Mysteriously decides that only 35% of it will be neem-coated. Why the 65% free takeaway was allowed, is anyone’s guess.
For a full ~10 years, only 35% Urea was neem-coated. What did NDA do after coming to power? Made it 100% mandatory. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what “industries” have been hurt because of this.
At various fora, the PM and his ministers have highlighted this monumental change – at one such forum, when this was being highlighted, Rajdeep Sardesai cut short the minister and asked him, “Are you a suit-boot ki Sarkar?”
We now move on to the next (hilarious) accusation – “RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana) renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhya gram jyoti yojana for Piyush Goyal to boast tall fake claims.”
RGGVY, introduced in 2005, had the aim is to electrify all villages. By when? By 2010. [pdf] Quite obviously, that target was missed by a WIDE margin.
But was it some innovative program when it was introduced in 2005? Turns out that the NDA-1 government, under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had an “ACCELERATED RURAL ELECTRIFICATION PROGRAMME”.
Now, my head is spinning to understand who usurped whose idea?!
And by the way, in three years, India has become a power surplus and net exporter of electricity for the first time in 2016-17.
Seriously? Such schemes have been in vogue in India since 1985 at least. If successive governments haven’t been able to achieve targets, the incumbent government obviously has a responsibility towards plugging the loopholes, and achieving the new target of housing for all by 2022.
It is pertinent to mention here that Narendra Modi himself has said many times that if the country can just focus on finishing already approved projects, a lot of development is possible. Towards achieving this goal, he personally chairs a “PRAGATI” meeting every month and tracks the progress of all these projects.
The accusation is “Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana started in 2007 became Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.”
I guess such statements are made simply assuming the reader is not intelligent enough to decipher outright visible differences. Here is “Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana” and here is “Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana”, and below is a quick table comparing them:
Both the yojanas exist today, but it is anybody’s guess which one people will prefer to take! And the user conveniently forgets to mention the other insurance scheme – Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Bima Yojana – Life insurance of 2 lakhs with a premium of 330/- per annum. And as always – the NDA government put in a lot of efforts into spreading this information to the citizens of the country.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
Some are claiming that the “National Girl Child Day” of UPA was renamed to “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” [pdf] program of the NDA. This is even more specious comparison than the insurance schemes – to compare the celebration of a day to a mass campaign program like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao!
However, this is not result of some lack of understanding. There is a clear agenda. To make these lazy accusations multiple times so that people start believing that they are true. An influential part of the media is complicit in fanning this narrative.
Also, one can’t help but notice the utter lack of in-depth coverage of unique flagship programs like MUDRA, Make in India, Ujjwala, Startup India, Digital India et al. Latest coverage was an article written in The Indian Express about Make in India, calling it a flop show, and guess who wrote it? P Chidambaram.