Thursday, October 29, 2020
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You are wrong, NYT: It is our time now

With a billion aspirations on the rise, India is finally on a path towards rapid development for all sections of the society and one has to credit this government for bringing about the delivering the change that India desperately needed.

I’ve come across multiple articles over the last couple of years that have written off some of the most well-intentioned schemes of the Indian Government. I chose not to respond to them back then, for I believed in waiting for the outcome of these schemes before commenting on them. I was confident that these well-designed schemes would be successful and I was patiently waiting for this moment to let the success of these schemes give a befitting reply to one such commentator who wrote them off in one such op-ed. This 2017 op-ed recently resurfaced on social media, making a comprehensive rebuttal rather necessary.

Let me begin by putting the record straight, the numbers presented in the article for the UPA are incorrect as they’re based on the old base year prices. Based on the back series released by the CSO, the growth rate under the UPA was at 6.7 per cent as against 7.1 per cent under the NDA. This illustrates that the economy has actually outperformed the UPA era which is a significant achievement for two very important reasons. We must understand that when the NDA took over from the UPA, the twin balance sheet problem was still evolving, growth was slowing and the taper tantrum episode in 2013 had exposed our external market vulnerabilities. The first two years for NDA were not at all great as it experienced two successive droughts that had an adverse impact on India’s agricultural sector. This was followed by the rise in NPAs on the balance sheet of banks as the economy was still trying to find its mojo back. While the average growth rate under the NDA has been higher than that under the UPA, one must acknowledge the backdrop against which this growth was achieved.

The legacy issues of the UPA were a significant drag on the growth rate of our economy, despite that India registered a better growth and this illustrates that through successive reforms, the current government has managed to revitalize the Indian Economy. From fragile five in 2014 it became the fastest growing major economy in the world while the government continued with its agenda in reforms.

The data for capacity utilization demonstrates how easy lending policies along with the policy paralysis of the previous government had led to excess capacity in the manufacturing sector since 2011 onwards [Capacity Utilization: Suppose you have a plant that can produce 100 shirts, but you produce 80 so the capacity utilization of your plant is 80%]. The sharp decline followed till 2014 after which it continued to decline marginally till 2016. Capacity Utilization started to improve significantly post 2016 and as a direct consequence, domestic private investments as a share of GDP have also started to increase significantly since 2016. This indicates a strong and sharp revival of the economy as evident from the estimates of the National Accounts (or GDP) as released by the CSO.

Source: Capacity Utilization-RBI OBICUS; Investment as a percentage of GDP- World Bank

Another charge levied by the commentator is on the jobs front as it claimed that almost zero jobs were added by the Modi Government. This claim seems to be completely devoid of facts as NDA has been estimated to have added at least 8.7 million jobs per year. EPFO and other indicators suggest that job creation under the Modi Government has been extremely robust and better than the UPA so clearly the commentator should have looked at the data on jobs before making such an outlandish claim regarding the state of job creation in the Indian Economy.

The commentator, through the article, tries to make personal jibes at the Indian Prime Minister without offering any data to substantiate the tall claims that are being made. In fact, the article mentions how the “Gujarat Model” was to offer cheap land and incentives to manufacturing units to promote growth in the state of Gujarat and the Prime Minister is trying to run the country in the same manner. This assertion is completely flawed as it simplifies the governance of a state into two factors and then further assumes that this oversimplification is being extrapolated across the country.

In reality, the Gujarat Model was a model that finds its ethos in the creation of equal opportunity along with growth for all. To balance the scales of this growth, the Gujarat Government then worked towards empowering its citizens along with a redistribution mechanism for the welfare of the poorer sections of the population. All of this, while the government continued to invest in physical infrastructure across the state and it smartly used the dividends from such investments to further fund investments in human development. The last four years of Modi Government has also witnessed a similar model being put in place in India as the government works towards the creation of a level playing field while it invests on social, physical and human capital.

The article, perhaps due to the bias of the author mentions how Prime Minister made tall promises that were impossible to achieve. Some of the promises he cites are regarding the training of apprentices to service the manufacturing sector or providing internet to 600,000 villages shortly. He also mentions the cleanliness of the River Ganga and the target of construction of 10 crore toilets. Here’s the thing, what he thought to be impossible has been achieved.

Over 13,000 training centres have been operationalized for the sole purpose of skill development and vocational training. On the other hand, under the digital India program, the government has already laid 3,05,824 KMs of optical fibre across 1.22 lakh Gram Panchayats in India. It is interesting to note that in 2014 this was only a little over 300 KMs so a bulk of the optical fibre laid was under the current government.

Similarly, for toilets over 9 crore toilets have already been constructed since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission while the river Ganga has witnessed the revival of its aquatic life due to the efforts of this government.

To be fair, whenever this government has tried to launch an ambitious project, most commentators including domestic journalists have tried to write it off by calling the targets as “impossible”. However, evidence has consistently demonstrated that this is a government that means business, and this is a government that shows up for work! It is this attitude of setting tall targets and working towards achieving them which is largely responsible for the remarkable development that India has experienced over the last four and a half years. In 2014, nobody in India thought that twenty-four by seven electricity would one day become a reality not just for those who live in big cities but for everyone across the country. With 100 per cent rural electrification done, it is only a matter of time that the basic need for electricity is democratized just as access to improved cooking gas is.

While certain journalists and commentators may continue to be biased due to their preconceived notions about India and its current Prime Minister, if one has to take an objective view of India’s development then they must come and travel to the 18,000 plus villages that received electricity for the first time since independence or visit the state capitals of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura that were put on India’s rail map for the first time. With a billion aspirations on the rise, India is finally on a path towards rapid development for all sections of the society and one has to credit this government for bringing about the change that India desperately needed.

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Karan Bhasin
Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.

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