Modi avoided gush and hyperbole and stuck to the roadmap of what needs to be done for the economy
Prime Minister Narednra Modi wore a resplendent turban to raise spirits on a colourless 74th Independence Day, observed under the shadow of the pandemic. In his speech, though, he kept it flat-out real, not making any grand announcement or promising the moon, except reiterating all that has been said and done before with an elaboration of some details for public consumption. Except for a national digital health mission and finally indicating elections in Jammu and Kashmir — specific commitments both — he stuck to the tried and tested, a review of his Government’s performance without the gush and a roadmap of what needed to be done in the changed context of a post-pandemic world. And by emphasising time and again that the Coronavirus would not stop India’s march towards self-reliance, he seemed to prioritise Atmanirbhar Bharat as a transformative doctrine in all sectors of the economy and national life. He linked “Make in India” with “Make for the World,” highlighting how India was now exporting PPE kits, drugs and ventilators which citizens thought would be in woefully short supply during the beginning of the pandemic. He even said there was no question of challenging the interdependence of a connected world but India had to contribute and increase its share in global exports to accelerate its growth and worth. This should dispel any doubts of any swadeshi-driven insularity that his party ideologues may have espoused. In fact, by incentivising manufacturing and scaling it up, standardising it with access to the world’s best technology, collaborations and indigenisation and facing up to global competition, India could advertise itself as a potential factory floor. Of course, the relentless virus has also compelled the Modi Government to realise that no talk of atmanirbharata would make sense till our health index improves or the healthcare infrastructure is penetrative enough to guarantee that. So using the edge of India’s digital revolution, promising to connect all six lakh villages with optical fibres in the next 1,000 days, he announced a new scheme, a second major move after Ayushman Bharat. Now every citizen will get a health ID and his/her case history and treatment protocol will float up on the screen every time he/she visits a pharmacy or a doctor. Till such time that the health pyramid shapes up from the primary healthcare centres — mind you the pandemic-induced facilities have been managed only in an emergency mode in the short term — the digital health mission can at least strengthen our tele-medicine network and help detect early warning signs. Of course, with persistent fears of data mining and privacy issues on a sensitive matter such as one’s well-being, only the ID card-holder can log in his/her details while visiting a clinic. As for an Indian vaccine, which many had speculated would be announced momentously till experts advised caution, the PM just said a roadmap was ready to inoculate all citizens in the shortest time once it was cleared. The Rs 1 lakh crore fund for developing farmers’ infrastructure was a blanket announcement and it remains to be seen how much of it is new or how much has already been factored in recently announced agricultural stimuli. Even the Rs 110 lakh crore to be invested in a National Pipeline Project to bail out the infrastructure sector came without specifics, like which categories would be eligible, how would they be identified, would it be multi-modal and so on.
As for Kashmir, Modi said elections would be held after the delimitation exercise was completed. At least, there is an indication of political engagement from the Government’s side, under increasing pressure to ensure participation of the civil society. But he stopped short of declaring any major development initiative for the Valley, restoration of full civil rights or welcoming its youth and talent pool into the mainstream, singling out only women, Dalits and refugees as people who merited foremost concern. In contrast, he did mention specific solar energy and organic projects for Ladakh. Most Ladakhis are a discontented lot now, claiming the bifurcation was politically motivated to settle the Kashmir question than genuinely addressing their concerns that autonomy should have guaranteed. On the security question, he was cautious about not naming China yet again, clearly uncomfortable about his early denial of incursions in Ladakh. He would rather keep the boundary issues backdoor than be upfront at this stage. Of course, for somebody who has used the forces for political capital, he had to acknowledge them. So he praised the Galwan martyrs and promised that terrorism and expansionism would beget a fitting reply from our soldiers. But that he intends to neutralise China by strengthening our strategic positions in the Indian Ocean Region was evident from the declaration that 1,300 of our islands would be “developed.” Of course, he did not lose sight of a demographic he has been cultivating as it made a sizeable pie of his mandate — women. Appearing as a champion of gender parity and at a time when women have been allowed combat roles in the Navy and Air Force, he announced a committee to reconsider the minimum age for marriage of girls. He even mainstreamed menstrual health as part of the public health discourse by promising sanitary pads at Rs 1. Now if only rape laws were looked into with as much detail. Of course, Modi did touch upon the Ram temple, the bhoomi pujan of which he had used to signify our cultural efflorescence of sorts, but was restrained. He just said it had settled disputes, brought peace and showed the way to the future. Has the pandemic forced the Modi regime to re-orient itself towards development once again and soft-pedal its core concerns? Or will they be saved for the next round of Lok Sabha?
Monday, 17 August 2020 | Pioneer
You might also like
- IPL 2020: Super Victory September 20, 2020
- Amend farm Bills, BKS asks Centre September 20, 2020
- LoP Hridayesh, BJP’s Shams hospitalised after testing positive September 20, 2020
- Covid-19: Record breaking spree of contagion continues in U’khand September 20, 2020
- Prepare for increased movement in coming days: CS September 20, 2020