By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Has Modi been able to change anything at Delhi? Is this present government a clone of the previous governments? The answer is a big “no.” Slowly but steadily the work culture at the capital is changing.
All the Ministers and the bureaucrats are in the office by 9 am and sometimes work till 9 pm. From day one Modi has made it very clear that he is the boss and would be in touch with all the works of his colleagues and the new word, unheard of in government circles “accountability” has come into existence. Make no bones about it, in times to come, if any of his Ministers are found wanting, he would remove them without any qualms. Have you noticed in recent times, why no Ministers are giving sound bytes to the electronic media. Poor fellows, they are so heavily overworked they do not have even breathing time.
Yes, it is a fact that powers are centralised and all the powers are with Modi and the PMO. But it is Modi who is accountable to the public if he does not deliver. One is not going to ask Jaitley or XYZ for the success or failures of the governance. If the public have elected him to deliver, he then has to take the reins and do everything to ensure that the wheels of the government starts moving and fast. The buck stops on his table.
That is the reason, he made it very clear from day one that the pmo would be calling the shots and would be the Centre of all action at Delhi. Modi personally appoints the Secretaries of key Ministries to ensure that they are loyal to him and advice him of what is going on in the key Ministries. This may clip the powers of the Ministers but it also ensures that the Ministers are alert and work on the same wave length as Modi. I have worked for 40 years in government and take it from me, contrary to the belief, it is always a pleasure to work with a decisive boss.
Whatever perception the public at large have of him, one thing is very clear, he is considered above board and has not been tainted with any corruption charges, in spite of the fact that he was in power for 14 years at Gujarat. Delhi is the corruption capital of India and it is not easy for anybody to untangle the red tape work culture. But slowly and steadily he has made a difference and if the same trend continues, we can expect dramatic changes in the work culture of the government machinery.
If anybody thinks that he has a magic wand that can change the system overnight, then he or she is wrong. One thing Modi has in plenty is the courage of conviction and also a will to do it. For example, even before he had made his tour to Japan, he had anticipated that he would be making some big deals with that country. He made a cell in the pmo to oversee all the deals with that country for smooth clearances in advance and announced it in Japan. The Japanese businessmen were literally floored. Some foresight.
Internationally, Modi has become a rock-star. Calling all the saarc partners for the inaugural function was a diplomatic master-stroke. He is being wooed by one and all. Even China, in spite of his verbal pin-pricks, is trying hard to woo him with an alternate bullet train project. The world has realised that he means business and is ready to be anybody’s partner as long as it helps India. In another fortnight, the Prime Ministers of China and Australia are coming over to India and even the uranium logjam is likely to be sorted out. He does not follow protocol always and does the unexpected like the beating of the drums in Japan recently, which won him lots of admirers. The way he took care of a Nepali youth, 15 years back, has made him a household name in Nepal. So next time I visit Nepal, I may be in for a surprise. Generally, Indians are not liked in Nepal in spite of the fact that they are so dependent on India.
Maybe on the way he may have committed some mistakes, but one has to ignore that in the larger interests of the country. Give him time and then judge him. For a large country like India, it is important that the government in power at least requires a year to show some results. As at present he is the darling of the media and hence the criticism even if it is there, is muted. But think of the alternative. The same old tired Congress or the Third Front with parties like Mamata’s tmc or even the Left, one just shudders to think.
Pratap Simha, our MP has recently stated that if given 500 crores, he would convert Mysore to Paris. Sir, let us be realistic, even if we come to the standards of our neighbouring States, we would be very well off. Money is not an issue. Plenty of Central funds are available. But again we come back to the original problem. Who is going to implement these grand schemes. That is the reason, Modi first got dedicated officers posted at the vital Ministries and then started to implement some projects. Mysore is full of “yes” men posted because of their proximity to the power centres. Sir, since this State is a Congress-ruled State, you cannot even get the officers of competence and with ideas to implement your ideas. Look at the Raja Marga, Town Hall, Lansdowne building, Devaraja Market projects and you know the answer. Every day one reads a news item about some inspections or other of the same Raja Marga, photographs are duly taken, printed and then forgotten. If the contractor is so bad, why not sack him and get another? As far as the renovation of Lansdowne building and Devaraja Market is concerned, maybe the authorities are waiting for another accident to happen so that they can move forward.
Coming back to Modiji, he is at present taking all the right steps and making right noises. Look at the stock market. It is zooming. The reason is not far off. The investor sentiment or confidence is at its peak. All the corporates are confident of the India growth story. It is a known fact that Modi is a brilliant orator and his extempore speech from the Red Fort on the Independence Day was magical. He did not talk of big projects but of simple things like cleanliness and toilets for schools which touched many a hearts. He is bull-headed but is capable of walking the talk. At present he has a major problem since his party does not enjoy the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. But he will find a way out, if the parties like Congress try to block his schemes.
A new initiative of opening bank accounts for the poor called “Jan Dhan Yojana” has been launched with an added overdraft and life insurance benefits. As on date, nearly 3.5 crore accounts have been opened and hopefully the target of 7.5 crores accounts would be in place shortly. His recent speech to the school children on Teachers Day was an excellent idea.
Let us assess him after a year since it takes time to first clear the mess left behind. But his moment of glory would be the day when we the Indians would be proud of our own “Made in India” label. That will be possible if he can motivate our youths to adopt work ethics. He is also human not a God, hence may have some shortcomings but overall he is making and taking sincere steps to ensure India is back to growth trajectory and prosperity. Do you agree with this?
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Note: The writer says, “if the contractor is so bad, why not sack him and get another.” Let us accept the truism where there is corruption the contractor is the king. The original Raja Marga was from Hardinge Circle to Millennium Circle, a distance of about 6 km and the cost was Rs. 19.5 crore. Then with the countenance of our elected representatives, the length of the Raja Marga was reduced and it was to be from Hardinge Circle to the Ayurveda College Circle. However, the cost was not correspondingly reduced. The cost remained at Rs. 19.5 crores. — KBG