Six months ago, when Narendra Modi took oath of office, it was the culmination of a relentless and high-voltage election campaign that demolished his political rivals and highlighted the need for urgent reform on so many fronts.
Modi was elected by the largest majority for any leader in at least three decades. This has led to huge expectations because Modi ran and won on the promise that he was the solution to India's endemic problems—outdated laws, corruption, slowing economic growth and unemployment. Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat for 15 years, had earned a reputation as a competent leader who can get the dysfunctional bureaucracy to work hard and create a business-friendly environment.
There has been a steady trickle of decision making since he took the helm, but the big reform measures and large scale restructuring of state's control over business and policy are yet to happen. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has hinted that his full budget in February will make some major reform announcements. But that time frame is not in keeping with the urgency for reform Modi had called for during his election campaign.
Here is a round up of the important decisions by the Modi government in its first six months.
Swatchh Bharat Campaign: Less than a third of Indians have access to sanitation, which leads to spread of several diseases and high mortality rate of children under five. Modi has decided to launch this clean-up drive across India, and the aim is to make sure every home has a functioning toilet. It will also mean awareness campaigns and building infrastructure such as water supply systems that rural areas often lack.
Liberalizing Coal Mining: The Modi government has decided to allow private players to mine and sell coal. This would be the biggest liberalization in this sector in the last 40 years.
Accelerating Disinvestment of ONGC, Coal India, NHPC: The Modi government set itself a target to raise Rs. 58,425 crore from stake sales in public sector companies, but might fall short of the target.
De-control Diesel: Modi has loosened controls on diesel prices. This step, along with other austerity measures, should help India narrow its fiscal deficit. Fuel subsidy cost India as much as $23 billion in the last fiscal.
Continue Aadhar’s use to combat corruption: Modi has pushed for Aadhar, the biometrics-based unique identity system built by the previous government, to stop leakages that result in over half of subsidized supplies getting lost to theft and corrupt officials.
Making it easier to build on forest land: Modi decided to take away the power of gram sabhas and village councils to stop development of projects on forest land. Instead, district administrators can now give the go-ahead without further consultation. This means speedier approval of projects, but environmentalists are alarmed at the potential destruction of forests and loss of wildlife habitat.
New attendance system for officials: The Modi government has launched a new attendance website where anyone can see whether bureaucrats are coming in on time, and how long they are in office. This is a new frontier against chronic absenteeism in government offices.
Push for simplifying land acquisition: The cumbersome land acquisition act passed by the last government proved to be a hindrance in development of new projects. The Modi government seeks to simplify provisions and revise the formula to calculate sale prices of land.
Make PIO visas for life: During his address at the Madison Square Garden in New York, Modi announced that Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) will get visas for life. Earlier it had to be renewed every 15 years.
Slacker labor laws: The government has reduced the discretionary powers of labour inspectors and introduced single-clearance windows for multiple labor law compliance certificates. This was a long-standing demand of businesses.
Allow higher foreign investment in insurance: This bill, which will allow foreign companies to have 49% stake in Indian insurance firms, has been hanging in parliament since 2008, when it was first introduced. Modi's team introduced 97 amendments but it is still stuck in the Rajya Sabha, where Modi's party is in a minority.
Ambitious financial inclusion scheme: Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana aims to have a bank account for every Indian. The requirement to keep a minimum balance has been waived. By October, over 6.47 crore accounts had been opened with a cumulative balance of Rs. 4,813 crore.
One decision-making center: Modi scrapped the Planning Commission, 62 Groups of Ministers and Empowered Group of Ministers set up by the Manmohan Singh government. This is meant to speed up decision making.
Austerity measures to narrow deficit: Modi has asked all government ministries to cut certain spending by 10%, and curb foreign travel to help narrow the fiscal deficit.
Smart Cities: Modi has a grand plan to build 100 smart cities that will have smart grids to make them energy efficient. They will also be digitally connected. However the money allocated for this huge project in the budget seems inadequate.
Clean-up Ganga: Modi won from two constituencies, Varanasi and Vadodara, and chose to keep the former. Cleaning up the Ganga, which is among the most polluted rivers in the country, was among his first announcements. However Modi faces big challenges before work can begin in earnest.
Bullet Trains: India lacks high-speed trains, and Modi wants to bring them in. The first proposed route is Ahmedabad to Mumbai. Previous governments have not made much headway, but Modi has got Japan onboard as a partner. Modi also replaced a railway minister who wasn't moving at the desired speed.
That's a lot of things going on at once, but then Modi set higher expectations during the election campaign. People are waiting to see if he can indeed make a difference or if the promises stay just that.