MATHURA — One year ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a resounding win in India's general elections. Expectations were high, after five years of UPA government that was perceived to be corrupt and ineffective. Modi promised big changes would come, to take the economy and the nation forward, and address its most complex problems.
Today Modi spoke at Mathura, one of India's most religious towns, and the birthplace of Deendayal Upadhyay, a founder of the BJP. He laid down his administration's achievements and drew comparisons with the previous government in the face of criticism from politicians and businesses that he has not done enough with the historic majority he has in parliament, and that he could have taken bolder steps to fix India's legacy problems.
Here are the main points from his speech:
1. Modi had promised 'achhe din' or 'good days' and said he has delivered. "If elections were to be held today instead of last year, we would have had a new scam, a new corruption case, every other day. In the last one year of my government, have you heard of even a single scam, or of control of leadership through remote control? Or loot of coal and spectrum? So, did the bad days go away or not?"
2. Modi also said that he busted well-entrenched power circles in Delhi where corrupt middlemen hobnobbed with politicians. And that such people are facing 'bure din' (bad days). "These were the people who ruled for 60 years. These power circles are history, there is no place for 'dalals' now. Such people are facing "bure din" (bad days) now. I did not provide a guarantee to usher in good days for them," he said.
3. He mentioned auctioning of coal mines, which happened after the Supreme Court ruled that the previous government had given them away for a price way lower than the market price. "Coal mines were given off at a pittance to friends of politicians. The idea was to keep looting," he said, adding that the coal auctions done by his government had generated Rs 3 lakh crore for the treasury. Modi again repeated "Are bad days gone or not?"
4. Modi then turned to programmes for farmers and the poor. "3 lakh farmers committed suicide in the last 60 years. I don't want to talk about which party is responsible for this," he said, claiming that he did not want to politicise the issue. Modi said his government's 'Soil Health Card' scheme will help farmers evaluate how to make their land more productive through better use of fertilizers and pesticides. "Farmers must have a good life. In addition to the card, they will also get 24-hour power supply to help grow their crop output."
5. Getting pensions after a life's service in the government sector used to be a hassle. One rule was to appear in person every year to the district or state headoffices to prove that the beneficiary was alive. Modi said the use of technology has meant this was no longer required. "A 90-year old was expected to travel all the way to prove he is alive. Now with technology he need not go anywhere to prove he is alive." India has been a country where many people never received a pension, in the absence of social security programs. Modi said under the pension scheme announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley in the budget, anyone attaining the age of 60 will start receiving pension. "It is important that people feel socially secure," Modi said. He mentioned the Atal Pension Scheme through which the poor will be covered, and fill an important gap.
7. Modi said that under the previous government's rule, Indian businessmen were investing in other countries as they were uncertain about India's future. "Today, 90 percent of them are investing right here, and that is providing employment for the young."
8. Modi stressed that the biggest employers in India were not large corporations but small businesses. "There are six crore people who sell vegetables, milk, newspapers, have small industries. And such people have generated 12 crore jobs." He said the government was working to make sure they were not denied loans by banks, which tended to favour the organized sector. "It is my job to make sure such middle class job creators move forward."
9. Modi said that the number of tourists had gone up by 6 lakh over the year before, and had become a good avenue for employing the youth. "Wherever the tourists went, everyone benefitted from the guesthouse owner to the tea seller," he said.