Mission Possible

A new India: PM is using India’s high-quality, low-cost technology to lift 400 million out of poverty by 2022

9/2/2017 6:34:15 PM
written By : M J Akbar Print

On February 15 this year, Isro placed 104 satellites into orbit using only a single launch of one vehicle, PSLV-C37. The video of the event, available easily enough on the net, shows the familiar zoom of a rocket entering space, and then little flicks chase one another into the deep distance until the mission is completed. Only three satellites were Indian; 96 were commissioned by two American companies, Planet Laks and Spire Global.

The acceleration in space, impressive as it is, might be less spectacular than the change taking place on the ground. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated a transformation towards a new India in which historic burdens such as poverty and corruption have been eliminated, and inheritance ills like communalism and casteism are only bad memory. His mission has a calendar; the deadline is 2022, when India celebrates its 75th year of independence.

Transformative change needs radical thinking. The economic empowerment of women is being used as a principal cure for poverty. Under Mudra, the PM’s signature project for those at the base of the economic pyramid, loans worth Rs 3,55,590 crore have been disbursed. Remarkably, 78 per cent of those taking these loans are women.

The PM’s housing plan, for the impoverished, is an equally big story in gender emancipation. A woman can take this home loan as sole owner; but a man needs a woman as co-owner unless he is a widower or bachelor. This is a fundamental shift in the balance of power within a family. Over 25 million women who thought that a gas cylinder was a privilege of the middle class or rich, are now in smokeless kitchens. Swachh Bharat is a means to dignity and better health for women. The list is long.

The objective is to lift about 400 million out of harsh poverty in five years by ensuring that the first fruits and largest share of economic growth go to those who need it most. In a complementary initiative, the PM is using India’s proven capability in high-quality, low-cost technology to create efficient, sustainable and corruption-free delivery systems for direct benefits to the poor on an unprecedented scale.

Jan Dhan was an essential first step. In 2015, within three months, banks opened 300 million accounts for those who had never crossed the doors of a bank before. Critics sneered that these were “cashless”. Unsurprisingly, they had missed the point: banks were now serving those without money, rather than those with.

Use of technology for transparency has also become mandatory in the bidding process for government contracts. In a country where, particularly during the long decade between 2004 and 2014, contracts became synonymous with corruption, the change is a virtual revolution, leaving sections of the old political-industrial complex frustrated, angry and desperate to restore the previous order.

New India is being fashioned from embers of the old. Sceptics who cannot fathom why Narendra Modi has become the most popular PM in memory need look no further than his comprehensive assault on poverty and corruption.

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