First Month in Office- Modi Sends out a Strong Message of Decisive Governance

By: Pathikrit Payne
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With the Prime Minister Narendra Modi Government nearing one month in power, one cannot deny the impressive pace with which he has started laying the foundations of strong institutional changes especially in the manner in which the nation is administered from North and South block.

Some of the decisions have found instant appreciation from people at large while through some other decisions, Modi has shown his resolve to take strong and sometimes unpopular but indispensable decisions.

In both respects, governance seems to be taken in a far more serious manner now that it had been for quite some time in India.

Decision # 1: Modi's Strong Message to India's Archetypal Babus

From what could be made out by media reports, India's archetypal babus (read Bureaucrats) have now been put on leash and stringent orders have been issued to them for being in office on time, to stay back till late night, not to have files pending on table for more than two days and to even work on weekends.

For India's quintessential civil servants, laid back attitude, leisurely and casual approach, daily engagements with cocktail parties, indulgence in long lunches and periodic official vacations are gone. It is now time for hard work and that too with accountability and within defined time limits. However Modi has also assured departmental secretaries to take decisions with conviction and he would be there to back them.

However the strictures are not there for bureaucrats only. The same kind of strictures are being issued for Ministers as well who too have
been asked to be on office on time and have been given strict deadlines to finish projects.

Decision #2: Stringent Control over Foreign Tours of Babus and Ministers

Not just that, restrictions are also being put on the needless foreign travels that most ministers often resort to in the name of official work. Not only ministers and bureaucrats have been told to notify their itinerary 10 days before a scheduled foreign tour but have also been asked henceforth to create reports about what all they have been implemented from their learning from previous visit before getting sanction for the next leave.

These are extremely critical and bold steps in the path towards improving governance and curbing the tendency of the people in power bold decisions which no one in the past had the gumption to take.

Decision # 3: Blanket Ban on Foreign Funding of NGOs

Further, the decision of Modi Government to have blanket ban on foreign funding of NGOs in India, based on a crucial IB report is also a commendable step. From now on every foreign funding would have to be routed through MHA and would be subject to clearance. The issue of foreign funding of NGOs resorting to all kinds of nuisance and creating disruptions and orchestrating resistance to all kinds of developmental work in India needed to be controlled with an iron hand.

The impact of such sinister activism with sole objective of creating obstruction to any kind of industrialization or developmental project has been costing India to the tune of 2-3% of GDP per year. For a nation with a gargantuan population to feed and the desperate need to provide both jobs and amenities to the same, one cannot continue to tolerate such disruptive activities with nefarious design for long.

The decision needed courage and the Modi Government has shown it has the gumption to do what has to be done in the interest of the nation. The fascination among the elite intellectuals for NGOS and especially the idiosyncratic tendency in India to perceive any kind of act of protest as an extremely intellectual and noble work, however useless they might eventually turn out to be, has to go.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam and the eventual benefit that dam gave to Gujarat vindicated how hollow and useless the protests of activists
against the dam have been. Most such orchestrated protests funded by foreign vested interests result in cost and time overrun which take a heavy toll on nation's finances. This had to stop. And Modi did it in the most calibrated manner.

Decision # 4: Faster Clearance of Defence and Industrial Projects

Likewise, the decision of the Ministry of Environment to speed up the environmental clearance process of projects and especially the ones related to the defense and security is an extremely welcome step. As per the data given by the Environment Minister himself, there are more than 5000 projects pending with the Environment Ministry for environmental clearance.

In fact one of the biggest reasons for the slow growth rates and reduced investments during the UPA regime was this lack of environmental clearances for a large number of projects. The issue of sustaining and protecting the environment is fine but can never be a reason for creating massive impediments in the path of economic development especially when at stake is generation of employment and commodities for a huge population as well as the security of the nation.

The steps thereby taken by the Modi Government in terms of giving fast clearance to Indian Navy's most critical second phase of Karwar
naval base named Project Sea Bird is an extremely positive step especially given the increasing prowess of Chinese Navy and the threat
 clearance for another proposal to set up a radar station at Narcondum Island in Andaman region.

There is also a renewed vigor and a sense of urgency in the realm of giving faster and simpler clearances to defense projects which are
extremely critical from national security point of view. The shocking saga of lackadaisical approach of UPA could be gauged from the fact
that 80 critical border road projects amounting in total up to 6,000 Km of roads have been stuck in environment ministry for several years
now. This happened even when China has been frantically improving its own infrastructure along the borders and frequently encroaching into Indian Territory.

Fortunately, with the new NDA government giving massive priority to clearance of long pending defense projects, India's defense preparedness is expected to get quite a boost with many of the pending projects expected to get clearance soon enough.

Further, the Modi Government showed much alacrity in clearing projects worth Rs 21,000 crore, many of which had been languishing for almost a decade because of several issues ranging from bureaucratic hurdles to lack of environmental nod. It is this kind of alacrity that which is the need of the day and for others to replicate.

Decision # 5: Raising the Rail Fare and Rightly So...

The decision of the NDA Government to hike rail fares is an extremely positive step. The under recovery from utilities in India is a real
cause of concern, be the power sector or the railways, The burden of subsidy and under pricing of passenger fare in Indian Railways have catapulted to an unmanageable Rs 26,000 crore and the railways is losing around Rs 30 crore per day. Unless drastic steps are taken, the Indian Railways, never known for quality service though, would soon go the way of Air India; a perennial sick child depended on tax payers' money.

The question is, can India afford a bankrupt, poorly maintained and rickety railway? Shouldn't we feel ashamed as a nation by looking at
the pace at which China has gone ahead with its railways and made it world class even as India continues with its ill-maintained and a Jurassic age railways with no technological advancement, no modernization and of course of no security?

Fact of the matter is that successive governments of India have always used railways as a milking cow for political benefit and for doling
out favors, for giving freebies and acting as messiah instead of having any long term vision to make railways the medium of India's long term economic development. Investments in national highways that were initiated by the previous NDA Government under Vajpayee have contributed majorly to economic growth.

People happily use national highways while most willingly pay for quality road through toll fares. India needs similar investments in railways infrastructure and the Indian passenger would have to come out of the mentality of presuming that raising rail fare is unjustified, even when it happens once every few years and even when cost of inputs for the railways have also gone up.

Of course Indian Railways would have to simultaneous improve quality of service in the medium term, if not in the short term but the rail
fare hike has been one of the boldest decisions taken by Modi Government. Improvement in railways infrastructure would need money
and that money will not come from heaven. It has to be garnered by the railways itself through more revenue generation and reduced subsidy which has become unmanageable now.

Decision #6: Forming SIT for tracking India's vast amount of black money

Last but not the least is the first decision that was taken by the Modi Government, i.e. setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT)
for tracking and bringing back huge amount of black money stashed abroad. The amount of Indian black money stashed abroad runs into trillions of dollars and even if this government succeeds in bringing back part of the same and use it in developmental work and payment of debts, India would never be the same again.

Given the success that many other countries have got in terms of being able to trace their respective black money and given the crack team Modi has created for the job, one should not be surprised if SIT become successful in bringing back most of India's legitimate money illegally stashed abroad.

Each of these steps is crucial and perhaps many more would come and each is expected to have long term positive impact even if some may seem to be harsh in the short term. But one thing is for sure that this Government does have the resolve to take strong decisions without hesitation. India needed that badly.

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