One of the biggest reasons for the success of Prime Minister Modi’s campaign last year was the participation in it by a varied section of people. Another big reason was that Modi was able to reach out to a large section of people, given his relentless campaign for months. Upon assuming office, Modi has just extended these traits – and has devised a few programs that reach out to the unreached.
There are extremely few examples in history, where people from a varied section of the society rise to the call of their leader and contribute to the development of the society. Seldom (or perhaps never?) have we come across a war-cry like Swachh Bharat. We are terribly notorious for most unhygienic surroundings. In fact, some take pride in spitting on the road, throwing waste on the streets and littering the surroundings. It took one call to the higher conscience by the Prime Minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort to show us the mirror.
What is the effect it has had? Let’s first take a look at the collation below:
The only time we have heard little kids participate in government programs, are during Independence Day, Republic Day etc. At times, we also see them line up on the road to welcome a visiting dignitary. This is perhaps the first time children have actually come forward to be part of the nation building and are reminding people of their responsibilities. It is a matter of immense pride that almost all schools across the country have taken up Swachh Bharat in the right earnest, and are preparing the future citizens of the country to behave more responsibly.
Let's move away from children and take a look at this video of Sachin Tendulkar (yes, THE Sachin Tendulkar) actually cleaning up a footpath in Mumbai (if this doesn't inspire you, what else will?). Or this video of Priyanka Chopra who has transformed a slum into something livable. Or read this report on Anil Ambani cleaning the Badrinath and Kedarnath temples. The Telangana government, led by the TRS party (which the BJP opposes strongly) has whole-heartedly taken up Swacch Telangana program.
No mention of Swachh Bharat is complete without talking about Temsutula Imsong. For those on social media, this name started becoming familiar about 4 months back. Prime Minister Modi made a unique and special mention of Temsutula's work on twitter. And then, during his visit to Canada, he made a mention of "two daughters" who worked towards cleaning up of Prabhu Ghat in Varanasi - the recognition was complete. In her own words, with this recognition has come added responsibility too! That an ordinary citizen feels more responsible, instead of resting on the ultimate laurel, makes her even extraordinary.
“Touching a raw nerve” is a phrase that is often used. In my view, the call of the duty by the Prime Minister has touched the “responsibility nerve” of people. What else can explain a Sachin Tendulkar, a Priyanka Chopra, a Anil Ambani, a Temsutula Imsong, a bunch of kids in an apartment complex, a batch of retirees, a group of doctors – working towards a common goal? Most of these folks have little to do with governance; are busy with their lives, and yet have now committed themselves to doing their bit, even if it only means picking up a toffee cover and throwing it in a dustbin. This is why precisely Swachh Bharat program has reached the unreached.
When it comes to Swachh Bharat, I must mention the wide gap in the coverage by the "national" media versus the regional media. Since I am from Hyderabad, I can primarily refer to the Telugu media. The largest circulated Telugu daily, Eenadu , had two front page editorials expressing fullest support to this program and exhorting people to join. Their newspapers and TV network (ETV) very regularly carry reports of various sections of society, from cities to towns to villages, taking part in cleanliness drives.
They are also one of the best critiques of this program too.v They have regular reports and pictures of how abysmal garbage disposal is; how no authorities are taking action of unclean surroundings in government hospitals etc. Mr. Venkaih Naidu has even nominated the proprietor of another newspaper, AndhraJyothy, as one of the brand ambassadors of Swachh Bharat. Various other newspapers also regularly cover these activities in their editions. A snapshot from another newspaper Sakshi, during the recent Swachh Hyderabad drive is below.
Contrast this to the coverage by the famed "national" media. Do you recollect any 30 minute program (leave alone a few) that tells us about the successes and failures of Swachh Bharat? Any front page, or for that matter, any op-ed, that discusses about this program?
Swachh Bharat has a very long way to go. We are fighting both the apathy of the government agencies and the apathy of a large citizenry. This fight is to not just change procedures, but to change mentality. This is about us, not about Narendra Modi alone. Every hand that joins in this mission only strengthens it. Speaking of hand - have you all noticed how the Congress party is maintaining an arms length from anything that's got to do with Swachh Bharat!
Ordinary folks like me look forward to budget speech to know what changes happen in the tax structure; what will happen to the rates of electronic goods etc. Rest is always financial mumbo-jumbo as far as I am concerned. Most of the discussions post budget presentation always go over my head. So when I saw this small report in The Hindu, one day after the Budget was presented, it was equivalent to the mumbo-jumbo - Micro Units Development Refinance Agency Bank sounds like mumbo-jumbo to the uninitiated.
Few days later we had the opportunity to read some brilliant articles on this topic by Shri S. Gurumurthy and Prof. R. Vaidyanathan (Samples 1 , 2, 3) . Slowly, it began to emerge that this is one of the biggest reform measure in this year's budget. And when we saw this easy to understand graphic - the bigger picture of how this move will benefit nearly 6 crore people became quite evident.
It was indeed a surprise that there was no formal credit system for the crores of small business units across the country. It does not require a genius to figure out that these small business units form a very critical part of our country's economy. That it took nearly 70 years for the Government of India to come up with a formal structure for them, is a reflection of what went wrong.
MUDRA bank was formally launched on April 8th. The "missing middle" are no more missing. By "funding the unfunded", the Modi government just took another step towards reaching those left out so far. As expected, coverage for the announcement and the launch of MUDRA bank in the famed "national" media has been negligible. A host of a 9pm show on one of the English TV channels tweets this a few moments after his show:
"In all the noise of news, @PMOIndia Mudra bank initiative deserves a mention. Let's hope it helps 'fund the unfunded'. Good move."
Here is the link for the program from that night. Please watch his headlines for the first two minutes. ZERO mention of the launch yesterday. Even some news related to Shobha De was headlined, but the initiative that “deserves” a mention could not find place on *his* show. This summarizes the apathy of the media towards a scheme that will make a difference to nearly 6 crore people; towards a scheme that reached the unreached.
Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna
Is this the first time in the world, that a government program created a Guinness record?
Even without the Guinness account, isn’t it such a big testimony to the capabilities of this government that a massive 15 crore new accounts have been opened within such a short span.
One of the major failings of the UPA government was to get any job only half done.To avoid pilferage, they told us that all payments will be linked to having your bank account linked to AADHAR card. In some cases, they made it mandatory to have AADHAR card before a deadline. No systems were put in place to deliver those AADHAR cards before this deadline. In any case, if a bank account and AADHAR are compulsory to get payments/reimbursements from the government, then it is common sense that they first ensure bank accounts exist in the first place! It simply defies how the UPA wanted to function, by not finishing AADHAR deployment and not having easy mechanism to open bank accounts.
Opening a bank account was a big deal earlier. You needed to have a proposer, a bunch of documents, a minimum balance and reams of documentation. Prime Minister Modi simply removed all these impediments. Forget standing in line to get these accounts opened, bank officials themselves had to go visit the houses of people, and ensure that they have their accounts opened. No minimum balance is required, but if a certain balance for 6 months was maintaind, some benefits were extended. Other benefits such as accidental insurance have been offered too. More importantly, with the creation of a bank account, every person can now directly receive what is due to him/her. No more worrying of middle-men to take care of this process. A bigger success which no one talks about is a whopping amount of nearly INR 17,000 crores that has been deposited into the Indian banking system. All this has been achieved by reaching over to the unreached masses.
Obviously, Jan Dhan Yojna has a long way to go for a full fledged success - it is imperative that the flaws of this system are bought out and made more robust. It will only be a matter of time before the vast number of empty accounts will come back to bite the government, but like they say, well begun is half done. The only critique I have seen so far of this scheme is this one from NDTV - based totally either on hearsay or from a sample of 1 district! Surely, we can do better than this?
There have been many things that went right, many things that could have been handled better. A good beginning has been made, the most important hallmark of this one year being enhanced participation by the citizenry. There are still a vast majority to reach out to. Here is wishing that the government succeeds in doing so in the 2nd year as well.
By: S Sudhir Kumar