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Modi’s nine schemes that have made him the champion of the poor

Author: Shehzad Poonawalla
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 11, 2021
URL:       https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/rebel-with-a-cause/modis-nine-schemes-that-have-made-him-the-champion-of-the-poor/

One of the biggest mistakes that opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi make, is to truly believe their own preconceived and premeditated perceptions and propaganda about the brand of politics they believe, he pursues, which is often labelled as communal and majoritarian. That all Prime Minister Modi represents is encapsulated in their narrow definition and punch line of “hard Hindutva”. While one can imagine, the constraints of votebank politics, that drives several of the so-called secular parties to dish out this narrative that plays on subliminal fears of minority communities they want to appeal to, the truth is that Modi doesn’t win election after election only on the plank of Hindutva (Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that PM Modi is either apologetic about pursuing Hindutva as has been defined and espoused by the RSS nor do I agree with the kind of Hindu phobic positions many in intellectual and political circles take to villianize Hindutva in the name of pseudo secularism ) To understand the phenomenon of PM Modi- his cult popularity and his titanium cast “can do no wrong” image, which has very definitive social welfarist and progressive underpinnings , we have to look closely at these nine schemes of Modi in the last 7 years.

Har Ghar Jal (Jal Jeevan Mission)
Har Ghar Shauchalay (Swach Bharat Mission)
Har Ghar Bijli (Saubhagya Yojana)
Har Ghar Gas Cylinder (Ujjwala Yojana )
Har Ghar Ration (Gareeb Kalyan Yojana)
Har Ghar Bank account (Jan Dhan Yojana)
Har Ghar Swasthya (Ayushman Yojana)
Har Ghar Teeka (Largest Vaccine Drive)
Har Ghar Pakka Ghar (PM Aawas Yojana )

These nine schemes have transformed the lives of the poorest of the poor and have helped raise their standard of living to a level of dignity that they have always aspired for but were denied by a largely inefficient delivery mechanism led by a patronising Mai Baap mindset. Today, it is the tens of crores of beneficiaries of these schemes who view Modi as a messiah and will vote and support him irrespective of the narrative of the opposition. Social welfare schemes aren’t new to India but the major difference is one of approach and delivery. Despite the size and scale of these ambitious schemes what PM Modi has been able to manage is efficient delivery without leakages. Also, in terms of approach, the social welfare scheme is usually tied up with the aspirational quotient of the end beneficiaries as opposed to being a mere dole from the state largesse that doesn’t view the beneficiary as a stake holder but a mere recipient of state patronage, usually during election season.

We all know the massive success of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. The national sanitation coverage was just 38.7% on Oct 2, 2014 before the start of the campaign. On October 2, 2019, all the villages in the 36 States and Union Territories of India were declared open defecation-free (ODF). The impact of this has been phenomenal not only in ensuring safety, dignity and security of girls and women and ensuring they remain in school instead of dropping out but has also economically benefitted the beneficiaries. In the UNICEF Report on Financial and Economic Impacts of the Swachh Bharat Mission in India, studies have shown that the “ Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) is highly cost-beneficial from both a financial and an economic perspective. Even households that invest INR 16,000 (US $248) of their own money in a toilet and handwashing station saw those funds repaid in 2 years from the medical costs saved.” This saving on health costs may not mean much for the more prosperous but for those living on the margins, its importance cannot be underplayed.

Another initiative that’s slowly but surely transforming India one village at a time is the Jal Jeevan Mission which envisions the delivery of safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India. One glance at the JJM dashboard will astound even the worst of cynics. Of the total number of households in rural areas – about 19.22 cr already 43.25% or about 8.31 cr households have been given tap water connections. This was a mere 16.8% in August 2019. Which means that in just two years 5 crore households have been provided with a water tap connection. If this pace continues most of India’s rural households, which until now were subjected to be at the mercy of the tanker mafia or had spend hours in line to get one bucket of water, will have their own personal water tap connections. In 17 states and UTs this figure has already crossed 50%.

The Saubhagya scheme was launched in 2017 with an objective of achieving Universal Household Electrification in the country, through last mile connectivity and providing access to electricity to all un-electrified households in rural areas and poor households in urban areas. After electrifying every village in India this scheme in a short span electrified as many as 2.82 crore households across India. The ability to have even a basic light bulb & fan connection in the house can be understood by those who have to spend hours below a streetlight to read a text book.

Whether it’s the 43.5 cr bank accounts of the poor that enable and ensure financial inclusion  and targeted deliveries of social welfare using the JAM trinity (Jandhan-Adhar – Mobile ) or whether it’s the 80 crore poor people who got 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month during the covid lockdown and will get it till November 2021 or the world’s largest insurance scheme namely Ayushman Bharat that allows 50 cr people access healthcare cashlessly – these schemes have a multiplier effect on ensuring that the poor are removed from
the trap of debt and poverty while respecting and treating them with dignity.

These are powerful and transformational schemes with elements of progressive ideals in built into them. The scheme to build toilets isn’t just about building toilet blocks but building a society where women can freely move out and go to school. The scheme to affix a tap connection isn’t just about supplying water but about ensuring better health and utilisation of time and energy for more productive endeavours.

Replacing the traditional chulha with a gas stove and a cleaner fuel under Ujjwala was to ensure that women who are often expected to cook meals in a cramped rasoi or kitchen can breathe better and their lungs are not subjected the equivalent of inhaling 400 cigerettes a day!

For millions of such Indians PM Modi is more like a social reformer and messiah who has delivered them from the modern manifestations of socio – economic subjugation of the past decades. A pakka house on the name of the woman of the household or a pakka road in the village, access to hospitals to free Covid 19 vaccines, access to water and electricity or the ability to participate in economic activity by taking small loans from institutions as opposed to private lenders- all of this has made lives of crores substantially better. These are everyday lived experiences that people are not going to forget merely because a narrative is built up against the PM on certain issues. People believe that because of PM Modi’s own humble origins as chaiwala, he has been able to understand their needs and deliver to them these transformational schemes. This is where PM Modi draws his core electoral strength and as long as his agenda of Parivartankari Vikas (transformational development) continues it seems difficult if not impossible for the opposition to mount any real challenge to him politically.

 

-Shehzad Poonawalla is a contributor at Times Now. He tweets at Shehzad_Ind
 
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