India on the Move

Spotlight By Meghna Gupta

With efficient use of natural and human resources at its disposal, doing away with unnecessary controls and restrictions, removing corruption and red tape, better style of governance and sustenance of such factors, India’s success is certain. In a country with vast demographics and diversity, the requirement is that of a holistic approach that utilises all available potential with an aim to improve life of a common citizen.

India - the ancient seat of learning, knowledge, and spirituality, with a recorded history of several thousand years, became a democracy 69 years ago. The country has seen a variety of leadership with a plethora of visions since. Many worked, many did not. However, none captured the imagination and attention of people globally like Narendra Modi, who is in the midst of a herculean task - of making India the cynosure of all eyes. And so far, he has done a good job at that.

After taking oath as the prime minister in May 2014, he has tirelessly worked to bring in a positive transformation through economic and financial reforms as well as social inclusion schemes. His vision for India is not just futuristic, it is a 360 degree mission that aims to establish new links, connect the dots, bridge the gaps, and travel the distance to ensure the country gets the place it deserves in the comity of nations.

In a country where politics is torn with populist policies and divisive culture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured his schemes benefit those at the margins of society without discrimination, whether it is taking banking services to the poor, providing cooking gas to rural households, or empowering the youth with sustainable skills to earn livelihood. This is bound to result in comprehensive and holistic changes down the line. If numbers are indicators of any progress, then a few below clearly highlight that the country is geared towards an upward trajectory:

• India’s recorded highest ever urea fertiliser production 245 lakh MT (2015-16);

• Coal India recorded production of 550 MT (2015-16), highest ever in 69 years;

• As of May 2016, India had a total installed capacity of 303,083 MW, showing a yearly growth of 9.9 percent;

• Twelve major ports of India recorded cargo traffic at 443 million tonnes (Apr-Dec 2015), which increased by 3.2 percent for first three quarters of 2015-16;

• Highest ever automobile production and software exports were achieved in 2015;

• Over 200 million people have been brought into the banking system through financial inclusion schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana;

• Over 20 million rural households have been provided clean cooking gas LPG in sync with ‘Give It Up’ - a program to give up subsidies offered to middle and higher income groups.

India’s economy grew at 7.3 percent in 2014-15 as against 6.9 percent in 2013-14. Also, India contributed 7.4 percent of global GDP in terms of purchasing power in 2014-15 while contributing 12.5 percent of global growth. Thus, its contribution to global growth is 68 percent higher than its share of the global economy. It is amply evident that India’s economy is in recovery mode. Amidst all this, PM Narendra Modi has covered 29 major countries in a span of 26 months with a single aim – of developing India through foreign investments, strategic partnerships, manufacturing collaborations with global giants, and tourism. Foreign tourist arrivals in India posted an increase of 7.3 percent in June 2016, with over 5.5 lakh visitors coming to India, as per a government report. This translated into INR 10,732 crore or $1.6 billion of foreign exchange approximately.

Major Transformations

The foreign investments started steadily flowing in soon after the new government took over. A lot of credit for this goes to PM Narendra Modi’s incorruptible reputation while he was the chief minister of Gujarat during which he changed the face of the state. That, coupled with the smart use of information technology and business process re-engineering led to doing away with outdated and exhaustive processes, resulting in India jumping 13 places in Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Index in FY 2016, standing at 130 out of 189 nations. The Modi government aims to bring it to top 50 by the end of its tenure. With single window clearance, pre-registration process is fast as never before. Plugging in gaps and adopting e-auction for disbursing tenders resulted in transparency that was well received by businesses.

India’s economy is witnessing a radical change, with government opening majority of sectors to 100 percent foreign investment. Currently, India is amongst top 3 destinations for foreign investment, following the US and surpassing China which has been, until now, the favourite manufacturing destination. At a time when global FDI is falling, it has steadily grown in India, up by a whopping 46 percent between October 2015 and May 2016. “During October 2014 to May 2016, FDI equity inflow has increased by 46 percent from $42.31 billion to $61.58 billion in comparison to previous 20 months (February 2013 to September 2014),” said Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister, in Rajya Sabha. The figures are self-indicative of the positive efforts this government has made.

One may ask what the use of FDI is if there is no power to run the business. Electricity is synonymous with leading a normal life in the world driven by technology and machines. Once a power deficit region known for its erratic and inefficient power supply, India’s coal problems are being meticulously solved. Piyush Goyal (Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines) recently highlighted that emphasis on domestic production and subsequent cut down on imports will result in savings of INR 40,000 crore ($6 billion approx.) in 2016 alone as against INR 24,000 crore in 2015. The coal imports fell by 26 percent and the target is to reach a production level of 1.5 billion tonnes by FY20, turning India (a traditional coal importer) to a coal exporter. A mammoth task of bringing electricity to India’s 18452 dark villages, which have not seen a bulb light up in their homes since Independence, is currently in progress. Of this, 8870 villages have been electrified till date, with 680 having 100 percent connectivity. This speaks volumes about focus and determination of this government to change the face of India.

Additionally, with Modi government’s emphasis on solar power, India commissioned 947 MW of solar power plants that is expected to be over 12000 MW in 2016-17; India’s solar power share in world market stands at 18 percent. By 2030, the government is committed to generate 40 percent of its electricity needs from non-fossil fuels. Not only this, India also initiated a pact with 121 sunlight rich countries to join its solar power program. It is worth mentioning that the power sector is one of the top favourites when it comes to FDI.

Relaxing the entry barriers through EODB and FDI, and bettering the power sector is in sync with the government’s ‘Make in India’ program. This ambitious project of Modi government, launched in September 2014, is getting push in the right direction. The platform is offered with the clear objective of building India as the design and manufacturing capital of the world. The economic liberalisation of the 90s transformed India into a global services provider but without the backbone of defence, heavy industry, and electronics, India would have always remained at the mercy of the world. Hardly any secret, it has been looking outside to meet its needs in defence, energy, electronic equipment, and heavy machinery. This, in turn, brought a huge burden on India’s pockets, mitigating its foreign reserves and elevating its vulnerability in the long run. As of now, India’s debt position is comfortable and better than before. After a period of consistent decline of debt at 61.2 percent since 2001-02, it has stabilised at 47.1 percent of GDP in March 2015.

With ‘Make in India’ program that gives manufacturing impetus to 25 major sectors, the picture in India is set to change steadily. It not only strengthens country’s self-dependence but also brings with it investment, expertise, jobs, and trade. In 2015, US aviation manufacturer Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government to assemble one of its two helicopters (Chinook heavy-lift and Apache attack types) in India. In April 2016, it also signed a contract with Bharat Forge to make titanium forgings for Boeing 777X. In December 2015, Reliance Defence signed a manufacturing and maintenance deal worth approximately $6 billion, with Russia’s Almaz-Antey. Spice, Huwei, Xiomi-Foxconn, and Samsung have already signed MoUs to set up manufacturing as well as R&D facilities in India.

The ‘Smart Cities’ project takes the use of technology to the next level. It aims at overhauling city infrastructure through implementation of model housing, renewable energy resources, efficient water and waste management, state-of-the-art medical and transport facilities, and a clean sustainable environment. The project focuses on e-administration and e-governance through robust IT connectivity and digitisation. In March 2016, the first list of 20 cities was released on the basis of prescribed selection criteria, which are currently under various stages of development. This, just like ‘Make in India’, provides tremendous opportunity for foreign companies exploring large scale and long term markets like ours – in investment, technology, information technology, consulting, planning, and architecture. Given the enormous nature of this program, it of course will take time before it starts showing results but once it does, it will change the scene of urban landscape in India, forever.

Technology is multifaceted, and is the crux of change in modern world. ‘Digital India’ is offering the opportunity to transform its people into a digitally empowered society. This flagship program is focused to change the look, feel and use of public services through the use of information technology. The transformation of this ecosystem will have direct bearing on the life of a common citizen, with information and services available in a seamless manner. Some of the key initiatives that form part of ‘Digital India’ are: Digi-Locker - an e-safe vault to store important documents and IDs on the Cloud; Wi-Fi Hot Spots - to improve digital connectivity by providing high speed BSNL access points at public areas; and Centre For Excellence on Internet of Things (IoT) - to provide public amenities such as transport, electricity, medical facility, and water and waste management for smart city governance. Other programs covered under ‘Digital India’ are e-Hospitals, National Scholarship Portal, Bharat Net (to digitally connect village panchayats across India), Swachh Bharat Mission App (for easy access of cleanliness services) and e-Sign (for digitally signing documents using Aadhaar verification). That’s the new India. In keeping with the traditional small scale enterprising ability of the people, this government also launched entrepreneurship focused programs such as ‘Start Up’, ‘Skill India’, and ‘Stand Up India’. To enable dismissing the first obstacle of entrepreneurship – capital - it initiated a specialised financing bank called Mudra. Entrepreneurship not only creates livelihood for entrepreneurs but also for those they employ. Ideas have existed before PM Narendra Modi took over, but an idea without vision, planning, and implementation is futile. This government is working consistently at removing the root cause of failure.

Railways witnessed commissioning of 1780 km of railway tracks and 1730 km of electric lines, which has been its best performance so far. All major Tier 2 city railway stations are in the process of an overhaul. For highways, the government launched FASTag tolling technology that is already installed in 300 of 357 toll plazas in India. Railway infrastructure and high speed bullet trains are now open to 100 percent FDI that will fast track the process. The government has also announced 10000 km of national highways in 2016-17 as against 8000 km in 2015, highest till date.

With efficient use of natural and human resources at its disposal, doing away with unnecessary controls and restrictions, removing corruption and red tape, better style of governance and sustenance of such factors, India’s success is certain. In a country with vast demographics and diversity, the requirement is that of a holistic approach that utilises all available potential with an aim to improve life of a common citizen. The sooner you take skills to the poor, the better are their chances of leaving poverty behind. India can never beat poverty with freebies. It never has, in the past. Like PM Modi says, ‘Empower to Improve’. This provides a fair idea of India that is on the move under the visionary and dynamic leadership of PM Narendra Modi.

While the government is doing its bit, citizens also have to take up a stake in this great Indian metamorphosis, especially for social programs such as ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, ‘Skill India’, etc. A country should always be a work in progress. While the power politics will be at play as usual, it should not deter the leader or the people to achieve what they have set out for. As citizens of this country, we share a common purpose - to help India realise its true potential. It has everything on its side - time, talent, tenacity. And there is no stopping India on its way to become what it once was - the global capital of the world - from where knowledge and wisdom will flow again. India is on the move to prosperity.

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The writer is Founder and CEO, VenTantra that offers a portfolio of consulting and advisory services - online market research, content writing, go-to strategies, and marketing plans.

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.