In many of the television debates that I have participated in, I observed that of the four panelists opposed to the BJP - it is invariably four versus one - all of them rephrase the criticism labelled by the first mover rather than coming out with something new. And when the turn of the BJP comes, they all shout loudly to ensure that the arguments or the facts do not reach the viewers. I often say that the opposition has developed the habit of looking into the wrong end of the telescope from where even your own skin would look rough and ugly.
Let us come to the first biggest criticism that the Modi Government has failed to create jobs. This lacks imagination, since jobless growth is not possible in a developing economy, more so when such massive expenditure is being undertaken by the Union Government. If the economy has grown at 7 plus rate for the last three years and inflation has been under check, some economic activities must have taken place to spur this growth. If the macro-economic indicators are good, micro-economic results will not be bad.
Perhaps the critics are relying too much on the data of the Labour Ministry. One must not forget that this data takes into account figures from economic activities in eight selected areas such as Textiles, Leather, Metals, Automobiles, Gems and Jewellery, Transport, IT/BPO and Handloom/Powerloom. Also, the sample size is too small - only 1,900.
The Indian economy is expanding fast and maximum employment is being generated in the new "dynamic sectors". For example, one needs to study the growth of economic activities in areas such as infrastructure, construction, and self-employment. It would be boring if I produce the entire statistics to counter our critics. But some statistics would prove how off the mark they are.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Housing scheme), 85 crore man days of jobs were created in 2015-16 and 2016-17,compared to 25 crore man days during 2012-13 and 2013-14 under Indira Awaas Yojana. Under Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana (Roads), 53 crore and 40 lakh man days of jobs were created in 2015-16 and 2016-17 in place of 41 crore and 90 lakh man days during 2012-13 and 2013-14. There were 11 crore and 50 lakh more of man days of jobs when compared with the UPA. Similarly, Swachh Bharat Mission that focuses on building toilets created additional man days of 36 crore. There are various other schemes that have generated crores of man days of employment. On should know that there have been massive investment in Railways, National Highways, Urban Development, Cleaning of Ganges, etc.
Also, one cannot ignore the focus that this government has on self-employment. Loans given to various entrepreneurs without collateral under the Mudra Scheme and Stand-Up Scheme demonstrate for the first time that the government trusts the poor. Those who used to depend on personal loans from the market at a very high percentage are now getting loans from the banks without much hassle. In 2015-16, close to 3.73 crore jobs were created under the Mudra Scheme. Another 4.29 crore was added in 2016-17. Thus 8.02 crore jobs were created. Significant is that this has led to women empowerment since women are in the preferred category.
One sure way to judge employment in formal sector is to study the number of employees making contributions to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). By the end of March 2014, there were 3.26 crore people contributing regularly to the EPFO. At present, this figure is 4.5 crore, showing creation of 1.5 crore jobs in the formal sector.
The other major area for which the Modi government has been criticised is the plight of farmers. The solution to the distress of farmers lay in creating a network of irrigation system to decrease dependence on the monsoon. The Modi government's pro-poor policy should be seen in how it has empathised with their plights and taken steps to ameliorate their sufferings.
The compensation in case of death of a farmer has been increased from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. In the last three years, the government has increased the allocation for MNREGA by 27 per cent. About 96 per cent of monetary benefits to farmers under various schemes of the Union Government are being directly put in their accounts in place of 37 per cent in 2013-14. Already, there is a determination to double the income of farmers by 2022.
Revolutionary has been the concept of soil health card for farmers. About 8 crore farmers have been issued this card by which they can know the productivity of their land and the kind of crop and the quality of fertilizers that should be used for that particular soil. In the last three years, 17,000 small and medium soil-testing laboratories have been set up. This number was a mere 15 in 2011-14.
Why are these steps not being appreciated by critics? Even some prominent economists are ignoring these facts, forcing one to wonder if they are ideologically so committed to opposing the BJP and Modi that they cannot see the various other steps that have brought the common man closer to the government and increased their stakes in good governance.
This is a fact that the entire opposition is suffering from Modi-phobia. They are privately conceding that the way the Prime Minister has been changing the face of the nation, it would be extremely difficult to dislodge him. Recent victories in local level elections and the massive victory in Uttar Pradesh have not come as a miracle. In their enthusiasm to criticise without a cause, they are unable to see that the ground beneath their feet is slipping.
(Sudesh Verma is national spokesperson of the BJP and president of Debating India Foundation. He is a senior journalist and author of ''Narendra Modi: The GameChanger'.)
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