What is PM Modi good at beyond speeches and announcements?

The Prime Minister has got bored with COVID-19 and has moved on. On Make in India, China, Kashmir and five trillion-dollar economy also he has moved on, as he has on Demonetisation

What is PM Modi good at beyond speeches and announcements?

Aakar Patel

The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for the new Ram temple at Ayodhya. It is certain to be a grand ceremony as is the case with things we associate with our PM. It will happen on August 5, which will be the first anniversary of the day Kashmir lost its constitutional status.

Article 370 has not been abrogated as is falsely claimed. It remains on the Constitution. What has been done is to de-operationalise it. It is not known what the point of that action was.

In the six months of this year over 200 have already been lost in violence in Kashmir. That is at twice the rate of last year. Under this government, Kashmir is increasing in violence, reversing a long-term trend of decline that was seen under Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

Kashmir is being kept under control essentially through military rule. Kashmiris have no internet and are unable to express themselves. Their pleas to the Supreme Court have gone unheard. Or at least have been put in abeyance like many other things. But of course, the grand gesture of “abrogation” is what the point of it all was.

Let us turn to other fields of battle, and our Mahabharat against COVID. The Prime Minister has stopped making his 8 pm announcements here and clearly has become bored with the subject. It is true that this plague is one that can only partially be controlled by the government. But there are things that the government can do. Neighbouring Pakistan has appeared to have flattened its curve of growth in positive cases. It has fallen consistently from a high of 6800 cases on June 14 to 4000 cases on June 28 to 1200 cases on July 24. India has gone from 11,000 cases on June 14 to 20,000 cases on June 28 to almost 49,000 cases on July 24.

Till about a short time ago, Pakistan had half the number of cases as India though their population is only a fifth of ours. Now they seem to have got things under control in a way that India has not. Cases in Bangladesh have also been dropping in the same period. Having made his grand announcements, Modi has moved on.

The announcement that he was most enthusiastic about, the 8 pm bombshell of November 8, 2016 has gutted the Indian economy. The government has tried to hide its damage by fudging GDP data. Two weeks ago, the former Reserve Bank governor C Rangarajan said that the government should end the controversy over its manner of calculating GDP. This government's former economic advisor Arvind Subramanian himself has calculated that India is reporting 2.5% higher GDP growth figures than actual ones.

A report in Mint on Saturday said that all economic indicators showed that the government was bluffing. Growth in factory output has fallen from 9% before 2011 to 2%. The Modi government’s own National Sample Survey showed that rural consumption grew at minus 1.5%, meaning it actually declined in the Modi years. Even urban consumption fell from 3.4% to 0.3%.

Corporate investments went from 23% growth to minus 1.8%. Bank credit growth fell from 14% to 4%, but the GDP growth figures remain the same: 7% before Modi and 7% after, which is unbelievable given all the other data.

Unemployment remains at levels it has never touched in history, over 8%. On Friday the RBI said that non-performing assets with banks (meaning dud loans) would rise from the current 8.5% to 12.5% by March and perhaps even higher. The finance minister keeps babbling on about seeing green shoots in the economy, a phrase meaning that there are signs of life. Nobody believes her of course or takes her seriously.

Having made his grand announcement on Make in India, Modi has lost interest there as well. Manufacturing share of GDP in India has fallen from 15% before the announcement to 14% after. Vietnam and Bangladesh have gone up in this time.

Other than announcements it is hard to figure out what this government is good at doing. The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed with great bombast about how Modi would protect the persecuted minorities of South Asia. But the Act’s rules have still not been written by the government, meaning it is not in force and cannot protect anyone.

On the frontier with China, there is trouble. But Modi has solved it with a stirring speech delivered from Ladakh. There is no action after that. By October, the passes that we use to supply that area will be snowed in. Our soldiers, some two lakh of them now, will have to manage without proper habitats. The Chinese built habitats for their forces in the last three years after the incident at Doklam, which Modi took lightly.

The Chinese are sitting on our territory and pointing out to Modi’s own statements where he says there is no intrusion, as proof that they are right and we are wrong. What was the need to make that statement? It is not clear, but he has moved on from there to the next exciting thing.

I look forward to his speech next week. It will be entertaining and stirring and make lots of promises that he most likely will not be able to keep. But at least he can guarantee us more speeches and announcements.

(Opinion expressed are personal)

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