Reform, Perform & Transform

India has come a long way in last 25 years. But we can’t sit on our laurels. We have to continue to strive hard for India to become the largest economy of the world. Speed of reforms is the only answer, echoes M Venkaiah Naidu

01 April, 2016 Opinion, Governance
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Though we have passed the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments transferring 29 subjects to the urban and rural local bodies, the needed effect is yet to be felt because functions, functionaries and funds – 3F’s, they are not fully devolved to the local bodies. These need to be attended to followed by persuading states to take it forward. Empowerment is the need of the hour and there is no denying the fact that the real democracy in India resides at the grassroots. We need to empower our villages and towns alike as these the units where public goods and services are finally delivered to the populace.

When I was Rural Development Minister, I organised a National Conclave of Panchayats wherein I invited Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well as Sonia Gandhi alongwith Mani Shankar Aiyar, as I feel, when it comes to welfare of the people, there is no party, no politics. About the good governance, there could be no two opinions.

I come from a village and I have seen what is village life all about. I would walk 3 kilometers to go to school as there was no road or transport. There was no electricity, no potable water supply, no citizen services. I have experienced poverty first hand.

In fact, I was offered the portfolio of Power Minister after demise of Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, which I was hesitant to join as I was ignorant about the field. I said, give me Agriculture, Atalji said, it is already taken and then I said, Gramin Vikas (Rural Development)!

I chose Rural Development because Mahatma Gandhi had given a call—back to the village—but unfortunately we have shown our back to villages and moved towards towns and we are seeing the urban rural divide.

When the government was contemplating the Swarna Chaturbhuja Yojana – Golden Quadrilateral – I requested the Prime Minister Atalji and also the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinhaji that we should also take up a programme for the rural roads. Everybody was surprised and said: rural roads and Government of India? This is to be done by Panchayat or Zila Parishad not the Central government. I must also add that when we suggested this to states, some of the Chief Ministers objected to it, saying that now you want to do village roads too? Sooner than later they all agreed to my proposition but it took a lot of persuasion and we took it to Cabinet. I made a passionate presentation before everybody. Later Atalji said, ye bhi hone dijiye. This is how Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) happened.

If you don’t have the roads nobody will come to the village; only politicians would, that too, once in five years. In my own way, I told them that if there is no road, no businessmen, no industries, no professor will come. No road, no VDO, BDO, DDO, ADO, collector, doctor, actor, tractor – no one will go to the village.

I always felt that there are four things that our villages need; roads, electricity, potable water and school. Linking of rivers has always been a challenging task, which is critical as one can not always depend on rains. Atalji appointed a Committee headed by Suresh Prabhu, the then Power Minister that made a detailed study and came to conclusion that the task would require Rs 580,00 crore. The proposal did not move forward. The environmentalists also raised an objection to this. But the government was convinced that this has to be done. Some states took the initiative: Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat brought water from Narmada to Sabarmati, which was dying. The river got a new lease of life and today you can boat along Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad. Linking can take care of draught, floods and all kinds of water shortages.

There are all kinds of insurance cover available, that includes individuals, vehicles, house etc, but there is no insurance for farmers. UPA made some headway in this direction but could not go far as the package was not comprehensive. It said that compensation under insurance is available only in case more than 80 per cent of area is affected. What an irony: if 50 per cent of your crop is lost, you pray that another 30-40 per cent gets lost in order for you to be able to get the compensation?

PMGSY: My Small Contribution that Resulted in Reducing Rural Poverty

I have not accepted any award in my life because accepting an award means you are retiring! I am neither retired nor tired; I will continue to work. We must admit, reforms have really brought in a change. Whether it is Narasimha Raoji or Manmohan Singhji, ideas have always been there. They need to be appreciated. But the real implementation started when Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji took over as Prime Minister. He initiated the real change and many reforms were implemented. He was a great admirer of connectivity – air connectivity, rail connectivity, highway connectivity, rural connectivity, tele-connectivity, television connectivity, port connectivity and political connectivity. He brought in all these reforms. I am happy to have been associated with him and continue to be part of reforms in my own humble way.

I am thankful to the organisers for giving me this Skoch Lifetime Achievement Award for a small contribution I made as Rural Development Minister and a small work I am doing now as Urban Development Minister. I accept this Award for my weakness for reforms that I remain committed to.

We need to do three things: one, ending urban rural divide; second, increase rural connectivity; and, third, urban transformation where urban development and housing will be the key. I am thankful to the Prime Minister for giving me this opportunity to ensure Housing for All, supported by the Finance Minister.

The Housing for All will fulfill the dream of every Indian to have a dwelling unit by 2022. With Finance Minister and the State Governments’ help and support, I have no doubt that we will be achieve to achieve this goal under the leadership of our Prime Minister.

Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill will bring a revolutionary change in the urban housing and real estate sector. The private sector will have a great role in this as equal partners in growth and development. The Bill will reduce the trust deficit that has led to the decline in demand and encourage homebuyers. All these initiatives will make lives of our people more comfortable and lead to poverty elimination; reduce illiteracy and end urban-rural divide.

For years, we followed a Soviet Model of Socialism, which has doomed our country. Now we have to follow realism—something that is suitable and practical. American capitalism is also not good for us. Vajpayeeji has shown the way and Modiji is taking it forward. For me MODI stands for ‘Maker of Developed India’.

I have miles to go before I sleep. For me life is continuously trying to contribute my bit to the country. I remember on this occasion, my mother who left me at the age of 1 year or 6 months. I also always remember my wife as she is the inspiration behind my success. I always used to be out for either party work or the government work. My daughter, used to tell others, ‘my father occasionally comes home too’. I remember my gurus in RSS during younger days—Late Somaiah and Durga Prasad—who changed my destiny and gave me the caliber and capacity and taught me virtues of discipline, dynamism and dedication for motherland. Foundation was really laid during the time spent with RSS. I do not come from a very wealthy family; have no dynasty, which I do not believe in. I feel dynasty is nasty! When people ask me if my children will be joining politics, I reply, it is their wish and they are on their own.

Once again, I would say, there are two reasons for me reaching at this level: one, my ideological background; and, two, hard work, discipline and consistency in politics and policies. We have to change with times. I remember, myself and Arunji were in ABVP and there was a slogal those days – ‘Automation, Anti-Nation’. It may have been relevant those days, but not today. We are for change and open to learning from others including the previous governments. My appeal to all is – reform, perform and transform!

M Venkaiah Naidu is recipient of SKOCH Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 in recognition of his work in PMGSY that led to significant reduction in rural poverty.

We have launched the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme) in which the premium rates to be paid by the farmers have been brought down substantially so as to enable more farmers avail insurance cover against crop loss on account of natural calamities. Under the new scheme, farmers will have to pay a uniform premium of two per cent for all Kharif crops and 1.5 per cent for all Rabi crops. For annual commercial and horticultural crops, farmers will have to pay a premium of 5 per cent. The remaining share of the premium, as in previous schemes, will continue to be borne equally by the Centre and the respective state governments.

With farmers having been required to pay a premium share of as high as 15 per cent in several areas in the country, there has been a long-standing discussion on the need to bring down these rates. The Centre’s move to bring down and cap these interest is a major government policy outreach towards the farmers.

We have to learn by experience and we have to reform. Reform, perform, transform. There is no other way – reform or perish. Even decades after, there are shortages, there are more than 20,000 villages that need to be electrified, no toilets in schools and public facilities and so on. I am Urban Development Minister and my immediate mandate is drinking water, sanitation and solid waste management. Everything else comes later. Then comes Swachh Bharat followed by people’s participation. Recently, Indore made a presentation to me with regard to Smart City. Out of 26.50 lakh population, more than 6.5 lakh citizens participated in the planning process through and other platforms. This needs to be scaled to other cities too.

Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas will not happen in thin air. We are taking banking to the unbanked and funding the unfunded. The general impression is that banks serve only the rich and no one looks at credit needs of the fishermen, weavers, fruit vendors, kirana shop owners etc. Mudra Bank was formed to take care of petty business needs of micro enterprises. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) also addresses the needs of unbanked. Not only a bank account that comes with overdraft, accident and life insurance cover is also provided to the poor.

My daughter along with my friends is running Swarna Bharat Trust in Nellore without depending on the government aid and I see the transformation that is taking place among the rural people, particularly the women-folk. Skill training is infusing new confidence in them. Self Help Groups (SHGs) being run by women are mighty successful all across the country. Illiterate as these women might be, but they are aware of their rights and financial entitlements when it comes to banking and credit.

Generally reforms are understood as something explosive. Yes, true, but even big bang reforms have to be done slowly so that over a period of time, it actually becomes as big as envisaged.

MISIDICI means, MI – Make in India, SI – Skill India, DI – Digital India, CI – Clean India. This is catching up across the country. These will empower Indian to live with dignity, ensure social security, create employment opportunities, enable effective functioning of the political system including democratically elected bodies – which is the very purpose of reforms.

With one slogan things are not going to change but it will catch the imagination of the people and then the focus of the administration will shift to that. We have given Smart Cards to 45 crore labourers. We have also seen a lot of people coming up with new ideas.

Recently, I had a meeting with 7 ministers; the idea was to create a mechanism wherein we can empower the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) so that for any approvals they do not have to cut rounds in Delhi. Approvals related to land, environment, monuments, defence etc should be given to states and ULBs so that they can take faster decisions and lose no time in implementing projects. This is ease-of-doing business. Measures like self-certification, colour-coded maps etc are now available. As usual, criticism was, people will file wrong information. My simple answer was, if you file wrong information, your building is liable to be demolished any time without notice. This is about changing mindsets.

I was told recently, that since we introduced biometrics attendance system in Delhi, we lost the elections. Even after that, the biometrics is continuing! Meaning, people are getting used to the new system. If you provide proper guidance, direction, encouragement and recognition, people support your moves as they are beneficial in the long-run. Could anybody ever imagine over 20 crore bank accounts to be opened in a matter of months? It is about skill, scale and speed that gives desired results.

What I want to tell you is: reform means you have to inform and involve the people. Only then the reform will be successful. How come 62 lakh people gave up their subsidy on LPG, on a single call of Prime Minister? This is not the greatness of the leader but people who have started believing in the system of reforms and performance. The government now wants to give 5 crore LPG connections in the name of women in the rural areas who have been dependent on fuel wood stoves.

Coming to urban areas you need to preserve water because water is becoming scarce. People are cautioning that we may have water wars also. We need to save water as much as harvest rainwater. States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are doing well on water conservation and the results are showing in maintaining and improving the water table.

Then you have the green building concept and solar power generation. India is heading the Solar Alliance of the world, 121 countries have come together. With solar, you can reduce the energy bill; LED lights also help. On street lighting, we have started with Delhi, which is saving energy to the extent of 40 per cent. This has become a showcase for the entire country, which is leading a silent revolution.

Myself, Ananth Kumar and Piyush Goyal have held six meetings on waste to energy and waste to compost. That is also the need of the hour as we are running out of landfills. The question arose, who will purchase this compost because we are all tuned to chemical fertilisers? We came up with a unique solution: if you need two bags of urea then take one bag of compost, on which a subsidy of R1,500 is given. Hopefully this encouragement and incentive will catch the imagination of farmers. Next, Neem coated urea has also been introduced which is environment friendly and subsequently reduce the subsidy bill.

There is a saying that a wise man learns from other’s experience and fools learn from their own. We have learnt from the mistakes of past governments and are committed to improve the governance.

(M Venkaiah Naidu is Urban Development Minister. The views and opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect the views of INCLUSION.)

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