Any country’s economic growth depands on expansion in industry, increased investment, high domestic production and consumption, healthy exports and reduction in imports, on the one hand and a hope towards a brighter future for its people, on the other. While the former takes a while, but is the direct outcome of the latter—given that the requsite steps are taken accordingly, otherwise even the latter would fail to create a constructive environment for the former to succeed. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been an all time high, several reforms have been undertaken to streamline the economy including taxes, labour, financial sector—the focus has entirely been on transparancy and ease-ofdoing business—and are visible to the naked eye. What is less visible is that, in the new millennium, first time the real focus has shifted to the common man—eradication of poverty, social security, life and accident insurance of the poor, crop insurance, access to financial services, overdraft facilities and most importantly the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), notable being LPG—over a crore people have ‘Given it Up’ that has gone to help the ruralfolk. One can simply laugh it away but scratch a little and the benefits to women and households moving to using LPG is a saviour for their health as well as depleting forest cover (read afforestation) being consumed as fuelwood. It is a little known fact that the incidence of tuburculosis and lung related complications amongst the rural women has been one of the highest in India as compared even to other developing countries.
As of 25 May 2016, 21.93 crore Jan Dhan accounts have been opened out of which, 13.47 crore have been opened in rural areas—Public Sector Bank (PSB) share being 9.63 crore, followed by Regional Rural Banks at 3.34 crore and Private Banks at paltry .50 crore. Bihar is leading the stack by opening 1.40 crore accounts followed by West Bengal, 1.34 crore and Rajasthan at 1.12 crore. Total deposit in all Jan Dhan accounts (rural and urban) is Rs.38,047 crore. While more than half of total accounts are Aadhaar seeded, only 25 per cent are zerobalance accounts and the number is decreasing further.
The last peron in the queue is now linked with the banking system—which was the first challenge—a feat could not be achieved in as many years since Independence. Of course, the next challenge is to fund these accounts and give the promised overdraft.
Accidental insurance cover (Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana) at Rs.12 per annum and life insurance (Pradan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana) at Rs.330 could never have been imagined. Respectively, the schemes have covered 9.42 and 2.96 crore lives.
The biggest takeaway for healthcare from this budget was the government’s continuous commitment to add health insurance to an already existing list of life and accident. The budget allocated Rs.1,500 crore for the year 2016-17. This is an increase of 152 per cent within one year for the Rashtriya Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (RSSY) or National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS)—a new nomenclature for Rashtriya Swsthaya Suraksha Yojana (RSBY). This provides for Rs.100,000 per family with an additional cover of Rs.30,000 for senior citizens. It is clearly understood that natural calamity or health issues are the primary factors for people rushing for loans (which they find difficult to pay) pushing them further deeper into poverty. This should take care of people below the poverty line and help them lead a healthy life with dignity, which provides an opportunity not to fall in debt-trap.
Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is about keeping in mind the larger interest of the nation and at the same time work for the interest of the common man. This, by becoming an “Overseas Prime Minister” inviting FDI, attracting world attention and making India a friendly investment destination, as much as by addressing the problems that common man faces on a day-to-day basis like employment, skills and access to markets. While e-Rickshaw may be opening the world of opportunities to jobless youth creating entrepreneurs, e-NAM (National Agriculture Market) is networking the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities through this pan-India electronic trading portal. Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) or Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA) is a new institution set up by the government to provide funding to the non-corporate, non-farm sector income generating activities of micro and small enterprises whose credit needs are below Rs.10 lakh. Till date, there has not been a single scheme, which may have benefitted more than 2.5 crore persons in a span of one year alone. The scheme has rightly identified the problem of working capital for micro-entrepreneurs and has attempted to address these concers in a constructive manner. The term micro-entreprenuers again appears like a jargon—realistically speaking these are cobblers, roadside vendors, artisans, carpenters, weavers etc who otherwise could dream of “loan” only from moneylenders and not the organised sector. It cannot be disputed that increase in income levels has direct co-relation with improved access to healthcare and education that also helps improvement in Human Development indices and in domestic social milieu.
In the area of fertilisers, there is complete self-sufficiency and easy availability of urea to all farmes across the country. This has nearly eliminated political intervention for obtaining urea, which used to be the case until last year. Zero-shortages and neem coating of urea have resulted in removing black-marketing or diversion and at the same time introduced organic practices in farming for which Prime Minister had last year announced the National Organic Mission by allocating Rs.300 crore.
These and many other softer issues, which generally miss the attention of hardcore economics, are an indication of high level of empathy that the Modi government has towards the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the results of which are almost instantly visible. The emotional and happiness quotient does not require any barometer but only if these add to the livelihoods, growth, equity and empowerment, these measures better not be termed populist.
(Gursharan Dhanjal can be reached at email@example.com)
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