Invoking a ‘New India’ to be ushered in by 2022, Prime Minister rendra Modi has sought to put himself in pole position as far as his 2019 re-election campaign is concerned. As he addressed the tion for the fourth time from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day, he set out goals for Team India including access of the poor to housing, electricity, sanitation, healthcare and education, doubling of farmers’ income, ample opportunities for the youth and women, and freedom from terrorism, casteism and commulism. He spoke of a new India where the ‘chalta hai’ attitude is a thing of the past, where the people think ‘badal sakta hai’ to change and fix things to take the tion forward. Hailing demonetisation as the move that ‘brought the black money out’, he pointed out how it brought Rs 3 lakh crore into the banking system, how it helped expose 3 lakh shell companies acting as a front for hawala transactions to launder black money. “Due to the patience and sacrifice of the people, we are becoming successful in the fight against corruption,” said the Prime Minister, following up with the commitment to making the country an easier place to do business. Claiming that his government has brought forth a ‘festival of honesty’, the Prime Minister however made it clear that people must not bank only upon the government to root out corruption, but need to cooperate actively. This is significant, because herein lies the difference with the anti-graft stand led by ‘India Against Corruption’ movement that shook the previous scam-ridden UPA regime. Instead of focusing against official graft, PM Modi has given a wider canvas to corruption, equating honesty with morality, sacrifice and tiolism that place equal responsibility upon all. In this context, he claimed that GST rollout has helped cut corruption and raise efficiency by 30 percent, and vowed to use technology ‘to bring in more transparency’. So when PM Modi spoke of black money, he was careful to mention that while the country had 22 lakh tax payers last year, the number increased to 56 lakh in the first week of August this year. The message is clear — that honesty is as much about paying taxes as desisting from taking bribes and looting money meant for the people’s welfare.
The country’s new President Ram th Kovind too in his first address to the tion on I-Day eve spoke of a ‘New India’, calling for a partnership between citizens and government. He too spoke of meeting basic targets like a house for every family, power on demand, better roads and telecom network, a modern railway system, and overall rapid and sustained growth. Striking a soft note with the vision of an egalitarian and compassiote society ‘where poverty has no place’, President Kovind stressed on education and empowerment while speaking of the ‘tion building’ role of taxes “to help the poor and the margilised, to build rural and urban infrastructure, and to strengthen our border defences.” Taken together, the speeches by the President and the Prime Minister ought to centre the public discourse around the basics needed for a 130 crore (and increasing) population aspiring for a life of dignity long denied. Endemic corruption and massive leakage of benefits meant for the poor is but one part of this dismal story — the other part is a society non-compliant on taxes, where there is a widespread aversion to declaring one’s true income after having greased the palms of officialdom that obstitely sticks to its license-permit era mindset. All this has bred a ‘chalta hai’ attitude that has been the bane of the country at all levels, compromising on quality and impeding development, giving a bad me to India as the land of ‘jugaad’ where anything can be maged. Prime Minister Modi has once again sought to underline the fact that with changing times and facing upto huge challenges in the coming decades, people of India cannot continue with their laid-back attitude of yore. Each must shape up and take responsibility in ‘New India’.