Monday March 19, 2018
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Key takeaways from PM Modi’s I-day speech


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By Nithin Sridhar

On the occasion of India’s 69th Independence anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the entire nation from the Red fort in the morning. Inspite of serious security issues, Modi yet again addressed the nation without using the protective bulletproof glass shield.

As with his previous addresses to the nation, his Independence Day speech was highly energetic, passionate and directly appealing to the hearts of people. He continuously addressed the entire nation as “125 crores membered Team-India” and spoke at length about various issues that are affecting India and how his government is trying to tackle them.

Some of the key takeaways from his I-day address are:

  1. Cleanliness: Speaking about his pet theme, PM Modi said that the whole nation must work towards dedicating a “Swacch Bharat” to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. He further said, how the cleanliness mission has reached people from all walks of life. Highlighting the government’s achievement in successfully building toilets in schools, especially for girls, he said that around 4.25 lakh toilets had been built in 2.62 lakh schools across the nation in past one year.

Though, his cleanliness initiative can be criticized as not being enough on multiple counts, the fact that the government has been able to set quantifiable and time-sensitive targets like building toilets and then attaining those targets, has gone a long way in waking up people to issues of health and hygiene and has helped the masses, especially girl students who faced difficulty in going to schools, due to lack of toilets. Hence, the Modi government deserves appreciation on this count.

  1. Black Money: Defending his government’s move to introduce a tough law on black money, he said that the law has ensured that people do not take black money outside of the country. He further spoke about how around Rs 6500 crores have been disclosed under the compliance window of black money and foreign assets law. He further mentioned how his government formed SIT under Supreme Court’s guidance immediately after coming to power. He also revealed about how the G-20 countries have agreed to assist India in tracking the issue of black money.

But, these measures are not enough to tackle the issue of black money. The government has made many slip-ups in the past in handling this issue and should work to rectify those mistakes. Further, there is a genuine concern that the draconian black money law may affect honest tax payers as well. These concerns must be addressed.

  1. Corruption: Speaking about corruption, he compared it with termites that are present everywhere but can be treated with repeated attempts. He further said that his government is committed to rooting out corruption. He highlighted the fact that there has not been a single case of corruption in his government. He added that after he took over the reins, in last one year, CBI has filed around 1800 corruption cases. Modi further stated that by re-auction of the coal blocks, the government has made around 3 lakh crore rupees.
  1. Connecting the poor with the financial activity: In yet another move to connect the poor to the financial system and institutions and hence help them avail various benefits, PM Modi spoke about supporting entrepreneur initiatives across India. He said that the youth must be given opportunities to become entrepreneurs and systems must be built to enable “start-ups”. He said that India should become number one, in start-ups and urged all the bank branches across India to contribute to enabling setting up of start-ups by people. He asked every bank branches to provide finances to at least one dalit, one tribal and one woman to start a “start-up”. Speaking about the status of his Jan Dhan Yojana, he said that, around 17 crore people have opened bank accounts and around Rs 2000 crore have been deposited in them till now.

The government must be congratulated for taking steps for including the poor into the financial framework of the nation. The start-up initiative, if properly implemented, will go a long way in reducing unemployment levels. It will further help the poor to climb up the ladder of economy.

  1. Farmer’s issue: PM Modi said that the government has set aside, around Rs 50,000 crores for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana. It is basically a 5-year plan which is aimed at increasing the productivity of agriculture. The money will be utilized in various irrigation and watershed projects. PM Modi further announced his decision to increase the scope of Ministry of Agriculture by renaming it as “Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare” and hence including the welfare of farmers under the scope of the ministry. In a country where farmer’s suicide has become a daily affair, these measures will have long-term impact on the welfare of farmers and may go a long away in addressing their issues and assisting them in their work.
  1. Rural Electrification: In another move that would benefit large populations of India, PM Modi announced that his government plans to provide electricity to all the 18,500 villages that are without power. He said that every one of those 18,500 villages will get electricity poles, wires and connection within 1000 days. These efforts, if implemented sincerely, will be a major boost to the development of rural areas and may, in the long run, reduce migration to urban centers as well.
  1. One Rank, One Pension (OROP): One issue, where PM Modi has certainly disappointed people is the issue of OROP. Though PM Modi assured the people, especially the ex-servicemen that he and his government have accepted OROP in principle, and only the details are to be finalized, people had expected a more concrete announcement from the Prime Minister. Many are feeling that PM has let down his commitment to the ex-servicemen by dragging the issue for months now. Hopefully, Modi will resolve this long-standing issue sooner, rather than later.

Therefore, PM Narendra Modi’s speech for the Independence Day has given hope to many and disappointed a few. He used the occasion to give a report of his government’s performance and the status of various projects, as well as to chart out the path the government will be traveling in the coming year and to give assurance to people who have very high expectation from him.

Though he appears to have disappointed certain sections of the population including ex-servicemen and media-observers, his message of hope has certainly reached the hearts of common men and women who had voted for him last year.

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS