Prime Minister Narendra Modi's blitzkrieg of speeches in the first six months of his tenure has kicked up a dust of hope that will take long to settle down. Modi has emerged as an out-of-the-box thinker as he has managed to catch the people's imagination.
He has started his innings on an upbeat note and has been able to impress with some deft diplomatic moves. His government's standing on the economic front has been positive largely because of bold policy initiatives coupled with conducive international environment.
The mountain of promises created by Modi's government in these early days will need substantial work for implementation on the ground. His critics now want him to walk the talk. The Opposition is already taking a dig at the prime minister's long journeys abroad with remarks like he spends more time abroad than home.
The government has sent right signals in dealing with tensions on the border. The firing on the international border with Pakistan and also the line of control has been given a befitting response. As a result of proactive policy, the volatile border with Pakistan has remained calm in the recent weeks.
The situation along the line of actual control with China has also been dealt with firmly. The message has been delivered loud and clear to Beijing that New Delhi will take violations of LAC with seriousness.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been particularly vocal about Chinese incursions and has even raised the issue of occupation of Aksai Chin.
On the diplomatic front as well, a strong message was delivered to Pakistan as well when foreign secretary-level talks were cancelled. Islamabad has been told that it cannot keep its channels open with Kashmiri separatists while holding dialogue with India. New Delhi wants to resume dialogue on its own terms.
The internal security situation is also being handled with utmost sensitivity but more needs to be done to streamline intelligence agencies. There is little move on tackling this core issue.
The social sector has received attention but it will require vast infrastructural changes to transform the quality of life as promised by Prime Minister Modi in the run up to the elections. Even as the chief minister of Gujarat, one of the main criticisms faced by Modi was that he was unable to improve social indicators of the state despite boasting of development. The Modi government in Delhi would not like to repeat that at the national level.
The first six months of the Modi government have seen hectic decision making on the economic front in sharp contrast to the policy paralysis that marked the UPA rule.
This is perhaps most evident in the speed with which the government is sorting out the mess that it inherited in the coal and power sectors. The liberalisation of FDI in defence, railways, real estate and insurance came bang on and talks with states on the proposed nationwide GST have been accelerated and put on a sound footing.
The stock markets had gone into a bull-run ahead of the elections in anticipation of a stable government that would usher in economic reforms and the positive trend continues into the sixth month of the new government.
The PM's grand vision spelt out during the 'Make in India' campaign, smart cities and Digital India has helped to revive spirits even as the country has a long road ahead.
While the Supreme Court's decision to cancel all the 204 coal blocks allocated since 1993 came on September 24, the Centre acted promptly in coming out with an ordinance within a month, on October 21, to set the rules for re-allocating the blocks.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while addressing journalists indicated that the government would try and allocate the mines in the next "three or four months.''
The government also announced the opening of the coal sector to private companies, a much needed reform that will help bring in more capital and better technology to ameliorate the acute shortage of coal that has been holding up power projects.
Moving ahead with the economic reforms, the Union Cabinet has cleared the long-delayed proposal for raising FDI limit in defence to 49% and fully opened up the cash-strapped railway infrastructure segment, like highspeed trains, for foreign investment.
The move is aimed at boosting domestic industry of a country which imports up to 70 per cent of its military hardware. Another major decision relates to clearing the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, which entails a Rs 43,000-cr investment and aims to deliver the dream of 24x7 electricity supply.
There has also been movement in the highways sector. Promising to build 30 km of roads a day two years from now as against the 3 km per day at present, Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has already approved projects worth over Rs 40,000 crore for implementation.
SPS Pannu/New Delhi
The Narendra Modi government has managed a diplomatic coup by inviting US President Barack Obama as chief guest for the Republic Day as it completes six months in office. For someone who was denied a US visa earlier, this could be a watershed moment in India's relations with US.
Prime Minister Modi did not waste any time in reaching out to world leaders. He made his intentions clear that India will play a significant role in diplomacy by inviting heads of SAARC nations for his swearing in ceremony.
This move was dubbed as a masterstroke and his special meeting with Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif sent out a loud message that India was open to a dialogue with Pakistan. Few months later India made a another strong statement by calling off foreign secretary level talks objecting to Pakistan High Commissioner Sartaj Aziz meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders.In his first six months in office Modi has had successful trips to eight countries. US, Japan, Brazil, Bhutan, Japan, Australia, Myanmar and Fiji One of the features of his visits to US and Australia was reaching out to the Indian diaspora urging them mobile India's economy. His 'Make in India' campaign asking international manufacturers to pump their resources in India has yielded positive results from these foreign tours.
His first visit after taking over as Prime Minister was Bhutan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Nepal-a message that India was willing to strengthen its relations with neighbours. Later Modi also visited Nepal and became the first Indian Prime Minister to do so and followed it with Myanmar.
When Modi attended the BRICS summit in Brazil a decision was taken to establish New Development Bank with its headquarters in China but Modi endured that the first President of the bank would be an Indian.
In Japan, agreements covering defence, roads-highways, healthcare and cooperation in clean energy were signed. Japan also promised 35 billion USD to India through public-private funding over the next few years.
Even in Australia, Modi signed important agreements for cooperation in cyber and maritime security and fighting terror.
Despite the diplomatic success in its early days the government has had a rocky relationship with Pakistan and China as there have been a series of disturbances at both the borders.
Even when Chinese Premier Xi Jinping was in India a standoff continued between the Chinese and Indian forces in Ladakh. Modi took up the matter with Jinping but the face-off continued for some more days. Another failure has been in not getting back 39 Indians who in ISIS captivity in Iraq for months. The government seems to have little information on these people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid major emphasis on modernisation of armed forces. One of the first steps his government took after assuming office was opening up foreign direct investment in defence sector. The move is aimed at boosting defence manufacturing in the country through make in India policy. While the initiative has been well received, its results are remained to be seen. Another major area of concern for the new government is to streamline the acquisition process and put the arms and equipment purchases on fast track. The defence acquisition council will now meet far more frequently and within the first six months, several pending projects have been cleared. One major criticism of the government is failure in satisfying the veterans on its promise of delivering one rank one pension. The pay parity issue is still hanging causing a lot of dissatisfaction.
BJP in it election manifesto promised to revamp the intelligence gathering system but six months into the government there seems to be no plan for this. In fact NATGRID, the intelligence data gathering body has been without a head since May 31. There was also a plan to revive the antiterror mechanism that the BJP claimed was dismantled by the government but nothing concrete has been done to achieve this. However, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau has been playing a more proactive role in coordinating and supervising the security apparatus. The much talked about plans for swift and fair trial of terror-related cases and insulating intelligence agencies from political interference have not been deliberated yet.
>> SOCIAL SECTOR
BJP had promised that it will give Health Assurance to all Indians. The scheme reducing the healthcare costs is going to be launched in this fiscal. As promised, Yoga and Ayurveda have got a major boost with several plans on alternative medicines being implemented.
In education sector, there are some promises kept like Performance Audit and Real-Time information on Primary Education, National ELibrary and Revisit Apprenticeship Act to facilitate youth to earn while they learn. Social justice still needs attention from the Centre as there is no movement in the direction of National Centre for Tribal Research and Culture as promised in the BJP manifesto. Similarly, there is no proper plan or policies for eradication of untouchability and manual scavenging at all levels.