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How NDA Government Schemes Have Helped the Poorest of the Poor

The schemes and programmes of the second National Democratic Alliance Government led by PM Narendra Modi have been oriented towards the poorest of the poor, in order to bring to the mainstream of Indian society. This article will focus on how the schemes of the Union Government have bought electricity to the homes of millions and bought banking facilities to those thus far neglected by the banking sector.

Electrification

The Prime Minister promised in his 2015 Independence Day address to electrify the 18,000 odd villages that were still in darkness after 68 years of independence. True to his word, the government declared on 28th April 2018 that all of the 18,452 villages had been electrified. One must underestimate the magnitude of this achievement. The fact that these villages were living in darkness so many years speaks to the nature of the earlier government’s priorities compared to the current government. The Narendra Modi government introduced the “Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana” (DDUGJY) to provide 24×7 Affordable, reliable and adequate power for all. This scheme has been undertaken under the principle of ‘Antyodaya’, literally ‘the rise of the last person’. This government’s philosophy is the commitment to improve the lives of those at the lowest strata of society, and the same is reflected in the implementation of this scheme.

The challenges to the implementation of total electrification should not be gleamed over. Firstly, there were geographical challenges – river crossings, treacherous mountain passes and rocky terrain. Added to this was the problem of villages situated in districts affected by Left-Wing Extremism (LWE). Around 7,000 unelectrified villages were in these LWE-affected districts.[1] To overcome these challenges requires drive and spirit that this government infused into the scheme.

Detractors of the Modi government would be quick to point out that the NDA Government electrified only 18,000 villages, compared to 1 lakh under the two term United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government. What needs to be remembered at this point is not only that the above mentioned challenges to electrification, but also certain statistics. In 2012-13, 2587 villages where electrified. In 2013-14, it was 1197 and in 2014-15 it was 1405, After the launch of DDUGJY, 7,000 villages were electrified in 2016-17 alone.[2]

The momentous achievement of the Modi Government has not gone unnoticed internationally. Middle East and African countries have expressed interest in engaging Rural Electrification Corporation in the role of a consultant or financing and technology transfer.[3]

The Central government is however not resting in the laurels – it has already set its sights on electrifying every single household in the country under the ‘SAUBHAGYA’ scheme. This was launched in September 2017, and provides free electricity connections to all households. This means that there will be no discrimination in implementing this scheme for households below or above the poverty line.  The aim is to electrify every single household by December 2018. The task if achieved, will be unparalleled. Around 4 crore households are yet to experience electricity. The scheme has already bought lights to half a crore households, and the pace is sure to increase in the coming months.

These schemes are aimed at the on-ground change in electricity distribution. This does not mean that the Modi Government has neglected the general health of the energy sector. In fact under the leadership of Shri Piyush Goyal, the Former Minister for power and currently by Sri. R.K. Singh, India became a Power Surplus country. However, the Transmission and Distribution systems in the country have been below par. This problem was compounded by the failing financial health of Power Distribution Companies at the state level. The Union Government therefore initiated the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) for the financial turnaround of these companies.

An ‘Open’ Government

Another Important feature of the schemes that the central government has initiated is the transparency in the implementation of the schemes. The power ministry made available the details of the implementation of all its schemes online in detail. This means that the citizen can see data regarding the success of the electrification drive, real time. This is undoubtedly a revolutionary change from the ‘closeted’ nature of previous administrations. This break represents a change for the better. This information was made available under the GARV app on Android/Apple Platforms as well. The app facilitates interaction between citizens and the Implementation agencies, a one of a kind initiative for participatory governance.

 

Financial Inclusion

The Narendra Modi Government has not limited itself to the emphasis on infrastructure development in rural areas. The government has initiated the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) to promote Financial Inclusion, which is the process of ensuring access to financial services to weaker sections and low income groups at an affordable cost. In other words, it is the universal access to a wide range of financial services at a reasonable cost.[4]

The Jan Dhan Yojana was launched by the Prime minister on 28 August 2014, the scheme aims to provide at least one account for one household has been immensely successful. As of 09th May 2018, the total number of beneficiaries for the scheme are 31 crore and the deposits in these accounts have reached ₹81,000 crore. A unique fact regarding the implementation of the scheme has been that the majority of the beneficiaries under the scheme are women. There is no minimum balance requirement for the bank accounts opened under this scheme, and the account can be used by beneficiaries of Government to avail Direct Benefit Transfer. To promote accessibility to banking facilities, the government has given further impetus to ‘Bank Mitr’, agents of Public sector banks who are to visit villages where banking facilities are not available on fixed days. An overdraft facility of ₹5,000 is provided for accounts 6 months after account opening. With an eye to provide 21st century banking facilities to weaker sections of society, 16 crore RuPay debit cards have been issued to beneficiaries of the Jan Dhan Yojana. Mention has to be made at this point about Unified Payment Interface (UPI) a payment interface developed by the National Payments Corporation of India and the Bharat Interface for Money app (BHIM, named after the great B.R. Ambedkar), which is facilitating a cashless revolution in India. Using UPI, the National Payments Corporation is also providing offline access to bank accounts as well. The potential for this application and the change it can bring about is apparent. And so far, we can see that the initiative has been successful. There was 14.5 crore transactions that utilised UPI just in month of December 2017, and this number is only set to rise even further.

The Government has not restricted itself to schemes that benefit the end-consumer. Taking a holistic view of the banking sector, the government has initiated the first step to the consolidation of Public Sector Banks with the merger of State Bank of India with its five associate banks in October 2017. Moreover, the Union Government has announced that it will be infusing ₹2.11 trillion capital into public sector banks. This is intended for the banks to expand credit, earn interest and grow balance sheets so that they can be harbingers of economic activity.[5]

Conclusion

The NDA Government led by PM Narendra Modi has proven beyond doubt that it is committed to the upliftment of the weakest sections of society. The government has taken comprehensive action not only to secure benefits to the common man, but has simultaneously strengthened the underlying institutions. The manifesto of the BJP for the 2014 General elections promised to ensure electricity for all[6], and to ensure financial inclusion.[7] As of 2018, this government has substantially achieved both. 99% of Households in the country now have at least one bank account, and 100% of villages have been electrified. The magnitude of these achievements speaks for itself.

 

(Ananth Krishna is currently a Third Year BA LLB(Hons.) student at The National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi. He blogs at http://chhitblog.wordpress.com )

[1] “Hundred Per cent electrification is no mean task – let’s acknowledge it” by Aashish Chandorkar

[2] Data accessed from: https://data.gov.in/resources/state-wise-number-villages-electrified-under-ddugjy-2012-13-2014-15-ministry-power.

[3] “Middle East, Africa seek India’s help to light up their villages”, Livemint report

[4] “Financial inclusion in India – An assessment” accessible at : https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Speeches/PDFs/MFI101213FS.pdf.

[5] “The whys and hows of PSU Bank recapitalisation”, Livemint. Accessible at: https://www.livemint.com/Industry/3qTu3MjDuTCrPIpqKnGcrO/The-whys-and-hows-of-public-sector-bank-recapitalisation.html.

[6] BJP Manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, Page 15

[7] BJP Manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, Page 12

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