If Gujarat can do it, so can India: Modi (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT GANDHINAGAR | 8th Jan
AT HOME: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi reads a book on Barack Obama.
Q: You were recently in China. In 1950, the Indian economy was twice the size of China's, but by 2000, the Chinese economy was twice that of India's. What are the reasons for this reversal?
A: In 1950 the Indian economy was bigger than China's. However, our economy did not take off because after Independence, Indian policies were not growth oriented. It was status-quoist governance. It was more focused on the consolidation of power and position of a political party rather than consolidation and expansion of the economy. The same situation continued for a long time. It took 40 long years for the ruling party to realise that the policies they were pursuing were not right. By that time the rest of the world, including China, had leaped ahead. Even after liberalization in 1991, only half hearted efforts were made. Now, our Prime Minister is once again realising that China has moved ahead. He has given a statement recently that China has moved ahead in science. Gujarat is an exception in this story, because people (here), in recent years, have chosen a different path for governance and polity. If Gujarat can do it, so can India.
Q: China is an authoritarian state with a single party rule. In fact, China is the only big country where there have been no changes in the party of governance since 1949. India, on the contrary, is a democracy. Do you think that it will be possible for democratic India to develop as fast as authoritarian China?
A: There is a popular axiom: Where there is a will, there is a way. There are many authoritarian nations in the world that did not succeed and broke up. Therefore, China's success cannot be cited as a universal recipe of success for authoritarian regimes. At the same time, there are several democratic nations that have developed in quick time. Which form of government is better is a matter of debate.
However, one thing is certain: democracy is an extremely strong form of governance with a great potential for growth. Gujarat, with a growth rate higher than that of China, has proven this.
The biggest strength of democracy is that it always provides an opportunity to correct mistakes as well as to learn from them and strengthen governance further. India should utilise its democratic values and strengths to achieve inclusive development and set an example for the world.
Q: What are your views about the education system in India? What are its drawbacks? How can education be made such that it would promote faster economic growth?
A: Whenever mankind has entered an age of knowledge, India has become the seat of power. India has always provided leadership to the world in the field of knowledge. Even today, India's youth with their sheer IT skills make themselves visible all over the world. Hence, it is unfair for someone to say that India does not have knowledge or does not have capability.
In today's changing global environment, the need of the hour is to provide an enabling environment for rapid qualitative improvement in the field of education. Unfortunately, for long, dignity has been linked to a degree in India. Time demands that priority is accorded to skill. The 21st century is the century of knowledge and I am fully confident that India's youth power will offer a lot to the world.
The Chief Minister works on his laptop.
In this context, it is necessary to state how Gujarat has initiated a number of changes for qualitative improvement in the field of education, including cent per cent enrolment in primary schools, reducing school dropout rates and providing basic infrastructure. Gujarat has also taken several innovative steps such as setting up specialised universities as centres of excellence as part of a "skill development movement" — such as forensic sciences university or children's university — to make the nation and the world a better place.
Q: India has hundreds of millions of young people. What can be done to ensure they develop into good citizens rather than adopt violent ways? What is your view about the present state of the youth in India? What are the defects of the present policies towards the youth?
A: Sorry, the question itself is an insult to India's youth. India is by far the world's largest young nation. It is a matter of great pride that we have such a large pool of talent. Even the world looks up to India with hope. Youth power is at the root of such optimism.
‘We live in the era of global economy. We cannot take a narrow approach and prevent foreign companies from coming here or our companies from trading outside
Looking at the Gujarat experience, I am left with no doubt that Yuva Shakti will be our greatest strength in a few years. The youth have dreams and the urge to do something for the nation, for society. We have to just provide them with opportunities. They are now getting the opportunities and have started showing better results.
Gujarat tops in blood donation in India. The young comprise the bulk of donors. This is just one example of Young Gujarat, which happens to be a part of Young India.
Q: Historically, Women in India have been given less prominence than men. What measures should be taken to ensure fuller participation by women in national life? Why did a woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, fail to bring about any improvements in the lives of women?
A: India is the only country in the world which considers woman as "Narayani", meaning Goddess. India has never restricted the woman's role to economic activities. The world is still impressed by India's deep-rooted family system. This family system has withstood the test of time for the last thousands of years. This is because India has always viewed women as embodiment of motherly strength.
History is replete with instances of Indian women's valour and grandeur. Indian culture had its influence across large tracts of Asia. No wonder women rose as Prime Ministers of their countries in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, India included. It is a matter of great pride that proves the power of women in India beyond doubt. On the contrary, several so-called forward, developed countries, boasting of hundreds of years of democratic system, barred women from even basic voting rights. In both agriculture and animal husbandry, women play an important role in India. Very few nations have reservation system for women in decision-making in politics, as in India.
The panchayat elections for village elders and heads have just concluded in Gujarat. As many 261 villages have, by consensus, entrusted the entire administrative powers to women — a subject fit for study by academics. The main reason is India's unequivocal acceptance of women as equal partners in the process of decision-making.
The other matter of importance is that India is the only country in the world which traditionally has the concept of the "Woman Goddess", while the other world religions conceive of only men as God. In modern India too, women equal men in the country's development; rather, women's contribution and influence are higher than men's in fields like education and health.
Q: What is your view on policy towards the minorities? What steps need to be taken to ensure safety and justice to them? What are the features of the present Central policy towards the minorities and what is the way to ensure better outcomes in terms of improving their lives?
A: In a multi-cultural democratic society we need to think of "India First". When it comes to development initiatives and governance, why do we want to divide our fellow citizens on terms of majority and minority? Why cannot we address the issues keeping all citizens in mind? This is what we have done in Gujarat: we talk of all 6 crore Gujaratis, not in sections. When we provide round-the-clock power, we don't have a hamlet-wise policy; when we lay down the water grid it reaches all villages; when we enrol children, we don't look at the community; our Krishi Raths benefit all farmers. The only way of improvement is developmental politics with benefits for all and shunning vote bank politics with appeasement of particular sections. We believe in Sabka Saath, SabkaVikaas — collective effort, inclusive growth.
The true spirit of democracy and secularism, according to me is "sarvapanthsambhav" and "justice to all and appeasement to none".
Q: Farmers toil and work hard but much of the surplus is swallowed by the middleman. What are the reasons why so many farmers have committed suicide in India? What should be done to ensure that they have better terms?
A: Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy and so the farmer has been the growth engine of our country's economy. In the past, when our nation was passing through a challenging situation of food-grain deficit, farmers toiled relentlessly and produced an abundance of grains on a single call from the former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Now, India is self-reliant in its food needs. The Indian farmer is contributing greatly in the progress of India even with the inadequate resources and in an agricultural scenario, which is largely dependent on uncertain rains and natural forces. But as time has changed now, we need to focus on decreasing the agricultural input cost, increasing the yield and on making available resources like quality fertilizers, seeds, insecticides, electricity and water.
The Chief Minister attends a kite festival.
Indian farmers usually suffer huge losses because of non-availability of proper storage facilities. So, we have a pressing need of setting up agro-infrastructures such as warehouses and cold storages. Besides, India must also make quick moves in the direction of agricultural value addition.
Banks should also be encouraged to provide low-rate loans to farmers to boost the agro-processing system. We can achieve a turnaround growth in agriculture by giving priority to agro-technology and agro-processing.
Gujarat has planned a balanced agricultural growth, giving one-third focus to traditional farming, one-third to animal husbandry and the remaining one-third to tree plantation farming. This reduces the risk involved in agriculture. The current agricultural growth rate of the nation is around 2.5%, whereas Gujarat's agricultural growth rate has crossed the mark of 10%. Villages and farmers have become prosperous and have turned to scientific farming processes and innovative ventures in farming.
Today, Gujarat is emerging as a model state in the field of agriculture.
Q: There is a lot of fear about foreign companies. People say that these companies may become like the East India Company, taking away India's prosperity and freedom. What is your view on foreign companies? Should they be allowed into India?
A: In a volatile economic climate and considering the uncertainties prevailing in the world economy, concerns about losing jobs are inevitable, but this does not mean that there is any fear psychosis or panic or scare about foreign companies. We in Gujarat had been organising investor summits every two years with spectacular results. We have an open policy on foreign investment and foreign companies. Many Gujarat based companies and entrepreneurs have made investments overseas. At times there are bound to be different reactions within a country that encourages freedom of expression and public debate.
Q: It seems, Government of India is more interested in foreign companies coming into India than Indian companies expanding abroad. What needs to be done to ensure that Indian companies become world leaders?
A: We live in the era of global economy. We cannot take a narrow approach and prevent foreign companies from coming here or our companies from trading outside. In a global economy, you are bound to see the presence of foreign companies in the local market.
Two hundred years ago, Gujarati businessmen went to the African countries in their little boats to explore business opportunities. They soon became a driving force of the economy of the African countries. But this did not destabilize the African economy. Similarly, today we see many Indian businessmen operating their companies around the world. We are proud of them. It is not the government alone which should decide where in the world the companies should go for business. Such decisions are also dependent on market forces and security aspects. We should ensure that government policies do not pose hindrances to this. If governments play the role of facilitators, the desired results can be achieved.
There was a time when the functioning of envoys was limited to the political matters and to apprising the concerned government about the current affairs. Now, envoys around the world focus on financial matters as well. We should understand the forces of global economy and let the world recognise our potential. We should strive to create an atmosphere where the nation can learn from the best across the globe, harness our talent and meet our true potential.
Q: Why does a country with a huge population get so few gold medals in the Olympics? What needs to be done to make India a leading sports power?
A: Our country has talent hidden in every state and in every district. In Gujarat, since last year we have initiated the Khel Mahakumbh festival, where I have seen young children competing from every village and corner of Gujarat. It has been exciting to see how their energy pours out into the field when given an opportunity. I believe that throughout India we need to search out these young sporting talents and then provide them with support and opportunity to develop their skills to become our future gold medallists.
Narendra Modi turns photographer.
Appropriate government policies are required not only in locating and nurturing talents but also in building infrastructure. Cricket is an example where we have won two World Cups. Wherever such steps have been taken, the results have been forthcoming. There are many non-Olympic sports where India is a world leader. We have so many traditional sports like Kabaddi and KhoKho that are played in rural areas where we would be leaders if they were Olympic sports.
Sports should be a part of social genetics. Sportsman spirit is impossible without a culture of sports. Every country which is committed to all-round growth should encourage sports.
It is true that as far as competitions are concerned, it needs a different approach. We have to keep in mind the requirements of skill, training and resources, but slowly in that also India has made a beginning.
Cricket occupies a unique place in India's sporting scenario. At the same time, it is needed that we pay attention to nurturing and strengthening our other sports as well. We need to create an atmosphere and infrastructure of international standards by incorporating scientific methods.
Q: Law and order is absent in many parts of India. More than a quarter of the country is under Maoist control. The police is corrupt and incompetent. How can this state of affairs be rectified?
A: This is a sweeping statement, which is not really supported by facts or represents the real picture. A distinction has to be made between a law and order situation and subversive anti-national movements that do not believe in either democracy or the sovereignty of our country. The situation is different in different states as law and order is a State subject.
Subversion of the police or government officials takes place when there is a lack of transparency and people are able to deviate from their responsibilities without any fear of punishment. Transparency means that it is clear for all to see the workings of the government and people are able to report problems as well as ensure that the solutions are implemented. Gujarat has received the UN Public Service Award for "Improving Transparency, Accountability and Responsiveness". One of our major initiatives is State Wide Attention on Grievances by Application of Technology (SWAGAT) where any citizen can submit their grievance and track the case online. Every month I oversee the grievances using video-conferencing to connect the "applicant", local officers and the department officers concerned. Technology has allowed all faces of government to be seen by the public and through this we have solved many cases including land issues, compensation problems, and when the public has been harassed by officials. The system leads to a significant reduction in these problems as every month the cases are transmitted live to all district and taluka offices, ensuring that all are briefed of the problems in the state and about how they are to be solved through public accountability.
Q: Terrorism is a serious problem, with India being one of the worst affected, together with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What are the reasons for the growth of terror in our country? How can this scourge be defeated?
A: In fact India is a victim of terrorism, which is sponsored by anti-India elements in other parts of the world. State-sponsored terrorism in some countries is adding to the problem. The world has to stand united to condemn terrorism in no uncertain terms and to take effective steps in rooting out the scourge of cross-border terrorism.
The entire world community has become united to meet this threat, which poses the maximum danger not only to innocent human lives and property but also to sustainable development and growth with a human face.
Q: Please describe the Gujarat Miracle. How do you explain the success of the state?
A: Miracles, especially economic and social miracles require careful planning, a clear vision, specific objectives and goals and a clear understanding of our strengths and constraints. Entrepreneurship exists in the very DNA of the people of Gujarat and we have capitalised on this strength. Gujarat's long coastline offers opportunities which we have recognised by developing ports, roads and ensuring last mile connectivity. We have continuously encouraged decentralised decision making right up to the taluka level by focusing on an approach which is based on outcomes and not merely financial allocations We firmly believe that it is not only economic growth, but it is inclusive growth which contributes to the human development index.
The Gujarat success story now spans ten years and spreads across all sectors. Our major approach has been to make the journey together, as 6 crore Gujaratis. Our major schemes have our people as partners, and in this way we have achieved what is now termed as the Gujarat Miracle. To enrol girls in school, the government visits the villages to involve family and community members in the child's education and carve out a bright future. To meet the issue of scarce water, we encouraged farmers and villagers across the state to build check-dams and ponds to recharge the groundwater supply. Where once the water levels were depleting year by year, today the groundwater levels have gone up. This approach of partnering with the people has made development a mass movement. The credit for our success is not attributed to just the government or any single person, the Gujarat Miracle can be attributed to all the citizens.
Q: In how many years can India change from the present stagnation and loss of hope to Vibrant India? Can the Gujarat model get replicated all over India? Can the country hope to abolish poverty? If so, how long will it take, and how can this be done?
A: In Gujarat, we have adopted the P2G2 Model: Pro-Active Pro-People Good Governance. The essence of the model is an uncluttered vision and clear objectives and clear goals with a firm commitment for development, especially human development. Our resolution has been "Minimum Government, Maximum Governance", in order to make development a mass movement. Development takes place in the states, therefore, it is also important for a country like India to remember that our federal structure is sacrosanct. A firm commitment to development in the proper spirit will definitely show positive results in a very short time span.
If we start any endeavour sincerely we will see small changes on the first day, and we will see great changes in just one year. When you bring together the hopes and aspirations of 120 crore people to all work towards a better future, then everything is possible. By introducing transparency into governance and public accountability, immediately we will see an end to large-scale corruption. Public funds will be brought back, ready for use for the most needy and government will be made to work for the people. We require an opening up of governance and an energising of the systems to focus on service for the public.