Millennium Post

100 Days of Modi 2.0

The government’s second tenure has started off on a controversial footing, signalling its priorities for the remainder of the five years

100 Days of Modi 2.0

Modi 2.0 has completed a contentious 100 days in office. The Narendra Modi government's first tenure seems meek in comparison to these 3.5 months. There were several misses and a few hits that defined the majoritarian government at the Centre. The government set out its primary agenda for the remainder of its tenure – nationalism and social engineering would assume centre-stage, which comes at variance with the Modi 1.0's 'Vikas' (development) agenda.

The most important statements were made in Parliament with the government boldly scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and following it up with near-complete shutdown of the newly anointed Union Territory. Of the 100 days of the Modi government, Jammu and Kashmir remained silenced for 34 days! With clamping down on press freedom and communications, it is difficult to sift through rumour, propaganda, and the ground reality in the valley. What's more worrying, however, is the aftermath of the abrogation and forced silence.

The other major policy change was the passing of the triple talaq bill in Parliament. The Opposition fumbled while BJP sailed through even the Rajya Sabha. Now instant triple talaq can land the accused in jail for three years. Most audacious though were the amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. With the latest amendment, the government has strengthened its authority to brand any individual a "terrorist" if the government "believes" so.

These sweeping powers can be grossly misused and can allow overreach by the executive. The amendments still remain fuzzy on details. Who decides who's a terrorist? Even if these amendments are being affected by keeping national security in mind, it also smacks of totalitarianism where divergent views and criticism of the administration, may cost an individual dearly. These laws can be weapons to further silence voices of dissent in the country, destroying the many pillars of democracy that we value. With decibels rising on a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and construction of concentration camp-like detention centres, it's quite plain to see that the days of antagonistic social decisions are not behind us.

Alas! What suffers most is the economy. The slowdown may be part cyclical and part structural as opined by Dr Manmohan Singh, India's former Prime Minister and respected economist. However, the government is yet to divulge any plans of course correction. They remain mum on simplification of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reduction of tax compliances. With the slowdown unlikely to bid adieu in a couple of quarters, the pressure should be on the government more than ever to implement structural changes. The first step, however, would be to accept that there is indeed a problem. Till now, we are witnessing senior ministers in complete denial and to make matters worse, putting their foot in the mouth. One claimed millennials' favouring app-cabs over purchasing cars. Reports and statistics have since then punctured her wishful theory. Another confused Newton for Einstein but worse than his faux pas was the smoothening of the economic crisis by suggesting that people should not worry about GDP maths. It's this gliding over a crisis that worries me.

Now for the welcome decisions in the 100 days…though Nitin Gadkari remains the lone wolf on this, I welcome the changes to the Motor Vehicles Act. Deeply dismaying, therefore, that various state governments including Gujarat are pushing for lowering of fines instead of accepting the change that could make Indian roads safer, quieter, and saner. Indians want to buck the hefty penalties but don't want to follow the traffic rules. The ban on single-use plastic is an excellent step too though its implementation coming at the cost of the employment-generating plastic industry needs a proper think. News reports suggest that around 7 million homes received LPG connections in the first quarter of this fiscal which was positive; though 92 per cent won't end up using it as primary fuel due to cost of refilling.

I wish there were more reasons to rejoice in the 100 days of Modi 2.0. Unfortunately, there aren't many. But as the Prime Minister said, "Picture abhi baaki hain", and we hope that the feature film turns out to be much better than the trailer and hopefully, goes easy on our anxious nerves.

(The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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