The NDA government led by Narendra Modi has to be voted back to power to take the country to the next level.
With the general election for seventeenth Lok Sabha being just round the corner, you may have already read multiple articles about why or why not National Democratic Alliance (NDA) should get another term. Such articles are either data-heavy detailing umpteen successes and or failures of the current Narendra Modi government or based on armchair narrative-building opinion.
I am a scientist by training, and hence I will provide you with some of my observations during my recent visit (21 February to 2 March 2019) to India especially Uttar Pradesh, from a different perspective and would try to put forward my hypothesis why I think this government deserves at least another five years.
Let me start from the airport. I visit India almost every year and being a native of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, I mostly land at the New Delhi airport. Over the last five years, there have been very significant improvements that directly affect international travellers. Even the ardent critics of this government agree that the passport application process has been streamlined and getting a passport as well as OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) cards is not a pain any more.
Gone are the days when you had to fill out multiple forms and wait for hours at immigration counters. Yet another welcome change is the complete absence of touts at airports who used to extort unsuspecting travellers in the name of smooth custom clearance. I personally think the troika of the Prime Minister, Home Minister and External Affairs Minister deserve kudos for fixing a broken immigration system at international airports.
But you can argue that those improvements at airports are elitist and don’t directly affect the common citizens of India. That brings me to my next observation. I decided to take a train ride from New Delhi to Lucknow. Indian Railways has long been considered as the common man’s means of transportation. The New Delhi Railway Station presented world-class standards equipped with escalators, and platforms were squeaky clean with cleaning staff active even in the middle of the night.
The difference that you notice at this railway station now when compared to the period before 2014, leaves you pleasantly surprised. The scenario inside the train was as good as the atmosphere outside it. The coaches were in perfect shape, and I was thrilled to see the painting of Dev Deepawali on the wall of the coach right next to my berth. The train departed as scheduled. Next morning, I arrived at Charbagh Railway Station in Lucknow and was again impressed with the positive changes there, including utmost cleanliness.
After spending a couple of days in Lucknow, I took a road trip to my native village (about 60 kilometres east of Ayodhya). During my earlier visits (before 2014), this road trip (approximately 220 km) used to take anywhere from eight to 10 hours, and by the time I reached my village, it would feel as if I completed the worst roller coaster rides as the huge stretches of roads use to be littered with humongous potholes.
Thanks to the unprecedented pace of highway development work, this time the journey took under four hours. Imagine the extent of time and resources everyone is saving. World-class roads not only reduce time to reach a particular destination, but also saves fuel, extends the life of the vehicle and thereby the quality of life of people. The environmental and ecological benefits of these are incalculable.
Now I will present a few observations from the village to argue how this government has brought positive changes in the lives of the poorest of the poor in the spirit of Antyodaya. I met several people from economically-poor sections of the society (primarily Dalits and backward class) who have seen their lives transformed due to Ujjwala Yojna (cooking gas) as they don’t have to toil for hours to collect wood and then inhale smoke for hours just to cook simple meals.
The availability of toilets has brought a sea change as the girls and women don’t have to wait until it is dark to answer nature’s call to avoid harassment. I also got a chance to meet several beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat who were suffering from debilitating medical conditions but could not afford the care they needed. Ayushman Bharat came as a god’s gift to these people. These are real stories from the real voters, who will hopefully go to polling stations in droves to vote for continuation of the positive changes in their lives.
I was in the village when Prime Minister Narendra Modi transferred the first installment of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi to the accounts of many poor farmers. More than the amount, what the farmers were talking about was the elimination of middlemen from the process of delivery of these benefits. Gone are the days when only 15 paisa of every rupee reached its beneficiary. Now it’s 100 per cent. No other government had the political will to implement the schemes with such efficiency.
Next on my itinerary was Prayagraj, where I got the opportunity to visit Bhavya Kumbh, Divya Kumbh. I have deep connections to Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad) as I completed my undergraduate education from University of Allahabad, and I can tell you back in those days, you had to pay a mela-tax (even on UP roadways buses) to visit Allahabad during Kumbh. Not only that, the Kumbh used to be synonymous with mismanagement, people going missing and dirty waters. In contrast, this time, free Kumbh shuttles were plying from all parts of the city, the waters were unbelievably clean, and traffic was well managed.
It’s nothing less than a miracle that within a period of less than 100 days, more than 25 crore people visited Kumbh without any significant untoward happening. The Sanskriti gram (culture village) and Kala gram (arts village) at Kumbh were my favourite places, which showcased the composite culture and arts of India. The Uttar Pradesh government must be congratulated for this success story.
Next on my itinerary was a visit to Varanasi. Earlier, public transport usually took somewhere between three and four hours. But this time, I took Vande Bharat Express to go from Prayagraj to Varanasi and I was simply blown away by the quality and speed of this train. Within 90 minutes I was in Varanasi. The train staff were awesome, and I must say the food was of the highest standard that you will find anywhere in the world. Vande Bharat Express is such a success story that every Indian should be proud of this achievement.
I would not write much about the transformation that Varanasi has seen in the past five years as there are plenty of articles available on this but would just like to mention that a few of my close relatives who had supported Arvind Kejriwal during 2014 elections are currently the greatest backers of Prime Minister Modi after seeing the development of Varanasi over past five years.
One final argument that I wish to make is related to national security. As we were taking a holy dip at Sangam, at the very same moment Indian Air Force was pursuing the policy of hot pursuit by targeting the Jaish-e-Muhammad (the terrorist group responsible for Pulwama attack) terrorist training camps in Balakot. This policy has been debated ad nauseum but no government ever had the courage to put this in practice. By this action, this government managed to call the Pakistani bluff of nuclear threat.
At the last leg of my trip, I visited the National War Memorial in New Delhi and was so thrilled to see busloads of schoolchildren visiting the memorial and learning about the real heroes, who sacrificed everything to preserve our freedom. If you combine this with the implementation of OROP (One-Rank One-Pension) current dispensation has the best credentials as far as the national security and taking care of those who serve goes.
In summary, I would like to say that in five years this government has managed to build a base from where it can take India to the next level in its second term. Many of the initiatives are still in formative stages and the full effects will not be realised if this government fails to make a comeback. Therefore, it is imperative for all well-meaning citizens of India to work a little harder to vote NDA back to power with absolute majority.