Op-Ed by a development economist, formerly with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.
How often do you hear any government saying, “we’ve done it, yet again!” PM Modi may say this to 125 crore Indians in his Independence Day speech this year!
This is in response to his government achieving the target of Ujjawala scheme that was started on May 2016 with the aim of providing free LPG connections to 50 million poor households by March 31, 2019.
But the target has been met ahead of time. Earlier this year, the government had achieved the target of electrifying all the un-electrified villages within 1000 days of PM Modi making this announcement.
Times have changed indeed. Not only has the Modi government been steadfastly focused on development issues, it has also been result-oriented as is evident from the ambitious targets it has set for itself: doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, housing for all by 2022, establishing 150,000 health and wellness centers by 2022, eliminating Tuber-culosis by 2025, generating 225 gigawatts of electricity from renewable sources by the year 2022, and so forth.
Moreover, the government is serious about these targets which means that there are action plans, monitoring mechanisms and proposals for budgetary provisions in place for achieving these targets. Clearly, on the development front at least, what the Modi government has been doing is much different from what we’ve known or seen in the country. It is truly unprecedented! Nevertheless, an economist in me has several questions to seek answers to. For example, if the development issues to which the government has accorded top priority are indeed the most burning challenges facing the country today? If the solutions chosen for solving specific development problems such as connecting villages through electricity grid or providing LPG as cooking fuel and so forth are indeed the best available options from the perspective of affordability and emerging technological solutions?
If the government is not squandering the limited government capacity on a narrow range of issues, to the detriment of other, equally important issues?