– by Sundar Iyer (OFBJP Australia)
From being a member of the ‘fragile five’ economies over 4 years ago, India is now the world’s fastest growing, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty through innovative investments in social welfare, tax reform, digitisation, infrastructure, education and clean and renewable power. Present in Melbourne to describe this epoch-making transformation was the honourable Union Minister of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Shri. Prakash Javadekar, of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP), in conjunction with the Australian Indian Chamber of Commerce, were delighted to host Hon. Shri Prakash Javadekar at the event, “Moving Forward with Modi,” held at the Melbourne Convention Centre on June 30, 2018.
Present to felicitate the Minister were the Hon. Kevin Andrews, Federal Member for Menzies from the Australian Liberal Party, Hon. Robin Scott, Minister for Finance and Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Member for Preston in the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Ravi Bhatia, ex-CEO of iPrimus and Chair of the AICCI, OFBJP Australia General Secretary, Balesh Singh Dhankar, and the leaders of several Indian community organisations reflecting the diversity of the Indian diaspora in Melbourne.
Shri. Javadekar’s talk focused on the nation-building efforts of the BJP in 3 areas – clean, transparent governance, all-round development, and education.
Clean, Transparent Government
“Our aim is simple – a government with a mission, not a commission. In the last 4 years, we have had a zero-corruption government, we have ‘broken the brokers’, and conducted over 90 transparent, public auctions for the allocation of natural resources.”
“Rajiv Gandhi famously said that for every rupee sent to the common man, approximately only 15% was received. However, through direct benefit transfer or DBT, 400 schemes have allocated 3.85L crore (A$77 Billion) to over 200M recipients in need without any leakage of funds. In addition, using Aadhar (the world’s largest biometric identity scheme with 1.2B participants), we have uncovered savings of 75,000 crore (A$15 billion) through the elimination of bogus accounts.”
Minister Javadekar highlighted several schemes.
The GST (Goods and Services Tax) makes India a single, common market, improving ease of doing business and is expected to add 3.4M new indirect taxpayers, 2-2.5% to GDP, and 10-14% to export growth on an ongoing basis. Minister Javadekar cited the GST as a great example of cooperative federalism. “In 28 meetings, with 34 state and central ministers from every political party, every decision on the rates and rules was passed unanimously.” This will make it easier for Australian exporters to investors to do business in India.
Ayushman Bharat (Healthy India) is the world’s largest social health insurance scheme. “It provides 50 crore (500 million) people with paperless, cashless health insurance cover for expenditure up to 5 Lakh rupees.”
For India’s rural sector, the BJP and its allies are targeting to double farmer income. “We have introduced a minimum support pricing of cost + 50%. This will address farmer distress and curb suicides.”
To address the scourge of open defecation, “We have built 7.5 crore (75 Million) toilets. Unlike previous schemes, we have focused on behavioural change. In the villages, there are now ‘whistle-brigades’ to encourage people to not defecate in the open.”
Recently, India achieved 100% electrification of its villages. Beyond this, the Minister commented on the importance of clean fuel. “The Ujwala scheme has provided 4 crore (40 million) households with clean gas fuel to avoid them burning firewood and inhaling the equivalent of 400 cigarettes a day. Also, through mass bargaining, we have bought and distributed 1 billion 9-watt LED bulbs at Rs. 70 (A$1.40) each, instead of the earlier cost of Rs. 300 each.”
The government has also focused on boosting entrepreneurship through a micro-finance program. The Mudra loans program “has benefited 120 million people, and has resulted in the creation of 40 million new micro-ventures,” boosting employment and self-reliance.
Building on the “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas” tagline, the focus on education is “Sabka Siksha, Achhi Siksha” (Education for All, Quality Education)
The Minister perceptively said, “India is often described as an IT superpower. But it is not. India did not produce Google, Twitter, Whatsapp or Facebook. Every one of those teams had Indians in it but there is no Indian ownership of the result.”
The Minister referred to India’s education system as being broken – with an undue emphasis on rote learning and theory and without a focus on local history or geography.
His focus is on halving the curriculum to make room for physical education, life-skills, creative endeavours, and value-based education boosted by creative, experiential based learning.
“We have run 2 editions of the Smart India Hackathon. Over 100,000 students participated and came up with hundreds of solutions to real-life problems. 27 of these are in the process of being deployed. 5 lakh (1.5 million) classrooms have been fitted with digital whiteboards. There is a strong focus on artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things.”
The Minister is focused on bridging the gaps in laboratories, finance and scholarships, and creating work opportunities. “We have created a higher education finance agency and are offering Prime Minister’s Research Scholarships with stipends of 1L / month to research students.”
Victoria’s largest services export is education. The Minister called for greater joint cooperation with Australia universities.
Remarks by other Dignitaries
Earlier, the Hon. Kevin Andrews described how India and Australia are Indian Ocean neighbours with deep and shared democratic values. He quoted extensively from PM Modi’s speech in Sydney (‘We see Australia as a vital partner in India’s quest for progress and prosperity – there are few countries in the world where we see so much synergy as we do in Australia.”) and specifically called out the opportunities in clean coal, gas, high yield agriculture, and technology to save water and make cities smarter.
Demonstrating bipartisan support for the Modi government, the Hon. Robin Scott praised the Modi government’s achievements and highlighted the preparation of the Victoria-India strategy to boost social, cultural and economic ties between the state of Victoria and India.
While she could not attend in person, Tasmanian Labour senator, the Hon. Lisa Singh, the only senator of Indian origin in Australia, highlighted the achievements of the Modi government and called for stronger ties.
Ravi Bhatia, Chair of the Australia-India chamber of commerce also lauded the Modi government’s economic and social achievements, despite the regressive resistance of ‘neo-leftists.’
Event graced by Diverse Audience
The diversity of the Indian diaspora was on full display as Sikh, Muslim and Hindu community groups separately felicitated the Minister.
India has clearly, and objectively, made great strides in the last 4 years in establishing clear, transparent and effective action-oriented political and economic governance. The Modi government is on an urgent development mission to provide basic amenities and welfare to the people of India, regardless of community and region. As India continues its forward movement under PM Modi, it is clear Australian investors, businesses and educators will be well-received and warmly welcomed as partners in India’s success.