New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that he has consciously avoided choosing a “populist course” and had instead opted for a “more difficult path” of correcting the defective government machinery.
Looking back at his one year in office, Modi, when asked if there was something which he could have done differently, said that he had two options.
“One option was to do things methodically to mobilise the government machinery, correct the many defects and ills which had crept into the system, so as to provide long term benefits to the country in the form of clean, efficient and fair governance.
“The other option was to use the mandate to announce new populist schemes and bombard the media with announcements to keep the people fooled. The latter course is easier and people are used to it.
“However, I did not choose this and instead chose the more difficult path of correcting the defective government machinery in a quiet and methodical way. If I had chosen the populist course, it would have been a breach of the trust placed in me by the people,” Modi told PTI.
Asked to enumerate steps that he had taken to change the way the government works, he said, “we have tried to remind government servants that they are servants of the public and have restored discipline in Central government officers.
“I have done a small thing, one that appears small from outside. I regularly interact with officers over tea; it is part of my working style.”
Modi said philosophically he felt that the country would progress only if they worked as teams. “The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers are one team. The Cabinet Ministers and the State Ministers are another team. The civil servants at the Centre and the States are yet another team.
“This is the only way we can successfully develop the country. We have taken a number of steps for this and the abolition of the Planning Commission and its replacement with NITI Aayog in which States are full partners is a major step in this direction,” he said.
Following is the transcript of the Prime Minister's interview to PTI:
Q. No.1: Sir, you have completed one year as Prime Minister. Can you please sum up your experience?
Ans: When I took office, the civil service was totally demoralised and afraid of taking decisions. The Cabinet system also was in disrepair due to the operation of extra constitutional authorities from outside and groups of ministers from inside. There was a gulf between the States and the Centre and high degree of mistrust. Foreigners as well as Indians felt despondent about Indian governance. Changing that atmosphere of gloom was a very challenging task and I faced many difficulties in rectifying the situation and bringing back confidence and hope.
Q. No.2: Soon after becoming the Prime Minister, you had said that you are trying to understand Delhi since you were new here. Have you understood Delhi?
Ans: When I referred to Delhi, I meant the Central Government. My experience is that Delhi behaves the way the leadership defines. Our team has worked to bring in changes in the work culture of Delhi for making the Government more pro-active and professional. When I assumed office, I found that the corridors of power in Delhi were littered with lobbies of various kinds. The task of cleaning the corridors of power (or cleaning the lobby of lobbies) was important so that the government machinery itself is improved. This process of correction and cleaning took quite some time but it will provide long term benefits in the form of clean and fair governance.
Q.No.3: And what have you understood?
Ans: One thing I fail to understand in Delhi is how the same parties which as State Governments seek amendments to the Land Acquisition law, suddenly become opponents of the amendments when they are sitting in Delhi.
Q. No.4: Looking back at this one year, do you think there is something which you could or should have done differently than you did?
Ans: I had two options. One option was to do things methodically to mobilise the government machinery, correct the many defects and ills which had crept into the system, so as to provide long term benefits to the country in the form of clean, efficient and fair governance. The other option was to use the mandate to announce new populist schemes and bombard the media with announcements to keep the people fooled. The latter course is easier and people are used to it. However, I did not choose this and instead chose the more difficult path of correcting the defective government machinery in a quiet and methodical way. If I had chosen the populist course, it would have been a breach of the trust placed in me by the people.
Q. No.5 During the first year, you initiated a number of programmes and schemes like Swacch Bharat, toilets for schools, jandhan, insurance for poor, pension scheme. What are the plans for the future?
Ans. First, I should mention that Swacchh Bharat and school toilets are not merely for cleanliness. The provision of toilets is a minimum requirement for the dignity of our women and it is unfortunate that we have not done this so many years after independence.
Our future focus will be on women, farmers, the urban poor and on employment. Whatever we have started, needs to be taken forward and into the villages and municipal areas. We have to address the issues which prevent clean cities, clean rivers, regular, uninterrupted supply of essentials like water and electricity. We have to carry out reforms which help us in making 50 million houses for the house-less. We have to see that all regions of the country, particularly the east and west, are brought on par in development parameters.
We have to build the capacity of our institutions, employees and workers. Our regulatory environment has not been encouraging to research, innovation and enterprise. Our boys and girls are doing so well in other countries, but we are not able to use them effectively at home. We have made a beginning by setting up the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU. A common requirement for all of these, is corrections in our policy regime and also in the administrative culture.