May 26th, 2014, marked the day when India witnessed the oath-taking ceremony of a prime minister backed by the party with the highest number of seats in Lok sabha after economic reforms of 1991. Bhartiya Janta Party in 2019 broke its record of winning 282 out of 543 seats in 2014 by winning 303 seats. From demonetization in 2016 to abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, Narendra Modi’s government passed regulations that always remained in the limelight, with diverse opinions of opposition as well as various sections of the society. Still, the government proceeded with several bold steps like the implementation of GST in 2017 that changed the basic fabric of our economy.
Under the leadership of PM Modi, NDA ruled over 21 states as of March 2018. Being accused of polarization, it still governs over 18 states. The Congress issued a seven-point charge sheet accusing the government of "blunders," alleging that the Modi administration had abdicated its responsibility to the people. India observed a paradigm shift in foreign policy, after 109 foreign trips that claimed to strengthen international relations of the country.
Here are some crucial and controversial decisions taken by the government during the past seven years of its regime:
- On August 28, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana was launched, and it proved to be the largest financial inclusion campaign since independence and laid the foundation of the digital economy. On May 19, 2021, a total of 42.40 crores (https://www.pmjdy.gov.in/account) beneficiaries have their accounts under this scheme and enjoy its benefits, which include insurance cover of ₹1 lakh and an overdraft facility up to ₹10,000. This scheme invited a lot of criticism, as the opposition said, that it is only a way to lure voters and burdening banks with the unnecessary workload.
- A restructured version of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan named Swach Bharat Abhiyan under which the government committed to eliminating open defecation and improving solid waste management. The campaign gained widespread popularity, as a project of whooping ₹1.96 lakh crore, was approved for constructing 90 million toilets in rural India. The whole campaign is estimated to cost over ₹620 billion. Phase 1 of the Swachh Bharat project continued to October 2019. Phase 2 is expected to complete between 2020-2021 to 2024-25.
- Demonetisation was claimed to be a savior against black money and the shadow economy. Contrary to that, it failed as some of the eminent economists like Nobel laureate Amartya Sen criticized this move and called it a “despotic action”. Over 100 deaths were reported due to standing in queues for several hours outside ATM and banks to exchange notes. RBI spent ₹7965 crores in 2016-17 to print new banknotes in contrast to ₹3421 crores in 2015-16 i.e. before demonetization. Though government always tries to defend this step, no data may support their claim. Sectors like agriculture that are dependent on cash faced a shortage and resulted in protests in states like Gujarat and Punjab. According to a report published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, there were 1.5 million people who left without employment.
- July 1, 2017, Good and Services Tax (GST) took over existing taxes levied by central and state governments. This was marked as one of the historic events in Indian history as it was launched during a midnight session of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This tax subsumed various other taxes like service tax, value-added tax, etc. The World Bank's 2018 India Development Update criticized India's version of GST as "too complex," pointing out several faults compared to GST systems in other nations, including the country's second-highest tax rate, at 28 percent, among a sample of 115 countries. Rahul Gandhi, while showing his criticism against GST mentioned it as “Gabbar Singh Tax”.
- The Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 alleged to be a vote bank tactic played by the ruling to lure votes and win subsequent Lok Sabha election. While it has been a controversial matter for a long time in India that actively revolves around the Uniform Civil Code(Article 44), which finds its mention in part IV of the constitution i.e. directive principles of state policy. It was first introduced in 2017 following a supreme court judgment that ruled triple talaq as unconstitutional. Over the years, women's organizations such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and others have spoken out against this practice in particular and also have called for additional reforms in Muslim personal rules. It was criticized by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and they continue to defend this practice. Kapil Sibal, lawyer of AIMPLB said that the validity of customs and practices of a community, can not be set as it is a slippery slope.
- Soon after winning the 2019 elections, on August 5, 2019, the BJP led government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories i.e. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. This special status was provided under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which is now abrogated. The government justified their decision by stating that they want to enable the people of the state to access various programs run by the government such as RTE, RTI, etc. 4G services were shut down on August 5, 2019, and were restored after almost 18 months i.e. February 5, 2021. The restoration led to the debate on taking away the fundamental rights of the people. Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister, described the government's stance on Article 370 as "unilateral and appalling." It was a "gross breach of the faith that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had placed in India when it acceded to it in 1947," he said, it was welcomed by the people of Ladakh, Kashmiri Hindu, and people who were displaced, from the valley.
- Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 remains one of the most controversial decisions taken by the government in the past 17 years. It was passed on 11 December 2019, which amended the Citizenship Act of 1955. Under this act, persecuted religious minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are provided with a path of getting Indian citizenship. Minorities were defined, as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. The amendment has been condemned, for being religiously discriminatory, particularly because it excludes Muslims. It is declared as fundamentally discriminatory by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This declaration resulted in widespread protests in almost every state of the nation. It also claimed the lives of many people. While the government asserted that no Indian has to worry regarding this act, it remains a huge question until NRC rules are declared.
- 2020 Indian agriculture acts are still in the limelight as farmers are protesting during the devastating second wave of COVID-19. Three acts were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020, amid the ongoing corona crisis as well as the deteriorating economy. While chief economists of IMF termed these steps as vital steps in the right direction, the lack of monetary support in these bills for MSP remains a matter of concern. Opposition parties allegedly say that these bills were passed unconstitutionally. It resulted in the havoc, that was created by the farmers, on 26th January 2021. There is a constant demand for revocation of these farm bills by the farmers to end their agitation. As reported, there were around 400 casualties and one death during the republic day’s protest.
Introspection is the key to mastery. We have witnessed the most catastrophic event in the name of COVID-19. Major economies of the world are falling apart during these unprecedented times. Unemployment is still high, but the Indian economy was facing a downfall even before the pandemic. GDP growth was already on a downward slope before COVID-19. India is witnessing a toppling in its GDP since Quarter 4 of 2017. It has hit an all-time low of 3.1% in quarter 4 of 2020. Not only has the economy deteriorated, but the country has dropped significantly in over a dozen worldwide indices in only one year. But there always remains a hope amid despair.
India is running the biggest vaccination campaign and slowly recovering from the drastic second wave of the pandemic. Our foreign policy has undergone one of the most crucial shifts. It is no longer about moral science lectures but is now entirely motivated by hard-core national interest. FDI is at an all-time high, and top companies like tesla want to invest in India. It is evident that the “Modi wave” is not as strong as it was in 2014, but core voters of BJP still stand firm with them. Whatever may be, PM Narendra Modi remains unaffected by widespread criticism faced by him and remains torchbearer of 137 crores Indians.
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