Like in every other sphere, be it sports, business, or organisation, a good leader is the pivot around whom the entire team revolves. The leaders are the change makers. No matter how good the team is, a bad leader can lead to ruin while even a mediocre team can produce great results if it is led by a decent leader. India being a democratic country, its fate and future directly depends on the people having the option and opportunity to elect good leaders to lead it.
Sadly, while we have had politicians of every political orientation, we haven’t had many good leaders. Having a good leader is the most important factor in the building of a nation.
For instance, look at the stride India has made and the positive transformation it has undergone since 2014.
A transformative leader
Through his mantra of ‘Seva, Sushasan and Antyodaya’ — service, good governance and uplifting the most marginalised — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has truly brought India to the 21st century.
In the past, the funds allocated by the central government for welfare schemes, especially grants in cash, would travel to the state governments, then to the districts, and then to the sub-divisions, development blocks, panchayats, municipalities, etc before finally reaching the beneficiary. Because there were multiple layers, it paved the way for middlemen to crop up, who demanded their ‘share’. Then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had famously said that only 15 paise from every 1 rupee spent for the welfare of people reaches them.
For me, this stands out as a prime example of everything lacking in a leader.
In contrast, instead of complaining about the existing system and its inherent flaws, one of the first actions that Modi undertook as the prime minister was to change the system fundamentally and eradicate all the loopholes that made the system inefficient.
Ensuring financial inclusion – JAM trinity
It was PM Modi’s vision of Jan Dhan Yojana and demonetisation that encouraged citizens to open a bank account. This contributed immensely towards the financial inclusion of those sections who had otherwise been left out of the system. Using the JAM trinity of Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile technology, Modi transformed the way the government provided service, ensured empowerment and financial inclusion of citizens.
Initiatives like seeding of Aadhaar data with the bank accounts, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), development of the United Payments Interface (UPI) and the digital payments in mere eight years is nothing short of a financial miracle. The hallmark of the Modi government has been that each action was preceded by a vision, holistic planning, resource allocation, and appointment of the right agency/individual for implementation.
Today, Indians take pride in the fact that under the visionary leadership of PM Modi, there are no middlemen involved in the implementation of welfare measures. So far, almost 10,000 services of the central, state and local self-government have become available online. From scholarships, payments to farmers, government assistance, everything is transferred directly to the account of citizens.
Today, India is the world’s leading nation in terms of digital economy. In 2021, 40 percent of all real-time digital financial transactions across the world originated in India, worth over Rs 20,000 crore every day, a result of PM Modi ensuring every citizen had a Jan Dhan account.
This is what leadership is all about.
One of the key impediments towards the development of India was the lack of world-class infrastructure. Despite India achieving high growth through the decades of 1990s and early 2000s, the rate of infrastructural growth was abysmal. In 2013-14 when the UPA government was in power, only 12 km of highway was being constructed in a day, which increased to an average of 27 km per day in 2017-18.
It’s the same story of growth in infrastructure be it rural roads, railways, airports, or ports. There have been various initiatives like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN, Parvatmala, and now PM Gati Shakti, which have ensured seamless connectivity for movement of people, goods and services. Thus facilitating the last mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reducing travel time for people. All these together are set to revolutionise travel and transportation in India.
Manufacturing revolution and export promotion
The central government under PM Modi has worked tirelessly to turn India into an international manufacturing hub. Beginning with the reduction in corporate tax rates, ensuring investment policy reforms, reduction in compliance burden to improved ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking, today India has become the leading nation to attract investment in the manufacturing sector.
Thanks to the forward thinking policies of the Modi government, today India has emerged as a leading exporter of goods and services, with total exports reaching nearly an all-time high of $670 billion in 2021-22.
This is happening because of the various programmes like Skill India, Digital India, Make in India, Vocal for Local, and performance-linked incentives among others. More importantly, all these have helped instill a sense of confidence and ‘can do’ attitude in Indians.
Reaching the last person
At the end of the day, there is only one measure of success when it comes to a nation — whether the measures benefit the most marginalised sections of the society.
In the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have meant that countries around the world have suffered untold miseries. Leadership remains challenged and shaken, particularly in South Asia – Sri Lanka is undergoing an economic crisis, Pakistan has seen an overturn of the government, countries like Nepal and Bangladesh are battling on the fringe of economic catastrophe, and China has locked itself down due to another surge in coronavirus cases.
Amid all this, India has emerged as the only bright spark and a ray of hope. It has administered over 192 crore vaccines as of 21 May, and supplied vaccines to numerous other countries. India has reached economic support to Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and is rescuing Sri Lanka from its financial crisis. India has sent humanitarian aid to war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Ukraine, and is working towards finding a peaceful resolution between Russia and Ukraine.
It is to the credit of PM Modi that an International Monetary Fund paper said, “Extreme poverty was maintained below 1% in India due to Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.”
This is why leadership matters. This is what a good leader can do — transform the system.
Raju Bista is the Member of Parliament from Darjeeling and National Spokesperson for BJP. He tweets @RajuBistaBJP. Views are personal.