PM Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Photo: Swapan Mahapatra | PTI
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The Narendra Modi government announces a policy for transition to electric vehicles and then realises it is unrealistic. It extends the deadline, which will no doubt be extended again.

In a huff, the government says single-use plastic will be banned across the country in a matter of weeks, only to realise it is just impractical to do so.

If you think these are isolated examples, just look at the first budget of the second Modi government, most of its big bad ideas have been rolled back. In the budget, the government said it would super tax the super-rich. Under pressure from India Inc a few weeks later, it had to cut corporate tax. Soon it will realise that this is not what it needed to do since the main problem is lack of demand. Then, it will do something else.

Until now, the Modi government has only been accused of implementation paralysis, but the days of policy paralysis may not be far. Policy paralysis occurs when the government is too afraid to make any new policy move, fearing it will backfire. The Modi government has already slowed down a thriving economy with its compulsive need for disruption, and can’t afford to impose any more disruption (or so one hopes).


Also read: Bharat Petroleum sale will make Modi India’s No. 1 reformer. But reform by stealth won’t do


Medicine without diagnosis

The root of the problem lies in making policy without evidence or a causal link. Sometimes there’s a political motive or a vested interest in doing so, sometimes it’s not even that.

Having dismantled the state of Jammu & Kashmir without any due process, using the Governor’s stamp after keeping the J&K assembly under suspension, the government decides to find reasons. Article 370, it says, was coming in the way of development and fighting terrorism. There is absolutely no evidence of this. Worse, the government doesn’t feel the need to give any evidence. No study, no commission of inquiry, no consultation, no nothing. How does it matter that Article 370 may actually have helped in the “development” of J&K?

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Similarly, the government first announced the rebuilding of the Central Vista, the iconic heart of New Delhi, and then went around finding reasons. There’s congestion, there’s the threat of earthquake, there’s this, there’s that… again, no study, no evidence.

Fear of contrary evidence

The Modi government is sometimes so afraid of evidence-based policy-making that it decides to bury the evidence. In May this year, the union health ministry put a stop on publishing or even discussing any research regarding e-cigarettes by any government-affiliated institute. The government had already decided it was going to ban e-cigarettes, having already issued an advisory against them in August 2018. Now, it didn’t want any research saying they were safer than cigarettes.

Not even the tobacco control division of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare cared to carry out any study or usage survey on e-cigarettes. When the result is pre-decided, why waste time with research? There was just one government-sponsored study, which conducted no original research, and conveniently ignored growing research that showed regulated use of e-cigarettes can actually help people quit smoking.

The ministry had set-up a sub-committee to look into the issue in 2014, and an RTI-accessed file noting showed a bureaucrat’s remark, “The issue does not appear to have proceeded in a scientific and objective manner. We should arrive at a decision after thorough consideration, especially of the contrarian view”.


Also read: Why the clamour to ban e-cigarettes in India when cigarettes and beedis are allowed?


The high cost of policy without evidence

Making policy without research and evidence, without establishing a causal link, comes at a high cost. E-cigarettes will now flourish in the grey market, without regulation. In the absence of regulation, people won’t even know what exactly they are inhaling. Those who want to quit smoking real cigarettes no longer have the e-cigarette option.

Similarly, the government’s flip-flops on the electric vehicle (EV) policy have contributed to uncertainly in the auto sector, and regulatory uncertainty is the enemy of investment. The flip-flop over the EV policy has contributed to the slowdown in the auto sector, perhaps resulting in job losses too.

India will achieve 100 per cent electric mobility by 2030, we were told in 2017-18, meaning diesel and petrol vehicles won’t be sold from 2030. This caused panic among manufacturers of fossil fuel-based vehicles and cheer among those looking to sell electric vehicles. But soon, the government realised the deadline was impractical and now it has decided not to formulate a promised EV policy. It realised it has to start with creating a charging infrastructure first so it has now drafted a charging policy. How soon before that is also changed, throwing many investment plans out of play?

In every such case, the government’s objective is not to achieve good long-term results but positivity-inducing short-term headlines. ‘India to go fully EV by 2030’. Three cheers. When the policy is withdrawn, there are other sexy headlines to replace them: ‘India to ban single-use plastic on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday’. Fantastic! Then, that is also withdrawn without a whimper.

This headline management is grievous for the economy. There can’t be a better example of it than Modi’s biggest policy blunders, demonetisation and GST. Both were so ill-thought-out that the government kept issuing circulars, amendments, ordinances and amended rules for weeks. If the government had cared for evidence-based policy-making, it would have rolled out GST slowly, testing its implementation.

Research is a western concept

If the government understood causality, it would have known that hoarded cash accounts for just 5 per cent of the black economy, and demonetisation was not worth the pain. Of course, the government didn’t carry out any study on the impact of demonetisation.

The government can get away with making and unmaking policy based on its whims and fancies because the opposition is too weak to question it. Coming soon: the government says it will prepare a National Register of Indian Citizens, asking all Indians to prove their citizenship. For such a draconian move you’d think it would first show evidence that India is over-run with illegal immigrants. But it doesn’t need to, it already has a brute majority. Besides, research is a western concept, and causality is an anti-Hindu idea.


Also read: Why Indian economic tiger became puppy with tail between legs & what markets want Modi to do


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29 Comments Share Your Views

29 COMMENTS

  1. Having elected a dud with large majority. calling him a duffer is acrually calling you name yourself. You deserve what you got.

    • Well, as the French diplomat and philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) said :

      «Every nation gets the government it deserves»

      That said, the BJP obtained only 38% of the national vote. But the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system ensure that a mere 38% of the popular vote translates into a disproportional number of seats in the Lok Sabha.

      In any case, we now have at the helm of the country an authoritarian Gujarati with hardly any education but still able to dupe even the educated into believing that he is the much awaited Indian incarnation of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. That, as a Hindutva inspired Vedic scientist said at the Indian Science Congress is a new kind of gravitational wave «Modi wave».

      Welcome to 5 more years of voodoo economics and politics with a Gujarati twist !

  2. The list of economic follies and policies that contradict each other is long. Take for instance the leather industry promoted through the Make in India scheme and how it runs against cow slaughter / beef consumption ban policies.

    One the one hand, the PM promotes the Leather Sector though the Make in India (bit.ly/1Ois7Xc) scheme – bragging that the sector is worth USD 17.85 Billions. Yet this sector which employs many rural youth is in trouble as cow hide is not easy to obtain. Cow slaughter bans have reduced the availability of raw hide and the once thriving industry now stagnates. India’s competitors in leather, Pakistan and Bangladesh are rubbing their hands in glee!

    Likewise, at a time when Brazil’s beef industry is in doldrums, India’s beef export bans deny India of a vital source of foreign exchange. The dairy industry is similarly affected by Hindutva inspired restrictions.

    Many of the conflicts between sound economic policies and the government’s Hindutav ideology actually result in squandered economic opportunities and windfall profits for India’s competitors. But the try telling this to Gujarati Delhi University graduates ..

  3. Shivam is absolutely right. Terrorist s and pakistani s were ensuring J&K was developed under Article 370. I have visited multiple times and used to see the good work of them. Now with this Sanghi government removing the article has made the state without internet. If article 370 is reinstated internet Pakistanis and terrorists will come back and ensure Kashmir reaches it’s former glory

  4. Modi’s actions are well thought out. Modi think ahead of the librandus and they have no clue till the end when action starts. Librandus cry to hide their foolishness.

  5. I disagree with this author on almost all the issues, but I am afraid I have to agree with this one. I seriously hoped that Modi would transform the Indian economy when he got elected in 2014 and had hopes high even after the blunder of demonetization, which by the way I consider now as the most ill-thought out policy from any “elected government”. Starting from mid-2018, my hopes have went down. However, I considered the defeats in Delhi and Bihar following suit-boot ki sarkar jibe from Rahul as the reason for some of the socialist economic policies that Modi government has undertaken. After all, for good or bad, these are the policies that get you re-elected in India. After re-election, given the huge political capital he had, I thought that Modi might switch back to reformist mode, but the first budget after re-election was the exact opposite. From now on wards, I have no hopes and I only wish them good luck. With the opposition in total disarray, I don’t know whom to look for if not Modi. I think that economically Rahul will be no different from Modi . Both seem to have same socialist economy views.

    • You have seen the light. It is a myth that Rahul’s ‘suit boot ki sarkar’ made Modi go slow on reforms. In reality Modi never had any intention of carrying out reforms. Modi believes in big government interfering in every aspect of a citizen’s life be it social, cultural or economic. Like Communist oligarchs of old Modi believes in total control with the help of the bureaucracy. His record as Gujarat CM proves it. Since the media was asleep at the wheel they never noticed it. They kept harping on 2002 riots which suited Modi fine. Nobody scrutinized his Gujarat model.

      • One of the most exemplary comments on any news site in India and with far reaching possibilities for the future direction of politics in this country. If the opposition/serious journalists/economists want to oppose the present government in any meaningful ways and find the means to be electorally relevant again, then the Gujarat model and the BJP government’s record needs to be minutely examined and debated. The present dispensation’s winning streak started from there – if one needs to defeat them, then that is where to begin.

  6. PM Modi came to the Centre with some pre-conceived ideas acquired while part of the RSS, formed when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat or acquired while interfacing outside world.

    There were a few more that he promised prior to 2014 elections to the different segments of the population who came to him with a promise of their votes in exchange of some giveaway to that lot.

    He and his support staff tried to wriggle out and succeeded in most of the areas except the ex-servicemen who extracted out of him and Manohar Parrikkar the OROPs.

    The Demonetisation was another of his preconceived action that he took against the expert advice and the country has been experiencing its ill-effects even now.

    Modi-ways will prevail and unthought out actions would be thrown on us bringing out sufferings to the people.

  7. Such is the brilliance of Shiv that he leaves you blanked out by the time you finish reading his article ! He says that everything Modi has done so far is to act first and regret or change or abandon later types. Shiv would like Modi to first do a thorough and proper research, establish causality (not spurious correlation), deliberate options and then act. If these golden standards are not followed, then anything done is for just headline management. Hope Rahul is reading his articles and learning the science of policy making by the government so that if and when he becomes PM in future, he will follow this advice in a copy book manner.

    • You are scaring me Surendra. Rahul as PM of India? Noooooo please!!!!!! Now please don’t mention the name of her ‘scientific minded’ sister as an alternative.

          • Whilst I am no fan of Rahul, it could be said in his defence that he does not have a pogrom under his belt. Nor was he, unlike Narendra Modi, persona non grata in most of Western Europe and the USA. And then he wasn’t responsible for the crime of demonetisation …

        • It would be great if Rahul was indeed better then Modi. Unfortunately all his statements and actions prove otherwise. He is infected with the same socialist/Communist bug like Modi. In fact his father Rajeev held more rational views. Just because Modi has flopped doesn’t make Rahul better or vice versa.

  8. So you are smarter than Modi.What makes you such a narcissist to believe other than being a sell out to have
    advise to a man who has governed a state over 15 years and being a PM for over 6 years.Can you govern your
    school board for a day. Constantly criticizing just exposes your shallow single minded anti modi stance to
    please your pay master Sonia..Go get a life

  9. The government’s intellectual capacity is limited. The Congress, on the other hand, used it’s brains only in enriching themselves. It’s the common man that finds itself between rock and a hard face.

  10. There are no qualified people in BJP in terms of their roles.
    They use religion from ages to come in power and then use the same to provoke us emotionally.
    Height is that in this century also they can hypnotize literate people and use them in the country to polarize and misuse governance at the top level.

    We as a country are more focusing on politics and not on growth.

  11. Well Sir, what do you expect from a government which believes that Ganesh is a result of Plastic surgery, ancient Sadhus flew interplanetary planes, cow urine is a cure for every disease, cow dung protects from nuclear radiation, radar detection can be hindered by clouds, gas stoves can be run on sewers, millennials are responsible for economic slowdown, Maths didn’t help Einstein and the list can go on.

  12. Some parts make sense. But you know why no one will listen to you now – because you left/liberals wasted earspace by constantly and daily faulting Modi for everything – down to toilets and sewage (as if Modi controls them). Then, when you have something sensible to say, you have already lost everybody. Let this be a lesson to you left/liberals.

    • Very well said. There is a definitely a dire need for alternate perspectives, policies and personalities in a vibrant democracy. But the rightly termed ‘libtards’ have lost their legitimacy by picking fault with everything Modi has done or is doing. They can’t explain why he got reelected with greater majority and that the janta has seen something in him and his policies that the libtards are steadfastly reusing to see. I can counter argue every point made here but it would be a waste of time arguing with these deliberately deaf and dumb intellectuals who ‘have lost everybody’.

  13. Modi seems to be inspired by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. While he is entitled to be inspired, he should also pay heed to the words (below) of Richard McGregor in his article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

    “Xi has displayed remarkable boldness and agility in bending the vast, sprawling party system to his will. Sooner or later, however, as recent Chinese history has shown, the system will catch up with him.” (McGregor, R., 2019. Party Man – Xi Jinping’s Quest to Dominate China. Foreign Affairs, Sept-Oct 2019).

    That said, I was surprised to see Modi not being on the cover of this FA issue – with core story “Autocracy Now” – along with 5 other illustrious leaders, including Xi (pictured right in the middle), and Putin. I agree with Shyam Saran that Modi Govt. I and II have lacked coherence.

  14. !! Asatyam Shivam Sadaa Sandesham !!

    One more MODI article by “Shivam We..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

    and we immediately jump to comments section below!

  15. Governance at the apex level for a country of India’s size and diversity is a cerebral function. It needs smart people. Not nerds; those grounded in reality, with deep understanding of complex issues. It is also – contrary to the event management that has been on display – an unglamorous, routine affair, Not meant to feed a 24 / 7 news cycle on TV, or an unending stream of tweets and other messaging on social media. 2. Colaba Causeway at Diwali, Park Street during Christmas should be filled with people out to shop, dine, have fun. When a government is doing well, there is colour in the citizens’ cheeks.

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