New Delhi : Ease of doing business, red tape-ism and project completion – these are some of the matters in which the current Prime Minister has been taking personal initiative on a monthly basis, and obtaining regular feedback from the work-in-progress schedules. PM Narendra Modi has been scheduling a once-a-month round-up and has personally intervened in reviving stalled projects, and taking on India’s infamous red tape-ism to clear tens of billions of dollars worth of stalled public projects, with a hope that his hands-on intervention would bend a vast, dysfunctional bureaucracy. After taking over as PM last year, Modi vowed to work upon India’s notoriously slow bureaucracy. He had set an ambitious goal of making India one of 50 most business-friendly destinations in the world by 2017.
To bring results in this direction, once a month, Modi holds a meeting with top state and federal bureaucrats to check why projects have not got off the ground. Since March this year, his intervention has helped revive nearly $60 billion in federal and state projects, according to government data through September done by agencies of relevance. Steps have been in the path of initiatives which had chipped away at a $150 billion backlog of planned roads, ports, railways, power stations and other projects. Although, some initiatives are yet lacking in providing governmental inertia and speeding up paper trails and fast clearance of governmental papers.
The monthly-feedback initiative, launched by Modi in March and publicized on his personal website and Twitter feeds, is referred as ‘Pro-active governance and timely implementation’, or Pragati (Progress). Federal and state bureaucrats are linked by video to Modi’s office for the meeting, usually held on the fourth Wednesday of each month. They represent wings such as finance, law, land, environment, transport and energy ministries whose clearances are vital for many projects. The agenda for the review gets set on the third week, and usually has about a dozen stalled projects, public grievances and other governance issues, which get covered into the feedback radar.
This Pragati initiative has been found to have two positive effects – one, many files automatically get cleared with an aim to avoid the explanation during discussion, thus ensuring speed to work-in-progress. Secondly, those which do come up in discussion, get scanned under PM Modi’s scrutiny, and get accelerated in work progress thereafter.
States like Uttar Pradesh, which are not BJP-led state government, have also participated in this ‘Pragati’ initiative and turned Modi-led central government’s feedback system to their own state-advantage. Case in point – Chief Minister (Uttar Pradesh), Akhilesh Yadav wrote to PMO (Prime Minister’s Office), requesting the inclusion of a $1 billion metro rail project in the state capital at one Pragati meeting. Result – It got the clearances, including a pledge of federal funding, at the September meeting, thereby enabling the progress of project without major delays.
Success of this Pragati initiative can be measured by the stock of stalled projects in the country, which have certainly has come down. However, backlogs are huge and pending list remains high. In the July-September quarter, projects worth 7.6 percent of India’s GDP, or $152 billion, were stalled, down from a peak of 8.5 percent in the January-March 2014 quarter, according to CMIE, a think-tank. The data includes private investment plans also.