Narendra Modi has completed four years in office but there is widespread disappointment among the Indian people with his performance as their prime minister. There is a strong perception that Modi spent most of the last four years either in state election campaigns, on foreign tours, or giving scores of moral lectures on state-run television, radio, and his own online app.
Modi promised 20 million jobs a year, but instead more than 7.2 million jobs meant for the 15-24 age group were lost over the last four years. Job creation in India is at an eight-year low. There is an undercurrent of anger among the middle-class population over having to pay excessive excise taxes, which has led to historically high prices of gasoline and diesel, in spite of lower international crude-oil prices.
The government has collected US$150 billion in taxes on motor fuel since 2014. Instead of giving the benefit to people, the government is putting more burdens on them.
The previous government of Dr Manmohan Singh lifted close to 140 million people above the poverty line between 2004 and 2014. However, no one has any clue as to whether the present government is doing anything substantive to uplift the poor.
Agriculture exports, which had seen a fivefold increase under the Singh government, have since come down by 21%. At the same time, agriculture imports have risen by more than 60%.
New investment is the lowest it has been in 13 years; bank credit growth has sunk to a 63-year low, while loan growth has fallen to 5.1%, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The $1.77 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam has hit the Indian banking sector very hard. But unfortunately, Nirav Modi, who was part of the Indian business and corporate delegation at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, in January, left the country without paying his debts. He was seen posing for photographs with Narendra Modi before he was found to be missing from the country.
In February 2016, Vijay Mallya, another billionaire, who was elected to the Indian Parliament with the support of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), siphoned off $1.4 billion in the same way and succeeded in fleeing to the UK.
These developments have made people very angry at Modi’s government for allowing such looting of the Indian economy.
In October 2017, total bad loans, including non-performing assets (NPAs), stood at $145.6 billion and accounted for 12.6% of the total loans in the nationalized banks. The nationalized banks were where most of these NPAs were found. Interestingly, NPAs in nationalized banks accounted for about 87% of gross NPAs by the end of March 2017. So whatever happened was clearly due to acts of commission or omission by the Modi government.
Moreover, in the last 36 months, the BJP government has written off corporate loans to the tune of $31 billion. This ridiculous generosity to the corporates is compensated by recapitalization of the banks through public funding. This, in other words, means that the ordinary Indian citizen is bailing out the nationalized banks that are plundered by the corporates, while millions of poor farmers are struggling hard for the debt relief amid severe agrarian distress.
With the above developments, poor and middle-class people are slowly losing confidence in the Indian banking system. A recent report said there was a drastic reduction in deposits (close to 50%) by ordinary people in the nationalized banks in the last one-year period.
There was an RBI circular calling for the levying of charges for holding less than a prescribed minimum balance. Based on this circular, the State Bank of India, whose customers are mostly poor people, levied charges totaling $260 million between April and September 2017, according to Ministry of Finance data. This money was taken from the poorest of the poor, who do not have regular incomes and continue with financial hardship, and most of the time they are compelled to withdraw their own money, kept in their bank account for survival. This is in contrast to the huge loan write-offs for rich people and capitalists.
Every year 12 million young people enter the Indian workforce, and providing them all with jobs would necessitate economic expansion of at least 10% per annum
Every year 12 million young people enter the Indian workforce, and providing them all with jobs would necessitate economic expansion of at least 10% per annum, according to Raghuram Rajan, former governor of India’s central bank. But financial mismanagement by the Modi government has resulted in failures on all fronts, particularly in creating jobs, addressing agriculture crises and helping uplift the poor.
No one knows what is happening to Modi’s smart-city project, the “Make in India” project and a number of other much-hyped projects, while many promises on universal health coverage, housing for all, doubling the income of farmers and so forth have fallen short.
Many in India feel that the country lost another four years with Modi as prime minister. Unfortunately, Modi has tried to prove himself more as a successful speaker than trying to be an agent of change.