A matter of confidence

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Alok Mehta

The Independence Day has always been an occasion to look forward to. The fervour has only heightened since Narendra Modi became prime minister. This time, he will be speaking to a nation that feels it is on the cusp of taking off into a league of great nations — the league that it was in for a large part of its history and the league into whose entry the world has been talking about for a while now.
Speaking of India’s standing in the world, a nation’s confidence shows in its relations with other nations. Let us look at an example. After the first-ever prime ministerial visit to Israel by Narendra Modi, new ground was broken and new paths were created. Later, after hosting the Israeli premier in India, Modi visited Palestine. There have been many other firsts across the world for Modi in terms of his outreach. This is just one instance — among many others including the Paris Accord, World Economic Forum — that showed this was an India that wasn’t shy about pursuing Indian interests, on its own terms without compromising on its principles.
From the first time Modi’s voice boomed into the microphone on the Independence Day in 2014, much has changed, for the better. He seems to have converted the pervasive despondency of those times into an equally pervasive sense of self-assurance in our nation — a subtle, quiet confidence.
This confidence is not just what Indians have in themselves but it is also something shown by other nations of the world. India is garnering billions of dollars worth record levels of foreign direct investment, helped by a prime minister who strides across nations and cultures with disarming ease. He is not self-effacing but is comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps it is to do with the strength that comes from the fact that he is not beholden to anyone’s will but the people’s — truly a representative of his people.
Back home, the economy is beginning to break into a gallop buoyed by a historic move into a new tax system. Often, it is easy to understate what the move to the Goods and Services Tax means. A billion and more people, crores of enterprises and numerous states and their own idiosyncrasies built over seven decades had to be harmonised. An incredibly complex task has been achieved with very little fuss when compared to the scale of transformation. Yet again, a new-found confidence in a Modi-era India seems to have seen us through.
The youth feels especially buoyant about India. Modi promised jobs and many reports indicate millions of people being added to the EPFO payrolls in the last few months. Sportspersons are finding themselves keenly mentioned and cheered on by the PM personally, showing the rest of India that sports other than cricket can and should be pursued and celebrated.
This is an India that is setting targets, announcing them publicly to ensure accountability and reaching them — something that has happened sporadically earlier but not as often and not as quickly. The buzzword is confidence. As the prime minister stands for the fifth time at the Red Fort, he seems to have infused the same confidence with which he speaks every time, in his nation.
The last four years and Modi’s addresses from the Red Fort have seen many promises and, more importantly, many promises being marked as “delivered” in the report card the prime minister presents to the nation. He said he would electrify all remaining un-electrified villages and did it. He said he would build separate toilets for girls in all government schools to ensure they do not drop out and he did it. He said he would take banks to the doorstep of every Indian and ensure financial inclusion. Jan Dhan happened and now, according to many reports, almost every Indian household has a bank account. More importantly, about 16 crore women have been covered by this financial inclusion programme. Having long known that financial inclusion is often the first step towards holistic empowerment of women, this is significant. Crores of women have been ensured smoke-free kitchens even before the target deadline.
Modi said he wanted to double farmer incomes by 2022 and he is leaving no stone unturned in this quest. The recent MSP hike, sustained focus on allied activities and irrigation, crores of soil health cards and better farm insurance and many other measures are helping farmers do better.
The youth, farmers, women and the economy of a nation are enthused and nations from across the world are looking at India with greater respect than earlier. A confident nation, therefore, looks ahead.