While the most distinguishing feature of the last eight years of this government has been the success achieved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in ensuring last-mile delivery of several welfare programmes and schemes, the messaging that he has successfully achieved cannot be missed. Modi is known as a great communicator due to the substance as well as his style of communication. The timing, venue and occasion that he carefully chooses also reflect his thoughtfulness. As his government celebrates its eighth anniversary, it would be instructive to understand how at least eight of his key appeals were enthusiastically received by the people over these years.
Let’s start with Swachch Bharat, Modi’s message for Clean India. An ambitious programme, it aimed basically at making villages and municipal areas free from open defecation. This was structured in a way to avoid mistakes of the past while embarking on several innovative approaches. Districts were made the basic unit for the campaign, with emphasis on construction of houses with toilets in a structured manner with evidence-based release of funds at every stage. A nationwide campaign with massive efforts to ensure public participation was the key feature of this mission. Essentially a massive behavioural change movement, the government’s efforts were acclaimed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). In 2019, the director of its Environmental Health Group wrote: “Modi kept up the pressure by regularly reminding the country how badly toilets were needed for the sake of health and dignity, especially by women.” Up and down the country, once-sceptical bureaucrats began to catch on. Slowly, bureaucrats across the country began to agree with this idea. They swung into action, leaving air-conditioned offices for dusty, distant villages—they would set up mass rallies and sometimes wake up at 4 a.m for open-defecation vigilance sessions.
Apart from such messages centred around government action, other appeals from Modi have also been positively received by people. They feel strongly connected with him even after eight years. The PM appealed to citizens and told them to purchase at least one apparel made of Khadi every year—this had a good impact. According to the KVIC, production of Khadi goods saw an increase of 172% during the last seven years.
In April 2021, PM Modi made an appeal to the people—in continuation of his call for being Vocal for Local—to team up to help the Indian wooden toy industry. Since then, the toy industry has seen its sales going up. A Varanasi craftsman admitted that after the PM’s appeal in Mann Ki Baat, the morale of the toy manufacturing artisans went up. Now, even battery-operated wooden toys are being manufactured as they are in great demand.
Similarly, Modi’s appeal for more cashless transactions has also seen a remarkable response. Last April, the PM rightly observed that online payments are shaping a vibrant digital economy as transactions worth `20,000 crore are conducted online every day. He said, “This is not only increasing facilities in the country but also encouraging an environment of honesty.”
Modi’s appeals have had a transformational impact. The flagship scheme of his government, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, was essentially a behavioural-change project. Seven years down the line, statistics suggest that it is working. This has resulted in increased awareness and sensitisation of the masses regarding prevalence of gender bias and the role of community in eradicating it. In the last six years, the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) has improved by 16 points from 918 in 2014–15 to 934 in 2019–20. Gross Enrolment Ratio of girls in the schools at the secondary level has improved from 77.45 to 81.32. What is more remarkable is that some districts that had a very low SRB in 2014–15 have shown huge improvement after the scheme was implemented. These districts are Mau (Uttar Pradesh) from 694 (2014–15) to 951 (2019–20), Karnal (Haryana) from 758 (2014–15) to 898 (2019–20), Mahendergarh (Haryana) from 791 (2014–15) to 919 (2019–20), Rewari (Haryana) from 803 (2014–15) to 924 (2019–20), and Patiala (Punjab) from 847 (2014–15) to 933 (2019–20).
One of the most innovative projects of this government is Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat, a brainchild of the PM. Under this scheme, Modi has appealed to citizens to learn at least 300 words of any other Indian language and get some working knowledge. At the macro level, emphasis on regional languages for knowledge dissemination was taken even further. Today, engineering students are free to learn in at least 12 regional languages. Educational institutions have even prepared for technology and medicine courses in regional languages, something unimaginable a few years ago.
The most powerful message of the PM during pandemic times was Atmanirbhar Bharat. A carefully chosen term, Atmanirbharata or self-reliance is many times more than Swavalamban of self-sufficiency. Acutely conscious of the changing global order, it was his foresight that made India self-reliant in critical areas like vaccine manufacturing. Today, attempts are on the anvil to achieve Atmanirbharata in defence production too.
Finally, there is the PM’s appeal for Sabka Prayas, or contribution to nation-building by every citizen. He started his journey with Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas and later added Sab ka Vishwas. These were essentially the policy perspectives of his government. With Sab Ka Prayas, an educative appeal, he has told countrymen that every citizen will also have to contribute.
Generally, eight years is considered too long a span for the honeymoon period to last. However, with Modi in command, the overall scenario is that the nation continues to cheer on.
President, ICCR, and BJP Rajya Sabha MP