Modi calls for change in laws, procedures for transforming India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India needed rapid transformation if it were to meet the challenge of the future. He said the country should change its existing administrative systems and laws, jettison unnecessary procedures, speed up processes, and adopt technology.
“We cannot march through the 21st century with the administrative systems of the 19th century,” said the PM in his opening comments at the inaugural lecture of the NITI Aayog’s Transforming India lecture series at Vigyan Bhavan on Friday.
The PM said countries could no longer develop in isolation but needed ideas from outside, which was the purpose of the lecture series under the auspices of NITI Aayog. The first lecture was delivered by the Deputy PM of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnam on ‘India in the Global Economy’.
In his comments, Modi said: “If India is to meet the challenge of change, mere incremental progress is not enough. A metamorphosis is needed.” He said his vision for India was “rapid transformation, not gradual evolution” but that transformation could not happen without a transformation of governance. “A transformation of governance cannot happen without a transformation in mindset. A transformation in mindset cannot happen without transformative ideas,” Modi said.
The PM stressed on the need to brainstorm collectively to convert ideas into action. He said NITI Aayog, or the National Institution for Transforming India, was created last year as an evidence-based think tank to guide India’s transformation, including to learn from global standards. He highlighted the need to build institutions.
The PM said ever since taking over the reins of the Union government, he has personally participated in structured brainstorming sessions with bankers, police officers and with secretaries to the government. “The ideas coming from those sessions are being incorporated into policy. These efforts have been to tap ideas from inside. The next step is to bring in ideas from outside,” Modi said.
Modi asked all secretaries to the government to conduct a follow-up discussion in a week’s time, with the participants from their ministries. “The purpose is to convert ideas that emerge in today’s session into specific action points relevant to each group. Wherever possible, I request the ministers also to participate in these sessions,” he said.
He said change was needed not just because India should keep up with the world but was also necessary for internal reasons. “The younger generation in our own country is thinking and aspiring so differently; that government can no longer afford to remain rooted in the past,” he said.
Shanmugaratnam, whom Modi introduced as one of the world’s leading intellectuals, spoke in his lecture about the transformative changes carried out in urban planning and administrative systems in Singapore.
Shanmugaratnam identified India’s primary school education system as the biggest crisis facing the country. “Schools are the biggest gap between India and East Asia. And it is a crisis that cannot be justified,” he said. The Singapore Deputy PM said the problem could be fixed, but not by ever increasing budgets but instilling better organisation and culture.
Shanmugaratnam saw a big challenge in the higher education system, which he said was not unique to India, but all over the world. “We are over-producing graduates who go through a general academic education. We have over-academised learning… We are producing students who do not have the skills required in the real world. We have to re-orient our system to focus on the skills required in the real world,” he stressed.
Shanmugaratnam also underscored the “very special role” cities play in ‘reform, perform and transform’. “Because, it is cities which are crucibles of both innovation and inclusivity,” he reasoned, advocating greater financial autonomy for cities. “It’s not just about budgets, it’s not just about programmes; it is about a social and political culture…” he said, arguing for greater social cohesion in the society.
Shanmugaratnam said India has an ‘unfulfilled potential’ and is uniquely positioned to ‘recast the global narrative’, requiring 8-10 per cent growth rate over 20 years so as to reduce the per capita income gap with the likes of China.
He called for bold economic reforms. “India needs to grow at 8-10 per cent over the next 20 years if it is to create jobs for youthful population, reduce under-employment and achieve inclusive growth,” Shanmugaratnam said. He said such growth cannot be achieved without significant changes to current day policies.
He said India “has over-reached itself in regulating its economy but under-invested in social and human capital. To achieve its full potential, it will have to do less in some area and have to do a lot more in other areas”.
According to him, India has to withdraw from its own role of the state, economic regulation and ownership that restrains private investment and job creation and also preserves incumbent, existing players at the cost to new ones.
He said it was necessary to encourage a social and political culture among the electorate so that they don’t believe politicians who promise short-term results. He said in his country, it’s no longer easy to make short-term promises without people looking at you with skepticism. “Trust politicians who invest in long-term and distrust politicians who promise short-term results,” he said.