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(Image Courtesy: PIB)
 
You can imagine that when work on such large scale would start then how much iron ore, how much cement factories, how many men will be needed and it will generate employment for many a people. We can get an answer to the concern of the GDP of the country”.
Mr. Narendra Modi visualized this growth model while speaking on the need for India to develop 100 new cities. He spun this dream four months before he led BJP to win historic mandate in 2014 lok sabha polls. 
Addressing BJP’s national executive Council on 19th January 2014, Mr. Modi stated: “Why should not there be 100 new cities in our country, modern cities, in accordance with the concept of walk to work, smart cities, health city, sports city and many other such specialized cities as per the  need..! Friends we can realize the dream of 100 new cities for this country..!
In the same meeting, he expounded his 17 ideas of India. An idea in point is Sarvey Bhavantu Sukhin, Sarvey Santu Niramaya (May all be happy, May all be healthy). This is a variant of much-awaited Achhe Din that figured in Mr. Modi’s tweet on 15th May 2014 – “India has won! भारत की विजय। अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं।”   
Neither new cities nor his Utopian Ideas of India figured in his campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The idea of building new cities was downgraded to a mission to transform 100 existing cities into smart cities. Not one smart city is visible today.
According to reply to Parliament question on smart cities dated 12th February 2019, “As on January 25, 2019, 2,748 projects worth Rs. 1,04,964 crore have been tendered, of which 2,032 projects worth Rs. 62,295 crore were under implementation/have been Completed”.
This is too small an investment compared to what would have been needed for 100-new cities vision. Like new cities, Mr. Modi’s proposal to see bullet trains running in all four directions of India by 2022 remains a day-dream.
Mr. Modi thus didn’t showcase Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) during poll campaign. It is destined for delay, if existing progress is any indication.MAHSR developer, he National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRC) had acquired only 37 Hectare of private land till December-end 2018. Compare this will NHSRC’s internal target to complete acquisition of requisite 1434 Hectare in December 2018.
The timely implementation of all big-ticket, infrastructure projects should thus figure in the proposed blueprint for New India. Incidentally, MAHSR does not get any mention in BJP’s 2019 manifesto’s 75 Milestones for India @ 75.  
Attainment of the 75 milestones should no doubt be core agenda for the new Government. The 75 targets are fresh ideas & thus don’t need recall in this column. These should not, however, overshadow innovative proposals spread across Mr. Modi’s speeches.
Citizens would love to see their most trusted leader to walk an extra mile to implement his countless dreams into reality. Hence 5-year agenda for Prime Minister should be ‘Walk The Talk’.
Now that he has returned to power with bigger mandate, it is apt to recall & collate his vision for New India. It is for Prime Minister to decide which ideas should remain frozen in dream chamber and which ones should be incubated into reality.  
Mr. Modi is dream merchant par excellence. In his first tenure, he kept on offering new dreams while remaining contended with repackaging, renaming and scaling up schemes launched by previous regimes.  
He should now opt for paradigm shift in good governance by turning forgotten dreams into realities. There is no reason why Majboot sarkar (strong government) cannot cull out all great ideas contained in his speeches delivered over the years and transform them into Agenda for New India. The same logic applies to valuable recommendations made by various committees including the ones whose reports Modi Government has kept under the carpet. 
One idea from Mr. Modi’s speeches that can make big impact on employment and economic growth is shifting of subject ‘Labour’ from concurrent list to state list under the Constitution. As Chief Minister, he advocated this change at least twice at National Development Council that he disbanded in 2015. 
Speaking at 52nd meeting of NDC on 9th December 2006, he suggested: “On the issue of planning it has been stated that the current GDP growth is not leading to significant job creation. One of the major factors coming in the way is absence of flexibility in labour laws. States, if they have to grow at the desired pace, would have to be freed from this shortcoming. Labour as a subject should be totally transferred to the State Governments to allow them to frame their strategy of providing employment”. 
This is just of one of the several constitutional reforms that Mr. Modi or BJP or Government-appointed commissions have recommended over the years. With bulldozing mandate in Lok Sabha and ongoing shift in numbers in Rajya Sabha in NDA’s favour, there is no reason why Mr. Modi should not bite the bullet.
The Opposition-ruled State Governments would not oppose transfer of certain subjects to States. They won’t oppose devolution of more funds from the Centre to the States. They are unlikely to oppose a new deal for resolution of centre-state & inter-state disputes. 
And a comprehensive blueprint for new institutional framework for inclusive growth is spelled out in 7-volumes report of Commission on Centre-State Relations (CCSR). Popularly known as Punchhi commission, CCSR submitted its report during April 2010. 
In the realm of resource sharing, it recommended periodic review of duties levied under Article 268 of the Constitution. It called for revision of monetary limit on tax on professions. 
CCSR also recommended: “In view of its revenue potential, the question of raising resources from taxation of agricultural income would require comprehensive consideration by the proposed National Economic and Development Council (NEDC)”.
Another recommendation calls for setting up of an expert committee to suggest “desirable directions in taxation and inter alia to consider from time-to-time, in consultation with States, the scope of levying taxes and duties included in Article 269”.
CCSR should serve as Gita of reforms for Mr. Modi. After all, he, as CM, strongly pitched for implementation of its recommendations. He himself lobbied for regular meetings of Inter-State Council. 
Yet another ‘Walk the Talk’ agenda item that needs articulation is controlling growth of population. Its explosive growth has eaten up fruits of vikas, leaving India with more number of poor, malnourished and diseased citizens than they were at the time of Independence. 
This is an issue on which Mr. Modi as CM spoke passionately. This is an issue which has been raised time and again by leaders across the political spectrum. Mr. Modi has to just read pending private members bill on population control to muster courage to walk the talk.
He also offered good ideas on electoral reforms that require attention. His proposals include simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and State assemblies to transparency, separate cadre of electoral officials to avoid disruption of development work and transparency in funding of political parties. The third idea was killed with launch of electoral bonds in 2018. 
Digressing from unrealized dreams, one finds plenty of low-hanging fruits on the reforms front. They exist as draft policies and as other reforms proposals that Modi Government could not clear during the first tenure. This was perhaps due to early onset of election fever. 
The draft policies including the ones pending since the days of UPA should figure high on the agenda for New India. Three notable ones drafted in last 2 years are: Industrial Policy, Logistics Policy and E-commerce Policy. All such policies can be finalized now as this regime is a Government in continuity. 
All instances of policy paralysis left unresolved during the first tenure deserve focus.  A case in point of UPA-era policy paralysis is employment policy. Its draft was unveiled during August 2008. We need not delve more into policy paralysis as it was focused in this column during December 2018 as: (Mr. Modi Creates Policy Paralysis that he once Detested https://goo.gl/XK3CD5 )
Pending Taxation reforms is another concern that brooks no further delay. Failure to introduce stable, certain and credible tax reforms would deter investors, thereby constraining scope for growth, wealth and jobs creation. It is here pertinent to note that task force on direct tax reforms is expected to submit its report in July-end.
Related to this is the promise to bring back black money stashed abroad. So far only peanuts have been brought back to India through carrot and stick approach. More ought to be done on this front.
Mr. Modi’s promise still rings in mind of many citizens: “every single penny looted from India that has been deposited in the foreign banks, will be brought back and will be used for the benefit of the poor..!
The promise-action deficit is also glaring in the field of corruption (See Modiji, Please walk the talk on Corruption https://goo.gl/Dv8n83 and India's Anti-corruption Deficit Shines at World Stage https://goo.gl/TERhGy ). Similar is the case with decriminalization of politics. Mr. Modi has  to walk the talk here too.
In his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha on 11th June 2014, Mr Modi stated: “Let us pledge to tell the country and the world that at least in 2015 , there will not be a single tainted member in both the houses be it Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. We can at least make a new beginning in the world”.
He continued: “If we clean the Lok Sabha in this manner once, then the political parties will be forced to rethink before giving out tickets. If we are able to achieve this within a year, the seats will be vacated and so no one will dare to do wrong.This will then be extended to the assemblies and then to corporations. If such an environment is created once with consent then we will be able to reign in the criminalization of politics”. 
Modi Government ought to show some liking for good ideas that keep popping up from all sides. It should shed it disdain for unsolicited ideas such as 12-point reforms-cum-growth roadmap that was mooted in this column in August 2014 (Mr Modi, don’t go the Abhimanyu way; shear UPA’s chains to untie growth genie http://bit.ly/1hDDzNy)
It is not difficult to suggest good to best ideas for incorporation in agenda for a new Government. The challenge lies in timely and effective implementation of the agenda. And for this, transparency and accountability should be integral part of core of the agenda. Modi Government showed aversion for transparency and accountability in the first tenure. This no doubt helped it 
return to power with big bang. The loser was missed opportunity to accelerate growth, speed up reforms and rein in inefficiency. The trade-off between secrecy & growth should be skewed in favour of the latter.  
 
Publishhed by taxindiaonline.com on 1st June 2019
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