‘Articles 370, 35(A) were like chains… let’s give development a chance’: PM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi said that from children’s safety to Chandrayaan-II, from action against corruption to freeing Muslim women from the scourge of Triple Talaq, from Kashmir to Kisan, we have shown what a resolute government with a strong mandate of the people can achieve.

In the first 75 days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term, the government has acted on some of the most crucial issues like abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and carving out two Union Territories from it. In a record-setting session of Parliament, Modi government managed to clear several laws. Speaking to news agency IANS, the prime minister said that the government’s achievements are the result of “Spasht Neeti, Sahi Disha (Right Intentions, Clear Policy)”.

You complete 75 days of your government today. Every government passes through such milestone numbers and talks about steps taken. Why should we think your government is any different?

We have set an unprecedented pace within just the first few days of our government. What we have been able to achieve is the result of ‘Spasht Neeti, Sahi Disha (Right Intentions, Clear Policy)’. In just the first 75 days of our government, a lot has happened. From children’s safety to Chandrayaan-II, from action against corruption to freeing Muslim women from the scourge of Triple Talaq, from Kashmir to Kisan, we have shown what a resolute government with a strong mandate of the people can achieve. We have taken a head-start in tackling the most pressing issue of our times, with the formation of Jal Shakti Ministry for a mission mode and integrated approach to improve water supply and augment water conservation.

Did the unprecedented mandate help you firm up your commitment to the people of India with an unstinting resolve that reform has to percolate down? And you have used your political heft by going beyond the executive and using the mandate in the legislature?

In a way, it is also the result of the government coming back with a stronger mandate. What we were able to achieve in the first 75 days was the outcome of the robust base we were able to build in the last 5 years. Hundreds of reforms in the last 5 years have ensured the country is now ready to take off, powered by the aspirations of the people. The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha has been a record-creating one – it was the most productive session since 1952. This is not a minor achievement but, in my view, a historic turn for the better and one which will make our Parliament much more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people. Many momentous initiatives have been taken such as pension schemes for farmers and traders, reform of the medical sector, important amendments in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code, beginning of labour reforms I could go on and on. But the gist of the matter is that when the intentions are right, there is clarity of purpose and implementation, and there is people’s support, then there’s no limit to what we can do.

There has been some noise on the medical reforms front from various quarters. Do you think the changes you have brought in are well thought through?

When we formed the government in 2014, there were many concerns about the existing system of medical education. Earlier, courts have used strong words for the institution overseeing medical education in India, calling it a “den of corruption”. A parliamentary committee did rigorous study and took a very dull view of the state of affairs in medical education. It pointed out mismanagement, lack of transparency and arbitrariness.

Earlier governments too had given a thought to reforming this sector but could not go through with it. We decided to go through with it because this is not a matter that can be taken lightly, as it concerns the health of our people and future of our youth. So, we set up an expert group to look into what is plaguing it. The expert group studied the system carefully and brought out the problems and improvement areas. It is based on the suggestions from experts that we came to the current bill.

Why is there so many hullabaloos about the bill then?

The National Medical Commission is a far-reaching reform in this space and seeks to correct the prevalent problems. It contains multiple reforms that curb avenues of corruption and boost transparency.At a time when nations are looking at India to power the next wave of growth in the world, we realise that this can happen only with a healthy populace. Freeing the poor from the vicious cycle of poverty that lack of health perpetuates is very important. The NMC serves this purpose well too. It will ensure transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education in the country. It aims to lessen the burden on students, increase the number of medical seats and reduce cost of medical education. This means more talented youth can take up medicine as a profession and this will help us increase the number of medical professionals.

Ayushman Bharat is bringing about a revolution in the healthcare sector. It is increasing awareness as well as affordability of quality healthcare, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 towns. We are also working to ensure that there is at least one medical college between every 3 districts. With rising awareness about healthcare, rising incomes and greater focus on aspirational goals among people, we will need thousands and thousands of doctors to fulfil the demand, especially in rural and rurban areas. The NMC seeks to address these issues for a better outcome for all stakeholders. You must have also read that the academic year 2019-20 will see the biggest addition of medical seats in government colleges in a single year with the creation of around 2 dozen new government medical colleges. Our roadmap is clear ? a transparent, accessible and affordable medical education system leading to better healthcare outcomes.

Education is critical for a young nation. However, in the conversations surrounding your government, education seems missing. What is the government doing on this?

Education is not just critical but the most important component in the overall spectrum of skilled human resource for a technology-oriented, inclusive, people-centric and people-driven growth model. It not only has to the potential to positively transform lives but also has a bearing on the future of the nation.

We are working on all aspects of education. At the school level, special focus is being paid to improving quality of education, improving learning outcomes, giving a boost to innovation and scientific temper, improving infrastructure, using technology to improve understanding among the students. We are trying to leverage technology like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning to improve school education.

In higher education, we are constantly striving to increase seats, increase presence of premier institutions across the country, give more autonomy to institutions, and while boosting research and innovation. We set up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an aim to provide funds upto Rs one lakh crore by 2022. Rs 21,000 crore has already been sanctioned till now. 60 Higher Educational Institutions, including 52 Universities have been granted autonomy. These universities will remain within the ambit of UGC but will have the freedom to start new courses, off campus centres, skill development courses, research parks and any other new academic programs. They will also have the freedom to hire foreign faculty, enrol foreign students, give incentive-based emoluments to the faculty, enter into academic collaborations and run open distance learning programmes.

Progress has been also made in taking forward the mission of National Education Policy. The first draft of National Education Policy (NEP) got lakhs of inputs and suggestions right from the block and panchayat level. Looking at the response and the interest of various stakeholders, the committee went for another round of consultations.

The latest draft of the Education Policy, drawn after such extensive consultations, has again been put in the public domain for a final round of inputs. All stakeholders in education the states, parents, teachers,

students, counselors, have been heard a multiple number of times. Our focus is that the National Education Policy should be driven by educationists, experts and stakeholders so that it does not remain a policy but is adopted in practice at the earliest. India with its huge demographic dividend, has the potential to become a leading knowledge economy in the world.

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