‘Govt will focus on good governance, efficient service delivery; voters have rejected OPS’ | India News

Railways, communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw wears multiple hats. In an interview with TOI’s Sidhartha & Dipak Dash, Vaishnaw discusses the Modi government’s focus on governance in ensuring that there is efficient delivery of services and long-term goals are not sacrificed for short-term handouts. He also says that the 5G coverage will be significantly ramped up by Diwali, with contracts for modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports likely to be finalised around the end of the financial year. Excerpts from the interview:
A contest between two duelling ideologies is on: one with politics of handouts being justified as pro-people and the other as the PM put it, a long-term vision which is not dependent on short-term handouts. How do you see these contrasting approaches?
Today, every citizen wants to focus on hassle free, corruption free and transparent delivery. There are multiple things that have created this mindset. The good governance model that has been created by PM Narendra Modi in his long public service, which started in Gujarat, and is now being implemented all over the country keeps the common citizen at the centre and builds schemes around him. This is how the mindset of people has changed and is getting reflected in multiple ways in terms of support and trust in the policies. The support and trust is reflected in the vote share that BJP is getting in state after state. Even when there are some electoral losses, the vote share has increased.
How do you address the criticism that it leaves out people on the margins?
Absolutely not. The focus is on the people at the margins and the under-privileged. Take any example, be it Ujjwala, which focused on women who had to deal with those chulhaas, or toilets at home.
Are you scaling up the direct benefit transfer scheme, which seems to have plugged leakages?
At one point of time then PM Rajiv Gandhi ji said that if you send Re 1 from Delhi, 85 paise go away by corruption and only 15 paise reaches the grassroots. Today, when PM Modi presses a button, Re 1 is sent from Delhi and Re 1 is received by the person in the village. This has been possible because a good governance framework was created through 45 crore Jan Dhan accounts, then came UPI along with Aadhaar seeding of beneficiaries. A very robust infrastructure has been created to transfer money instantly. By now Rs 26 lakh cr have been transferred to people’s account with savings of Rs 2.2 lakh crore in terms of leakages.
There is still a lure of subsidies, and the old pension scheme became an issue in Himachal Pradesh…
If the conviction is very clear that India has to be a developed country by 2047, the path has to be such that we may have to make sacrifices today but we know that taking this path will help us reach a good level of prosperity. The PM’s conviction is very clear – you can’t take shortcuts, you have to work for the long-term and one has to make sacrifices and leave aside so many temptations of short term gains.
So, are things like free power or old pension schemes short-term political tactics?
People have already rejected this in large parts of the country. Example after example where people have not gone after free power or allurements. There are so many places where political parties that were offering such promises have seen their candidates lose deposits.
Does that mean that you will ignore such allurements as you enter a crucial political phase of elections?
Modiji’s focus on good governance and garib kalyan is a very holistic focus. It takes into account the reality of the grassroot and what it will take to change their lifestyle in a sustained manner.
What is the update on the rollout of 5G?
It was launched in October after auctions were completed in a timebound manner. A good rollout of our scale takes around 36 months, we are targeting to complete a large part of this in 24 months. By 2023 Diwali, we should see a very significant coverage of 5G. We now have around 25,000 towers upgraded with around 150 models of handsets that are 5G enabled. The handset manufacturers have ramped up 5G manufacturing and close to one-fourth of the handsets are 5G enabled. The cost of these handsets has come down to Rs 10,000-15,000. We will see a huge uptick in the level of coverage from April onwards. The first phase is to set up the core network, software systems.
You released the draft telecom bill and the one on data privacy. What is the status of the consultations and when will you move them in Parliament?
These are two foundational bills and we will also have the Digital India Bill, which is in advanced level of drafting. The first round of consultations in case of the telecom bill are over and we are tweaking a lot of things based on consultations. We are targeting data bill in the budget session and telecom bill in the monsoon session.
How is the progress on the bullet train project? Have things picked up and when will it be ready?
It is going on at a very good pace. In the first year of construction, we completed aroud 113 km, now it is 12-13 km every month. After the Shinde government took over, within a few weeks all the permissions were given. Tenders have been invited. On the Gujarat side, works started earlier, the progress is very good.




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