PM Modi. Photograph:( ANI )
If multilateralism, plurality and inclusivity are the criteria, the PM deserves this title more than any leader
PM Narendra Modi will formally declare India, with over 5.6 lakh villages, as Open Defecation Free (ODF) on October 2, 2019.
It will take place during a mega convention of more than 20,000 sarpanchs from across the country at the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Interestingly, more than 60 per cent attendees will be women.
That Modi received the annual ‘Global Goalkeeper Award’ on September 24 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his exemplary leadership in making universal sanitation accessible in a country of over 1.3 billion people is a ringing vindication of the social messaging of the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’, one of the world’s largest cleanliness drives.
With over 3 million government employees and students participating in 4,043 cities, towns and rural areas, this campaign is now a huge, result-oriented, mass movement.
The number of “swachhagrahi” volunteers working across urban local bodies has risen to 20,000 and those working in rural India to more than a lakh. The number of schools with separate toilet facilities for girls is up from 0.4 million (37 per cent) to over one million (over 91 per cent).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has in its last report stated that at least 1,80,000 diarrhoeal deaths were averted in rural India since the launch of the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’.
So far, over 110 million toilets have been built to eliminate open defecation and currently over 98 per cent of India’s villages have rural sanitation coverage instead of just 38 per cent in 2013.
In previous years, speakers at the Goalkeepers’ event have included former US president Barack Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and the likes of Lily Allen and Ed Sheeran.
Hence, apart from the 74th UNGA session where Modi exhorted “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”, his address at the Goalkeepers’ event is equally relevant, as over the last four years, it has relentlessly championed the cause of the poor and underprivileged.
Democracy, demography, demand and a decisive government are the four Ds that have helped India chart a trailblazing path in reducing global inequality, which is the very foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Goalkeeper awards.
Modi’s relentless commitment to global environmental goals was evident both at his UNESCO address in Paris and again at the G7 Summit in the French town of Biarritz in August this year, where he highlighted India’s large scale efforts towards eliminating single-use plastic, conserving water, harnessing solar energy, protecting flora and fauna, enhancing biodiversity and addressing water stress and ocean pollution.
India has already achieved about 50 per cent of its ambitious 175 GW renewable energy (RE) target so far as it moves towards ‘Green Power’. Setting up another 38 GW of solar rooftop, 32 GW of solar utility and 23 GW of wind power capacity in the next two-three years, by having standard power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind and solar projects amidst strict penalties for defaulting states, is something the government is working on.
Modi has even reaffirmed that India will achieve some of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations climate change goals set for 2030, in the next 18 months itself.
The 195 nations who participated in COP21 adopted the Paris Agreement, in which India made four commitments, including that of reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 under its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).
India also pledged that 40 per cent of its power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources and that the country will create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Also, after joining hands with Macron to form the International Solar Alliance, India ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016, becoming the 62nd nation to join the deal.
Besides preventive healthcare movements like the ‘Fit India Movement’, the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ and the ‘Ayushman Bharat Yojna’, one of the biggest healthcare programmes in the world, is yet another example of how Prime Minister Modi has been a global goalkeeper in more ways than one.
With annual health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family, this scheme that covers 50 crore Indians, has till date issued over 10 crore e-cards with more than 45 lakh people being treated at a cost of roughly Rs 7,500 crore to the public exchequer. And all this, despite the Ayushman scheme being in existence for barely a year!
Global equality cannot co-exist with cronyism and corruption. A study by The Economist in 2016 found that post Modi at the helm, crony sector wealth accounted for just 3.4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as against 18 per cent in 2008 under a rent-seeking Congress-led UPA regime.
In its second term, to further reduce inequality, the Modi government in the monsoon session of Parliament this year, passed the ‘Code on Wages Bill’ that replaces four laws — the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. Earlier labour laws left out 62 per cent of the casual labour and largely covered only those earning less than Rs 24,000 per month, which the new code seeks to reverse.
Again, the title of global goalkeeper is apt for Modi if one goes by the Global Findex Report, 2017, released by the World Bank, which lists how the number of bank account holders in India has risen from 35 per cent in 2011 and 53 per cent in 2014 to over 80 per cent in 2017, driven largely by the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna’ policy.
Of the 51.4 crore accounts opened globally between 2014-2017, the number of accounts opened in India was about 28.17 crore, constituting almost 55 per cent of the total accounts opened.
If multilateralism, plurality and inclusivity imbued with relentless efforts to mitigate global inequality are the criteria, then Narendra Modi, more than any other world leader, deserves to be the global goalkeeper.
(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)