It’s been two years since the Bharatiya Janata Party swept the Lok Sabha elections under his leadership but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never really come out of campaigning mode. To celebrate its second anniversary, the BJP government organised a gala event at India Gate in New Delhi on Saturday. Broadcast live on Doordarshan, the event saw musical performances interspersed with discussions on key government schemes and policies, with ministers outlining their key achievements.
The prime minister’s speech came right at the end of a six-hour-long celebration. In an address high on rhetoric, Modi made several claims about his government’s performance.
How accurate were the claims? Scroll.in did a fact-check on some of them.
Claim 1: Rs 15,000 crore was saved by plugging subsidy leakages.
Fact: These are potential, not actual, savings.
Modi claimed that his government has saved more than Rs 15,000 crores in subsidies by identifying leakages and routing funds through direct benefit transfers to beneficiaries' bank accounts.
"In LPG gas subsidy lists, we found so many fake names, so much leakage, we saved you nearly Rs. 15,000 crore," he said. "For this alone, the country will tell me, Modi ji, you are doing what is right."
As reported by the Indian Express in October 2015, researchers at the International Institute of Sustainable Development have disputed the government’s claims of large savings on account of introducing cash transfers for LPG subsidies. The researchers found the actual savings were not to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees but a mere Rs 143 crore over two years.
Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, who had first made the claim of large savings on account of direct benefit transfers in LPG in July 2015, wrote a column in the Indian Express in April to clarify that the savings that he had calculated were “potential” and not actual. He pegged the potential savings for one year at Rs 12,700 crores, a figure published in the Economic Survey this year.
Even the estimate of these potential savings is Rs 2,300 crore less than what the prime minister claimed the government had saved.
Claim 2: More than three crore new LPG connections were provided to poor families.
Fact: Only 60 lakh connections were provided till April 2016.
During his speech, the prime minister said that his government has utilised funds saved from people giving up their LPG subsidies to provide new gas connections to the poor. He said that more than 1.13 crore people have given up their subsidies already and this has helped the government to provide more than three crore new gas connections to the poor in just one year.
"We gave more than three crore families LPG connections in the last one year," he said. "Such huge work has never happened in India. In the coming years we will bring LPG connections to five crore people."
A government press release in January said that it had given more than 45 lakh gas connections to the poor through the “give-back” scheme. In April, the petroleum minister told reporters that the government had released 60 lakh new connections to poor in the last year.
Forty five lakh connections amount to just 15% of the three crore figure mentioned by the Prime Minister. This goes up to 20%, if you take the number of 60 lakh connections.
Could the government have plausibly covered the 80% shortfall in less than a month?
Claim 3: More than 1.65 crore fake ration cards were deleted by the government.
Fact: Only 66 lakh cards have been deleted in the last three years.
Hailing his government’s work in plugging subsidy leakages, Modi said that his government has struck off as many as 1.65 crore ration cards from the system because they were fake. Minutes later, in the same speech, he quoted another figure – 1.62 crore cards.
"During our work we have found more than 1.62 crore fake ration cards," he said. "That used to go somewhere. Somebody used to steal all that ration."
According to a government press release in December, more than 1.2 crore ration cards were deleted in the years 2012-’14 – 76.48 lakh in 2012, 43.31 lakh in 2013, and 10 lakh in 2014.
Since May 2014, has the government managed to delete another 1.65 crore cards?
In April, another release stated that the government had deleted 66 lakh ration cards in the last three years. This implies that apart from the 10 lakh cards deleted till May 2014, the government has deleted another 56 lakh cards since then – a far smaller number than the one mentioned by the prime minister.
Moreover, not all of these ration cards were fake ones issued in the name of non-existent people. In the case of fake or bogus cards, the ration is sold illegally, enriching dealers. But as the government press releases clearly state, the deleted cards include those held by people who were found ineligible for the subsidised rations by the government, perhaps because they had grown richer.
Claim 4: More than 20 crore bank accounts were opened during first 100 days of Jan Dhan scheme.
Fact: Only 8.6 crore accounts were opened during this period.
The prime minister was not the only one who made tall claims on Saturday. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is an adept lawyer and is considered one of the most articulate ministers in the Modi government, also contributed to the exaggerations.
During an interaction with journalist Ashok Malik, Jaitley was asked about his government’s efforts towards ensuring financial inclusion for the whole country. He said that a key part of his work was implementing the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. Under this programme, the government has opened more than 20 crore accounts in the first 100 days of the scheme, he claimed.
“Two years ago, 58% of the households in the country were connected to the financial sector,” Jaitley said. "This government has added 21 crore-22 crore people to the banking net in a matter of 100 days."
The government’s own progress report released days after the scheme completed its 100 days in December said that the banks had opened a mere 8.76 crore bank accounts – just 40% of the figure Jaitley claimed.
Claim 5: India is the fastest growing country in the world.
Fact: India is the fourth fastest growing economy in the world.
Asked to comment on how the Indian economy was faring compared with the rest of the world, Jaitley said:
“Many economies are shrinking. Some are growing at a mere one or two percent. For the first time in history, India is currently the world’s fastest growing economy. We are growing at 7.6% – it’s a fast pace as compared to the world but still not upto our expectations.”
According to government statistics, the Indian economy grew at 7.6% in 2015-'16. This rate is expected to get closer to 8% in the current financial year but India is far from being the fastest growing economy in the world.
According to the data compiled by the World Economic Forum, Myanmar is the world’s fastest growing economy with a projected real GDP growth rate of 8.6%. On the second place is Ivory Coast with 8.5% and then there is Bhutan with its 8.4% growth rate.
India, hence, is the fourth-fastest growing economy in the world – if one chooses to believe the veracity of a new methodology which economic observers say has inflated the country's growth rate. Among those sceptical of the accuracy of India's growth numbers are chief economic advisor Arvind Subramaniam and Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan.