Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Tuesday was not only his shortest Independence Day address so far, it also had little by way of major announcements. Aside from a few one-liners calling for Indians to change their attitudes and for a different approach to Kashmir, Modi’s annual speech from the Red Fort was more of a laundry list of achievements.
Excerpts from the speech below feature a number of claims made by the Prime Minister about the achievements of his government over the last three years. Scroll.in checked to find if the claims are backed up by primary data. Read the entire speech here.
- Claim: “The success of GST [Goods and Services Tax] can be attributed to the hard work that has been put in to make it a success. Technology has made it look like a miracle. The global community is surprised how we were able to roll out GST in such a short time.”
Check: Not a miracle but quite an achievement following the efforts of several Union governments collectively. India has taken 17 years to launch the indirect tax regime. It is difficult to make comparisons with other countries about the speed at which the Goods and Services Tax was instituted. The nearest fit would be the case of harmonising indirect taxes across member states of the European Union. It had a principle idea in place in 1963. But a harmonised indirect tax regime was first talked of formally in 1985 and then finalised by 2006. That is 21 years.
- Claim: “New systems are emerging. Today roads are being built at twice the speed.”
Check: False. The prime minister did not say what periods he was comparing with. Data of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation shows that since 2001, the roads were built at the highest speed in 2012-’13. This includes, national and state highways, rural and urban roads.
- Claim: “The railway tracks are being laid at double the speed.”
Check: False. Again, the prime minister did not say what periods he was comparing with. Since 2009-’10, the highest rate of adding new railway lines was witnessed in 2011-’12. Between 2014-’16, broad gauge lines were commissioned (commissioning is different from laying and takes far more work) at an average rate of 2,400 km per year. In 2016-’17, the authorities planned 2,800 km of rail lines per year and in 2017-’18, they hope to double this to 4,745 km.
- Claim: “More than 14,000 villages that were hitherto shrouded in darkness even after Independence have been provided with electricity.”
Check: Partially true. Out of the 18,452 census villages identified as without electricity, 14,834 have been linked to the grid or a power line. However, one of every four households in India does not have an electricity connection even though more than 99% of the villages technically have a power line. The Central Electricity Authority says the data on rate of village electrification cannot be compared month on month.
- Claim: “Bank accounts of 29 crore people have been opened.”
Check: Partly true. Until August 8, 2017, 29.48 crore new zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts had been opened. But almost one third of these were not the first accounts of the individuals, as per an exhaustive survey conducted by Microsave.
- Claim: “More than 9 crore farmers have got Soil Health Card.”
Check: Partly true. While 9.06 crore health cards have been sent to farmers. Of these only 2.50 crore have actual data on their cards about the health of their soil.
- Claim: “More than 2 crore poor mothers and sisters are no longer using fuel wood and using LPG gas stove now.”
Check: False. While 2.5 crore new gas connections have been made under the Ujjwala scheme, the total LPG gas cylinder or gas consumption figures show that the people have not bought new cylinders after they get with the free connection.
- Claim: “Loans worth more than [Rs] 8 crore have been sanctioned without guarantee to the youth for self-employment.”
Check: False. Under the Mudra scheme, 7.46 crore loan accounts have been opened for small entrepreneurs between 2015-’17 by banks and others. Data for 2015-’16 shows only 40% were getting loans for the first time. The scheme itself had refinanced only 2.5% of all these loans.
- Claim: “I review government projects every month. A specific project came to my notice. It was a 42-year-old project. Seventy kilometres-72 kilometres of railway lines were to be laid, but the project was lying in limbo for the last 42 years.”
Check: Misleading example: Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy shows that after rising substantially for two years, the rate of completion of projects has actually come down after March 2016 and is likely to slip further.
- Claim: “My mothers and sisters, the women in the families seek employment in large numbers. And therefore we have taken a very important step to reform the labour laws to provide them the employment opportunities in the night also.”
Check: True. The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed by the Lok Sabha has removed earlier provisions that prohibited women from working: (i) on certain machines in motion, (ii) near cotton-openers, and (iii) between 7 pm and 6 am.
- Claim: “Cheap medicines through Jan Aushadhi Kendras are a boon to the poor.”
Check: The Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana is a Department of Pharmaceuticals initiative to open dedicated Jan Aushadhi Stores where high-quality generic medicines are sold at low prices. The government had set a target of opening 3,000 stores across the country by March 2017. As of February, only 683 stores had been opened, The official website now says that 2,149 stores have been opened so far. The budget allocation for the scheme was only Rs 1.7 crore in 2012-’13 but has been increased to Rs 74.62 cr in 2017-’18.
- Claim: “Our mothers and sisters are an integral unit of our families. Their contribution in making our future is extremely important. And that is why we have decided to increase the paid maternity leave to 26 weeks from the earlier 12 weeks.”
Check: Partly true. In August 2016, Parliament passed the Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill, 2016, which extended paid maternity leave entitlement for women working in the organised sector from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. But a great many Indian women work in the unorganised sector.