Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, transformational changes have taken place across ministries and sectors. Previous governments were content with just managing the affairs and hoped for incremental increase in the outputs. Now, there is a quantum jump.
If one sees the quality of work today, even in the remotest parts of the country, it is beyond imagination. The transformation is happening in building infrastructure, be it airports, land ports, highways, express highways, major roads in border areas, railway lines and new trains like Vande Bharat. Digital India has breached all divides we used to see in the past. The quality of life of an ordinary Indian has vastly improved. In fact, there has been a definitive change in the way governance is being looked upon by people. People have direct access to benefits. In the past, they were dependant on implementing agencies. For example, if a policy was adopted by the Central government, the benefits hardly reached people and it, in turn, made them dependant on implementing agencies at every stage. Like the farmers were dependant on block development officers to get the benefits intended for them. Now, the direct benefit transfer scheme is a game-changer.
As governance has undergone a huge change, it is reflected in the manner our students look at education. Earlier, students looked beyond Indian borders to realise their dreams. They would think of going abroad—America, the United Kingdom, Australia, France and Germany were hot destinations. Many may still want to study abroad, but one need not look beyond India to fulfill their dreams as many world-class educational institutions have come up in the last few years. In fact, the world is looking at India to fulfill their dreams. India is a land of opportunities not only for Indians but people outside the country, too.
When we used to sit on the opposition benches, India was starved for recognition. We felt India is always following leaders of other countries. The situation has reversed. I have travelled to many countries and wherever I go, Prime Minister Modi is considered the most popular global leader. Invariably, I have seen people talk about our prime minister as if he is a common leader. Top world leaders are following our prime minister. He is a global phenomenon. From a dependant nation, India has arrived as a global leader in nine years. What sets him apart is his ability to interact with great ease with common citizens, be it farmers, labourers, technicians, doctors and students. On the global stage, he can converse with global leaders on any issue—terrorism, economy, politics and diplomatic matters. Whatever Prime Minister Modi says, it leaves an impact at the international forum. It becomes a leading stand for everyone, and other world leaders start following it.
The India growth story is talked about everywhere. Many world leaders I meet ask me about all the success stories in the fields of technology and manufacturing and about the beneficiary schemes for farmers, women, children.
Our National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) programmes are taking judiciary to people’s doorstep. India is the most populous country in the world today, but out success rate is higher than some of the richest countries like the US. Since 2014, the number of court halls, buildings, residential units and other facilities in the lower judiciary has doubled. Thanks to technology, the case clearance percentage has increased from 82.76 per cent in 2014 to 89.33 per cent in 2022. The tele-law service has been made free for citizens. NALSA provides services of 700 lawyers in each district exclusively for the tele-law programme. Lok adalats have emerged as the most efficacious tool of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Thanks to e-lok adalats, 1,27,87,329 cases were disposed of in 2021. Using ADR, lok adalats have dealt with mounting arrears of the courts, including High Courts where 46.07 lakh pre-litigation cases and 15.02 lakh pending cases have been disposed of from June 2020 to January 2023.
Our key achievement has been the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (Amendment) Act, 2022, to set up the India International Arbitration Centre for institutionalising arbitration and bringing India on a global level as that of Singapore, London and Hong Kong. The ministry of law and justice has transformed the litigation process by introducing Legal Informational Management and Briefing System, a web-based application for monitoring cases involving the Union of India in a more effective and transparent manner. It is facilitated by the department of legal affairs by tracking and monitoring all ongoing cases. This has streamlined the litigation process and transformed it into a sophisticated digital management system for efficient disposal of cases. The ministry has also streamlined the payment process for advocates. Our Nyaya Bandhu (pro bono legal services programme), run by the department of justice, engaged 69 law schools from 30 states/Union territories, and 10,018 advocates have been directly enrolled from 24 state bar councils. The sanctioned strength of the Supreme Court of India increased from 30 to 33 (excluding the chief justice of India) from August 2019.
As part of our citizen-centric facilities, 99.4 per cent of court complexes are connected through wide-area network. And, 18,735 district and subordinate courts have been computerised till date. Using the national judicial data grid, as on February 2023, 22.09 crore pending/disposed cases along with 20.43 crore orders/judgments have been made available. Twenty-one virtual courts have been set up in 17 states/Union territories to try traffic challan cases, and they have heard more than 2.40 crore cases. Since Covid lockdown, 2.63 crore virtual hearings have been held by all courts in India. Live streaming of court proceedings has started in six High Courts and the Supreme Court of India. And, 689 e-Sewa Kendras have been rolled out to provide assistance in e-filing.
The Modi government has always championed the cause of safety and security of women and girls. The government made provisions for stringent punishment, including death penalty, for perpetrators of rape by passing the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018. It also introduced a scheme in 2019 to set up 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), including 389 exclusive POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) courts across the nation for time-bound completion of trials relating to sexual offences. Currently, 773 FTSCs, including 415 exclusive POCSO courts, are functional in 28 states/Union territories. Over 94 per cent of those cases have been disposed of and only 6 per cent of the 1.66 lakh cases remain pending.
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There is a vast difference between the work done before 2014 and the work completed in the last nine years. The prime minister’s vision is backed by complete action. It is because of Modi government’s policies that India has overtaken the UK, making it the fifth biggest economy of the world.
There are many things that make India stand apart. We have gigantic challenges and huge targets but we cannot be compared with any other country. Despite the unprecedented growth, unfair criticism is hurled by opposition parties or critics of the government. It is the beauty of our democracy. Positive criticism is okay and it should be taken in stride. It is a healthy tradition in a democracy. But unfair criticism hits at the image of the country. Some people tell outsiders that Indian democracy has failed, Indian judiciary is failing or the democratic institutions and Constitutional frameworks are being weakened. These are negative and totally false comments. Anyone who tries to hijack the Indian Constitution or judiciary will be rejected by the people. Indians will not tolerate it. Just because some political parties have lost the electoral battle, they start targeting the foundation of Indian democracy itself.
As I look back at the government, I feel proud that I am part of Prime Minister Modi’s council of ministers. I am able to see closely how he manoeuvres himself out of so many challenges. He has unfathomable energy, and can go into details of most complex subjects, even scientific and other critical technical issues, with such ease.
Globally, Modi is a phenomenon. There is nothing called rest for our prime minister. There is no concept of a vacation for him. The only time he rests is when he sleeps. His brain and body function for the nation. That is why, if you see his itineraries, there is no gap at all. The only gap is when he goes from one place to another and even during that time he is working. He has truly transformed the country. The journey he has started will continue strongly in years to come.
The writer is Union minister for earth sciences and former minister of law and justice.
As told to Namrata Biji Ahuja