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Last Updated Wednesday January 17 2018 10:56 PM IST

I-Day address: Rejoice, Modi won't speak in hyperbole this time

Sachidananda Murthy
Resident Editor @ Malayala Manorama
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Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi: The govt. has to make final decisions on several fronts, including advancing the fiscal year to January.

As the monsoon session has come to an end this week, there will be an interval of three months for the government to focus on governance issues and get ready for the winter session, which normally assembles in mid-November.

However, the coming month would show whether the government is keen on changing the financial year so that it begins on January 1 and ends on the last of December. 

An official committee appointed by the government is due to give its report by early September, on whether the change can come from 2018 itself or more time is required by the central and state governments, private sector, the banking and other financial sector companies for calibrating accounting systems and tens of lakhs of computers, which are programmed for the financial year cycle between April 1  to March 31.

Knowing the style of functioning of the prime minister, if the official committee says the changeover is doable by December 31, this year, then he would set that date as the target. He might repeat what he did for the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) after finance minister Arun Jaitley and finance ministry officials assured that the new common tax can be introduced from July 1 this year. He decided to go by the GST council and even spoke to the reluctant chief ministers to ensure that the deadline was met.

So, if the committee says the changeover can happen this year end and the cabinet endorses that, then the Parliament itself would get advanced to October end so that Jaitley can present his budget for the newly created financial year by November first week, and get it passed before December end. 

Apart from the change of the financial year, which has more administrative and procedural conveniences of implementing government projects and integrating the economy to global time cycles, a major administrative task for the government is the mixed record in implementing more than 100 programs announced since NDA had come to power.

Ganga aarti Ganga rejuvenation has been high on agenda

While the government is happy with the progress in elimination of wastage of fertilizer and fuel subsidies, thanks to linking Aadhaar for availing the same, as well as voluntary surrender of LPG endowment, there is a dissatisfaction that the small loan program, MUDRA, has not achieved its purpose, even though banks have come up with impressive statistics. 

The mega cleanliness projects, including the cleaning of river Ganga at a cost of Rs 30,000 crore, have experienced major stumbling blocks in the last three years. The BJP had the handicap that it did not control any major state through which the Ganga flowed. 

But elections and political developments have changed the course, with BJP sweeping Uttarakhand, where the Ganga takes birth and comes down to the plains, and Uttar Pradesh, where it flows the longest. 

Further, the revival of NDA in Bihar has meant that Nitish Kumar too is co-opted for the project. But in West Bengal, where Trinamool Congress is in power, the center and the state are not seeing eye to eye.

While senior minister Uma Bharti, who is in charge of water resources and Ganga project, is well respected, she has not been able to infuse dynamism to the project. There is a proposal that she should be assisted by a live wire minister of state, who would do extensive traveling on the river's length (Uma Bharati, who is afraid of flying, depends on rail and road journeys). 

Narendra Modi Modi at Red Fort: File photo

The cabinet itself is due for a reshuffle, as major ministries like defence, environment and forests, and urban development are given as additional charge to senior ministers due to the resignation of Manohar Parrikar (who went as Goa chief minister) and Venkaiah Naidu (who takes charge as vice president), and due to the death of Anil Dave who looked after environment and forests.

Apart from relieving senior ministers of their additional charge, a reshuffle gives an opportunity to the prime minister to finalize the team for the key period before the general elections. 

The prime minister has also promised novel ideas in his Independence Day speech, especially as his last year's speech was criticized as a mere catalog of governmental activities and statistics. He has asked for crowd sourcing of ideas for the speech, saying he would choose the smartest ideas received from the ordinary people to set the government’s agenda.

Already ministries are working on the feasibility and budgetary requirement of some of these ideas, which have passed the preliminary test by the prime minister, assisted both by officials and voluntary sector advisers. There is a buzz within the government that he would announce new initiatives, which would require punishing schedules for implementation before the 2019 elections, aiming at focus groups among the poor and disadvantaged sections. Post parliament, it looks to be a busy season for the government.

Read more from our columns  | When rich neighborhoods reek of hypocrisy

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