4M mantra: How the Modi government delivers
As the Modi government completed nine years in office last week, the media was flooded with data showcasing the government’s remarkable performance in public service delivery and welfare provisioning. Even sceptics are astonished by the scale of achievement, whether it be in ensuring the holy grail of roti-kapda-makaan or the aspirational troika of bijli-sadak-pani.
While debate surrounds the impact of flagship schemes, we believe it is more meaningful to delve deeper.
The most obvious change to any observer of public policy is the paradigm shift in the scale of the programmes conceptualised and implemented. Gradual rollouts have given way to swift nationwide programmes. Ambitious and seemingly unachievable targets have become a hallmark of the Modi government’s initiatives.
While the UPA government aimed to eliminate open defecation by 2022 through the Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, Modi took on the challenge of providing toilet access to all households by 2019. The ambitious target was matched with rapid execution, constructing over 9 crore toilets in less than five years, three years ahead of the UPA target. A similar emphasis on achieving widespread coverage is evident in other schemes like opening bank accounts or the successful Covid-19 vaccination Drive.
Even when targets are not fully met, the achievements surpass those touted as “successful” under previous governments. For example, although the installed capacity of solar energy fell short of the initial target of 100 gigawatts, it still increased almost 20 times in the past nine years, reaching an impressive 65 gigawatts. This contrasts with earlier times when slow delivery and limited fulfilment of narrow targets were the standards.
Most of the Modi government’s flagship initiatives have been launched as missions. In his first Independence Day speech in 2014, Modi announced the Swachh Vidyalaya initiative, committing to providing toilets for all schools within one year. This later expanded into the Swachh Bharat Mission. Similarly, he pledged to electrify all villages in the country within 1,000 days in 2015, successfully electrifying around 19,000 unelectrified villages before the target. In 2019, he promised to provide all households with drinking water under the Jal Jeevan Mission. The proportion of households with access to tap water connections has nearly quadrupled.
This seemingly “headline number” approach has been effective in driving bureaucratic results. Numbers do not lie, and it is difficult to escape the iron hand of the ‘dashboard’. Real-time dashboards facilitated by modern technology allow for constant monitoring at various levels. Unlike in the past, data collection is more timely, accessible, and transparent, even though gaps may still exist. The availability of official records and ground realities on these portals enables observers to track progress and identify discrepancies. For example, uploading photographs of electrical installations on a public mobile app reduced the likelihood of falsification. No contractor dares easily fake the verifiable!
It is almost tautological that successful schemes involve enthusiastic mass participation. Schemes that lack public receptivity often fail. Positive public action, such as registration and demanding accountability, generates momentum and creates constructive pressure on bureaucrats for delivery.
There are valuable lessons for the government as it enters the slog overs before the polls. The 4-M approach has established a new normal. This has crucial political implications as meeting the heightened expectations of the Modi government’s labharthis presents a stiff challenge for all parties.