It’s no secret that India has been perceived differently through different eras of global civilisation. From being one of the oldest civilisations in the world, to being a colony under the power of British imperialism, to being a land of snake charmers and mystics, and finally being the world’s back office for IT services.
PM Narendra Modi has taken great pains in projecting a positive and progressive image of India, especially showcasing to the world that India has strengths that no other country in the world has. In his famous Madison Square Garden speech, he had said, “Earlier we used to play with snakes, now we play with the mouse (referring to India’s burgeoning IT industry).” PM’s oratory skills also come in handy when he makes speeches on national as well as international stage, some of which include statements like: “If citizens of India decide to, then we can clean up the image of India that the world has - we can meet this challenge (Sydney speech), “The world has changed. We can't think about our development journey isolated from the world (Independence Day Speech), India offers three essential Ds, Democracy, Demography and Demand,(Japan Nikkei Exchange speech).
He has also made it clear time and again that to build Brand India, his focus would be on 5 Ts – Talent, Tradition, Tourism, Trade and Technology. The Union Budget also made provisions to enable the PM’s dream. For talent development, Skill India was put in motion, which is a national multi-skill programme. Other initiatives include, Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme, Teacher Training Programme, five more IITs and IIMs and four more AIIMs. With respect to preserving and promoting tradition, a massive amount was allocated to Namami Gange Project which includes conservation of the river and beautification of ghats and riverfronts. National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana has also been put in place. For Tourism, e-Visa facilities have been launched and five tourist circuits around specific themes have been announced. Modi’s pet projects Digital India and Make In India have been launched to make the country keep pace with technology and manufacturing.
One thing that uniformly defines India abroad is its filth and dirt. Clean India Mission has been introduced to create a clean country in line with Mahatma Gandhi’s vision. PM has also launched the Beti Bachao campaign to stop the evil of female foeticide in India.
Interestingly, the attempt is not just to change India’ existing perception around the world, but to give it a unique brand identity that it has not had before, for instance, India has not been a technologically advanced country. Digital India is one such initiative that envisages a connected India. Ease of doing business in India has been identified as one of the major hurdles that discourage foreign investment. That has been made relatively easier with the introduction of e-biz portals and certain tax reforms.
In essence, it can be said that PM Modi has taken off from where the last time BJP was in power and had introduced the India Shining campaign. But Modi’s initiatives have been more inclusive, not just aimed at making India a business powerhouse but also trying to improve social and gender disparity in the country. Towards the end of Congress regime, growth rate had taken a big hit and India was not perceived as an ideal country to do business in if compared to other BRIC economies.
Ever since Modi govt has come into power, a shift in the perception of World’s leading economies can be clearly seen. Recent business and defence deals with America, France, Japan and China among other countries are seen as a positive sign. World leaders like US President Barack Obama visiting India on Republic Day, Chinese and Japanese heads of nations cosying upto Modi has caught international media’s attention who have credited due coverage to the new ray of hope Modi Govt has promised. Moody’s, World Bank, IMF have predicted positive growth rates for India in the next couple of years.
Another perspective that is often seen on TV debates and social media and from opposition is that a lot of this optimism is a false mirage portrayed in media to make the Modi govt look good to the voters and public in general. It has been said that a lot of stories are just good PR, spun around by a highly adept team of Modi govt. Congress says the new govt has just taken some of the existing plans conceived and put in place by UPA govt, and just given it a different name and spin.
An image makeover of a country as vast and populated as India is a colossal initiative that can take many years to be actualised. Hypothetically speaking even if every member of the central and the state government wholeheartedly tries to create a new and clean image of India, the citizens of the country also have to be equally aware and responsible of their civic duties, which in turn have to be enforced by efficient local governments. It is a two-way street. In so far as policies are concerned, even if the govt completely eliminated corruption and instituted good governance, for a country as populated as India to grow at par with developed economies is going to be a monumental task, one that can take a an indefinite amount of time.