HTLS 2019| Banking crisis over, take decisions fearlessly: PM
He announced the imminent creation of a new framework which would bring banks under a protective umbrella to enable effective decision-making.Updated: Aug 02, 2020 21:53 IST
Declaring that India’s banking sector has emerged from the crisis of the past, aided by a concerted set of government reforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sent out a message to all banking employees to take “genuine business decisions” without fear.
He announced the imminent creation of a new framework which would bring banks under a protective umbrella to enable effective decision-making. The PM added that if a banker is afraid of taking decisions, he will be reluctant to take them. “The government cannot leave him helpless. It will take responsibility. I will take responsibility. That is how the country will progress.”
The Prime Minister was speaking at the 17th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS), where he delivered the inaugural address. The theme of the two-day summit is “Conversations for a Better Tomorrow”. HT Media’s Chairperson and Editorial Director, Shobhana Bhartia, welcomed the PM and chaired the session.
Also Watch | PM Modi on building a ‘better tomorrow’ for India at HTLS 2019
While speaking on the set of economic reforms initiated by the government, the PM turned his focus on banking in the backdrop of troubles in the financial sector. Modi said the government showed courage in merging banks, recapitalising them to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh crore to strengthen them, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has already recovered Rs 3 lakh crore.
“The banking situation is much better. I want to tell every bank employee that we have come out of the past situation. Now, there will be no questions about genuine business decisions. We are soon coming up with a directive to ensure that before any action is taken [against any officer], a serving banking or finance expert will scrutinise the decisions.”
In his speech, Modi distilled the message of the 2019 elections, which catapulted him to power for the second consecutive time, with an even bigger majority; he pro
ovided the rationale of the policy initiatives and actions over the last six months; he explained both the underlying philosophy of his government; he spoke, for the first time at length, about the range of administrative reforms his government has undertaken; he emphasised on the government’s special focus on aspirational districts; and he focused on reforms across spheres, which, he said, would lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.
Modi said the election victory was because the government worked with the mantra of “sabka saath, sabka vikaas, sabka vishwaas”.
Connecting his government’s recent decisions to the theme of the Summit, he said that it was focused on dealing with present challenges to build a better future. In that context, he referred to a spate of decisions taken by the government since assuming power again.
“The removal of Article 370 may have seemed politically difficult, but it has generated hope among people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh for a better tomorrow. The triple talaq decision has given a sense of a better future to lakhs of families.” In a reference to the Cabinet’s approval to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Modi said the pathway to citizenship opened for families who suffered in neighbouring countries and came to “Ma Bharati” will provide the basis for a better future. He also referred to the government’s decision to regularise Delhi’s unauthorised colonies, which, he said, improved the future of four million families.
Modi also spoke about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Ayodhya case that enables the construction of a Ram temple. “The peaceful resolution of the Ram Janmabhoomi issue is not just a resolution for now, but paves the way for a better future. Before the decision, there were so many apprehensions expressed. But people completely disproved these suspicions. The spirit behind it was a better tomorrow. This was because India doesn’t want to be stuck in the past, but wants to head to a better future.”
It was because the government was focused on dealing with past problems instead of postponing them, the PM said, that he took up the challenge of developing the country’s most marginalised and backward districts.
Using a newspaper analogy, the PM said governments of the past had chosen to just leave out backward districts from India’s development trajectory, which was akin to leaving the last page of the paper blank. “Government ministers went least to these districts. The weakest officers were posted there. They were the farthest away from government monitoring. The last page of the development index was left blank.” But his government, Modi said, is focusing on these 112 aspirational districts.
To achieve the goal of a $5 trillion economy, the PM said he saw the government’s role as that of an “enabler, facilitator and promoter”. In particular, he focused on four core areas.
The first was taxation, where the PM recalled the decision to exempt those earning up to Rs 5 lakh a year from the personal tax regime. He spoke of the “historic” corporate tax cut, which would help in promoting investment and manufacturing. And he highlighted the e-assessment mechanism, whereby neither the tax officer would know whose file he was scrutinising nor would the citizen know which officer had his file. “This will also end the industry of transfers and postings.”
The second economic area was the ease of doing business, where Modi said India had improved by 79 positions in five years. He said the chair of the World Bank (which does the ranking) called to congratulate him and express admiration for how a developing country of India’s size had managed to make such a big leap. The third area was labour regulations, where dozens of laws, which were decades old, had been codified into four. “This would help both the employer and employee.” And the final area of economic reform the PM mentioned was disinvestment. He also spoke of the creation of a special window to push stuck real estate projects, the boost to infrastructure and the potential of tourism.
Finally, Modi spoke of his overarching governance philosophy. “For a better future, the government should only focus on core areas of governance. The country will progress most if government intervention is the least in peoples’ lives. It is my conviction that the poor must not feel the absence of government, and a citizen must not feel the pressure of government.”
The PM said that 19th and 20th century governance mechanisms, rules and mindset were ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century. In this context, he highlighted that the government changed rules of employment. Appointments no longer happened through recommendations but through a transparent process, for instance, in the case of banking leaders, he said.
The PM also spoke of a deeper conversation on policing, and how civil servants, right after they complete their training at the academy, are now given policy-level experience in the government of India before being posted to states and districts. To break the culture of silos in which government departments operated, Modi said the government started a joint foundation programme. “At the joint secretary level, I have officers from different cadres now -- revenue, railways, audit and accounts, forests. The possibility of integration has improved.” The PM added that 220 officials had also been asked to leave, which was a message that it was time to move from a culture of privilege to that of professionalism.
Another additional reform the PM highlighted was the lateral entry programme, where mid-career professionals were getting an opportunity to serve in the government for a limited period. He also said that deadlines had become sacrosanct in government, and a culture of professionalism had replaced that of privilege. “These improvements in the infrastructure of governance will have a long-lasting impact.”