Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in November 2017. FactChecker.in checked Modi’s claims on various issues and found nine of his 16 claims to be true and three false. The validity of two claims was unclear owing to lack of data and two were partly true.
On November 30, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit where he defended his term so far by listing out the steps he had taken towards a “systemic overhaul”.
“2014 में वोट दिया गया था देश बदलने के लिए। सिस्टम में ऐसे बदलाव लाने के लिए, जो स्थाई हों, परमानेंट हों, Irreversible हों।” (“The 2014 mandate was for transforming India. A systemic transformation, that is permanent, irreversible.” The translation is IndiaSpend’s as the government had not put up an English version of the Hindi speech at the time of publication.)
FactChecker.in checked Modi’s claims and found nine of his 16 claims to be true and three false. The validity of two claims was unclear owing to lack of data and two were partly true.
Claim 1: “The poor who used to be turned away from the bank have their own bank accounts today. Jan Dhan account holders also get a Rupay debit card. In our country of 125 crore (1.25 billion), there are over 30 crore (300 million) such people.”
Fact: True. As of November 29, 2017, 307 million accounts were opened and 231 million Rupay debit cards have been issued under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People’s Wealth Scheme), a no-minimum-balance account targeted at the unbanked, according to government data.
Claim 2: “Since the Ujala (Brightness) scheme was launched, 28 crore (280 million) LED bulbs have been sold. These bulbs have helped people save an estimated Rs 14,000 crore.”
Fact: True. As on December 6, 2017, the distribution of 278.2 million LED bulbs — which consume 80% less power than incandescent bulbs — resulted in Rs 14,450 crore savings a year, according to government data.
Claim 3: “Take neem-coated urea. Under the earlier government, 35% coating was allowed when everybody knew that 35% neem-coated urea was of little benefit. If you wanted to stop urea diversion to factories, 100% neem coating was imperative. But that did not happen. This government decided on 100% neem-coated urea. Brothers and sisters, this did not only stop diversion of urea but increased its efficiency as well. A farmer can now do with less urea per unit land. Not only that, a farm’s yield has gone up despite using less urea.”
Fact: True. Coating all urea produced in a plant with neem was made mandatory in 2015, and neem-coated urea–a fertiliser that increases soil fertility due to the large amounts of nitrogen it contains–improved soil health, cut costs of plant protection chemicals and raised yields by 6-17% for various crops, according to this reply to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on August 28, 2017.
Claim 4: “e-Nam, that is, electronic National Agriculture Market, has brought online over 450 mandis across the country.”
Fact: True. The e-Nam has now enrolled 470 mandis (government agriculture produce markets), according to government data. Launched on April 14, 2016, to create a single market for agricultural commodities by bringing mandis on a common platform, the e-Nam’s target is to have 585 mandis online by March 2018, according to this government release.
Claim 5: “Bamboo was not considered a tree under one of the previous government’s law too.” (The Modi government amended the Indian Forest Act to omit bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the definition of trees, Financial Express reported on November 23, 2017. Some experts criticised the move as “a half-measure” (click here, here and here). Modi hit out at his critics saying the previous government had made a similar change under another law.)
Fact: True. Section 2 (i) of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, which received the assent of the President on the December 29, 2006, reclassified bamboo as “non-timber”, that is, not tree.
On January 17, 2011, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had reiterated that position, the Times of India reported on January 21, 2011. On March 21, 2011, Ramesh wrote to then Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, reminding him of the change in bamboo’s status.
Claim 6: “The black money that supported the parallel economy has been brought into the formal economy after demonetisation. Mining the data revealed by demonetisation led to the discovery that 400-500 firms were operating from the same address and a lot of firms had opened two thousand bank accounts each. So far, 2.25 lakh (225,000) such companies have been de-registered. The directors of these companies can no more become a director in any other company.”
Fact: True. About 99% of banned notes came back into the system after demonetisation (the decision to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from November 9, 2016, to purportedly end corruption, black money, fake currency and terrorism, according to Modi’s speech on November 8, 2017), the Wire reported on August 30, 2017. However, this was against what the Modi government said demonetisation would achieve: render invalid about a third of notes by value (as that would not be returned to banks) and hence push that black money out of the system, Deccan Chronicle had reported on November 18, 2016.
As many as 225,000 companies have been deregistered and 309,000 directors disqualified, the Hindu Business Line reported on November 30, 2017.
Claim 7: “We have developed a government e-Marketplace, GeM. All government tenders and purchases go through GeM. People in cottage industries and small handicrafts as well as who make things at home can sell to the government through GeM.”
Fact: True. All central government procurement is now done through GeM, according to this reply to the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) on August 2, 2017. Launched on August 9, 2016, for buying and selling of goods and services by the central government or nationalised companies, the marketplace has filters for identifying sales by small scale industries, according to this official release on January 23, 2017.
Claim 8: “In the last three years of the previous government, 12 thousand megawatt of renewable energy were added in total. Under this government’s three years, over 22 thousand megawatt renewable energy has been added to the power grid.”
Fact: True. In its three years, the present government has added 25,552 MW of renewable energy against 13,237 MW under the previous government’s last three years.
Claim 9: “Compared with the last government, growth in cargo handling in the shipping industry has gone from negative to over 11% under this government’s three years.”
Fact: True. Cargo handling shrunk in the last three years of the UPA government by less than a per cent but increased 11.5% in three years of the Modi government, according to data from Indian Ports Association.
Source: Indian Ports Association; *Tentative figures
Claim 10: “Aadhaar has helped weed crores of fictitious beneficiaries.”
Fact: False. While the Prime Minister did not reveal which schemes he had in mind, evidence shows Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity, has not helped in weeding out fake beneficiaries.
As many as 74,000 unique consumer identities for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy were linked to only 37,000 Aadhaar numbers as of August 2015, and 960,000 ineligible consumers received Rs 49.21 crore subsidy under the Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG, according to Comptroller and Auditor General, India’s official auditor, IndiaSpend reported on October 31, 2017.
Only 4% of the 9.4 million Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee job cards that the government deleted were fake, according to a reply to a Right to Information application by economist Jean Drèze, Hindustan Times reported on October 8, 2017.
Claim 11: “In the last three years of the previous government, capital expenditure was about Rs 1.49 lakh crore. Under this government’s three years, capital expenditure was about Rs 2.64 lakh crore.”
Fact: False. Capital expenditure (only central expenditure)–that is, spending on assets such as roads or to reduce borrowings, as opposed to spending on administration such as salaries–under the Modi government’s three years was Rs 6.9 lakh crore as against Rs 5.15 lakh crore under the Manmohan Singh government’s last three years, according to budget data.
Source: Union Budgets FY2012-17
Claim 12: “Big and sustainable changes do not develop on their own, they require systemic overhaul. It is because of such an overhaul that the country moved from 142 to 100 on the Ease of Doing Business ranking.”
Fact: False. While India did move up 42 places to 100 in 2018 from 142 in 2015 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, a measure of business-friendliness, the ranks are not comparable because of frequent revisions in parameters.
“In recent years, Doing Business introduced improvements to all of its indicator sets,” according to the World Bank. “Year-to-year changes in the number of economies, number of indicators and methodology affect the comparability of prior years.”
Claim 13: “Where the last government built 11 km of national highways a day, over 22 km a day are being built now. In the last three years of the previous government, 80,000 km of roads were made in villages, in our government’s three years 1.2 lakh km have been built.”
Fact: Partly true. In 2016-17, 22 km of national highways were built a day, IndiaSpend reported on May 25, 2017. However, at its peak, the previous government built 15.7 km a day in 2012-13, the Financial Express reported on March 7, 2016.
The Modi government built 120,000 km rural roads between 2014-15 and 2016-17 under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Scheme) as against 86,770 km built under the Singh government between 2011-12 and 2013-14, according to official data.
Claim 14: “In the last three years of the previous government, 1,100 km of railway tracks were built and 2,500 km of railway lines electrified. Under this government’s three years, over 2,100 km have been built and 4,300 km electrified.”
Fact: Partly true. The Modi government built 2,100 km of railway tracks in its three years against 1,677 km built in the Singh government’s last three years, according to government data (click here, here and here).
While the Singh government electrified 2,667 km of railway lines in its last three years, 5,118 km were electrified under Modi government’s three years, according to official data.
Claim 15: “The Ujjwala (Light Up) scheme has transformed the lives, for once and all, of over 3 crore (30 million) women in India’s villages.”
Fact: Unclear. As of November 2017, 30.56 million LPG connections were given to women from below poverty line households under the scheme, according to government data. There is no break-up available of how many of these were rural connections.
Claim 16: ”Brothers and sisters, I’m not sure how many of you sitting in this hall will be able to relate to this, but the poor in India today pay less than what you pay as parking tip to get life insurance. Only a rupee a month for accident insurance and 90p a day in premium for life insurance. Over 15 crore (150 million) poor are now part of these schemes. About Rs 1,800 crore has been settled in claims by the poor through these schemes.”
Fact: Unclear. The premia for the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (Prime Minister’s Accident Insurance Scheme) and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana (Prime Minister’s Light of Life Scheme) are Rs 12 a year (that is, a rupee a month) and Rs 330 a year (about 90p a day), respectively.
The cumulative gross enrolment under these schemes was 124.8 million as of April 2017, according to this reply to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on August 4, 2017. While enrolment has gone up since then, according to weekly performance data, there are no data on how many of these beneficiaries were poor or how much claims settled so far.
(Vivek is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)