Modi′s India faces harsh realities | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 05.11.2014
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Modi's India faces harsh realities

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in office for five months. Participants in a World Economic Forum in New Delhi wanted to know just how far the country had advanced, among them DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge.

The sky's gray with a yellowish haze. The sun's struggling to shine through the thick clouds overhead. And chaotic traffic down in the Indian captial is an added irritation. The Hindustan Times has taken up the subject of air pollution in New Delhi, with some people asking why the government isn't doing anything about it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has only been in office for five months and, yet, Indians seem to be expecting miracles of him. They say he needs to improve air quality, help millions of people out of poverty, fight corruption, establish peace with neigbors and attract foreign investors, to name but a few things on the wish list.

The Prime Minister himself is to blame for those high expectations. He has spread his vision of a new India in many gripping speeches. And now people want him to deliver, but reforms will take some time.

Criticism galore from the opposition

"Every day or every other day, some program is announced…, we do this and that," opposition Congress Party member Sheila Dikshit quips. She's not impressed with the work of the government, but that doesn't come as a surprise, given her party's bitter election defeat.

At a meeting of editors-in-chief from eight leading Indian newspapers, Modi asked people to give him more time to learn his job. But nobody knows when the learning process will be over and whether it will ever stop, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Less red tape

But there are some first tangible results of Modi's premiership. Civil servants have extended their working hours and the business climate is improving.

"We cannot be harassed anymore," says Kapil Sehgal, managing director of Bucher Hydraulics, which is based on the outskirts of the capital. Until recently, so-called inspectors would show up without notice at any factory across the country and check whatever they wanted. And they'd always find something not in order unless managers were willing to pay a bribe.

Now inspectors have to announce their visits in advance - online for everyone to see. And the government wants a law under which not only the bribe recipients, but also those paying the bribes are liable to prosecution.

Sehgal is relieved he isn't at the inspectors' mercy anymore. He's generally looking ahead to rosy times for his company. He proudly presents a new, large production hall for new machinery, where many jobs are to be created. He says all relevant applications are now dealt with by the authorities much faster.

"We have to fight corruption" big banners read under the face of the Prime Minister - banners that are being put up across the nation. An India free of corruption is a vision that many citizens support. In Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, India ranks 94th, singling it out as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Radio messages

Modi seems to be in a hurry. A couple of days ago, he declared his government would prioritize the fight against corruption and enforce social change. While often using Facebook or Twitter for his camapigns, this time around, Modi resorted to the good old radio, knowing that it is the best medium if you want to reach people in rural areas.

'Make in India'

On the camapign trail, Modi's team is second to none. Relevant topics are placed professionally and effciently. On the country's Independence Day, the Prime Minister lauched his "Make in India" program under which foreign investors get a better deal and people are encouraged to buy more domestic products to support manufacturers.

Schweinebauer in Gorakhpur

60 percent of Indians still work in agriculture

Over 60 percent of Indians work in agriculture, but farming acticities only contribute some 15 percent to gross domestic product which surely says something about an economy's overall performance.

And foreign investment has started to come in. Japan for instance wants to build a high-speed rail track in India. US and German comanies plan to invest more, too. Next April, Modi is due to come to Germany and also visit the Hanover industry fair, where India will be the partner country.

Promoting the young

Modi's particularly concerned about the many young Indians who are out of work. He wants to create 10 million new jobs annually to prevent social unrest. There are 1.2 billion people in India, 65 percent of which are younger than 35.

Rahul Chhetrie is 19. He dropped out of school to help his father, a day laborer. But now he can show what he's learned at the GMR Varadakshmi Foundation Centre for Livelihood. He's attending a course for cleaning technology experts. The foundation helps people from poor and disadvantaged families. "Without this training I would have never been able to earn enough. Now, I'll get a chance," he says with pride.

In fact, the foundation has been able to secure jobs for 250 of its graduates. The qualification program is supported by Germany's VDMA machine tools and equipment industry federation and other organizations, including a number of German small and medium-sized companies.

Their involvement in the program is not entirely altruistic, as they themselves desperately need skilled young people who would be able to work in New Delhi's ultra-modern buildings.

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