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The Hindu Notes for 12th December 2018
  • Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 12th December 2018
  • A fiercely contested landscape

    The Congress has struggled to subdue the BJP in these State elections, but the setback to the BJP is indisputable

  • If celebrations have broken out in Congress offices across the country, few will grudge it considering that its success in the Hindi heartland comes after four years of defeats, self-doubt and a feeling of being under siege by a perennially turbo-charged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet the Congress’s victory is not without caveats. It swept only Chhattisgarh, was stretched to win Rajasthan, and it sweated to be able to be in a position to lay claim to forming the government in Madhya Pradesh. It was routed in Telangana and Mizoram.
  • For the BJP, there may not even be a consolation prize, in its biggest electoral set-back since capturing power in 2014. For both the national parties there are also discomfiting portents in the verdict.
  • The only clear winner

  • The one winner without a shadow of doubt is K. Chandrashekar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, who decimated the Mahakutumi, or the mega alliance formed by the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as a possible model for future Opposition strategy. A return to power for Mr. Rao, who had played a stupendous role in the birth of Telangana, is remarkable, and all the more for coming against a combined Opposition.
  • If there is a second man with a stand-out performance, it is Shivraj Singh Chouhan, of the BJP but in many ways more than the BJP — at least in Madhya Pradesh where his writ ran for three terms, unchallenged by the Opposition and, most unusually, almost autonomous of the power duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Mr. Chouhan came within a whisker of winning outright in M.P., which under him had taken on the characteristics of an incumbency-advantage State. The longer he was in power, the more entrenched he seemed to have become. One of the reasons for this is Mr. Chouhan’s invaluable contribution to agriculture in a State where 70% of people depend on it. Even so, the near-miracle story had turned sour in the last year thanks to the Centre’s intervention to stop bonus for farmers, and a demonetisation-induced cash crunch that delayed payments down the line. Hours into the counting in M.P., the suspense lingered, highlighting that Mr. Chouhan was fighting every inch of the way.
  • The bigger story of this election may well flow from the outcomes in Telangana and M.P. The defeat of the Mahakutumi, if not an irretrievable set-back for the Mahagathbandhan efforts nationally, certainly means that Rahul Gandhi and N. Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP leader, will have to go back to the drawing board to rework alliance strategy for 2019. M.P., on the other hand, is an example of a popular Chief Minister — Mr. Chouhan dominated the posters where he was compared to Lord Shiva — paying the price for decisions that were not of his making but were imposed from above by a government that had unconscionably pushed through measures like demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) without thinking through the double whammy of depriving people of liquidity while simultaneously subjecting them to an arbitrary and ever-changing tax regime.
  • The Congress has won in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the latter by a landslide. In Rajasthan, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, written off by most people, held her ground before caving in. The Congress’s near loss in M.P. was brought about by a refusal to acknowledge that it needs partners, in this case the Bahujan Samaj Party. The party will have to introspect on its behaviour of seeking alliances where it is too weak to contest by itself and rejecting them in places where it feels it is in a commanding position.
  • Steadily losing ground

  • The latest round of elections reinforces the trend of the BJP losing ground, which started with its narrow victory in the Gujarat election. In the Karnataka election that followed, the BJP not only stopped short of an absolute majority but its patented government formation manoeuvres, successful in many earlier instances, too bombed. The party also lost a string of by-polls across the country.
  • The BJP’s last big victory in an Assembly election was in Uttar Pradesh in early 2017. In that election, the BJP exceeded the most optimistic projections to win 312 of 403 seats. The U.P. election provided an insight into the party’s changed strategy under Prime Minister Modi. In the 2014 general election, which Mr. Modi single-handedly won for the BJP, his image was of a capitalist-reformer. He spoke of prosperity and jobs. However, the Modi campaign’s stress on ‘development’ notwithstanding, it made overt and covert attempts to polarise, as for example in Muzaffarnagar in western U.P, the scene of a horrific communal conflagration in 2013. Indeed, even as Mr. Modi sweet-talked the electorate with lofty promises, Mr. Shah stoked Hindu passions in that sensitive area, which earned him a police case as well as a ban by the Election Commission of India.
  • In the 2017 U.P. Assembly election, Mr. Modi cast himself as a friend and saviour of the poor to runaway success. He portrayed demonetisation as an effort to downsize the rich in favour of the poor. But as the campaign drew to a close, the old chestnuts came out and the Prime Minister began to talk the language of minority appeasement and Hindu deprivation.
  • This has since become the BJP’s formula to win elections: a pro-poor approach combined with an unhidden agenda of communal polarisation. In Gujarat Mr. Modi spoke of Pakistan’s interest in promoting a Muslim Congress Chief Minister. He also insinuated that respected Congress leaders, including the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, were in league with Pakistan to destabilise the country. The strategy worked only partially. The BJP barely touched the half-way mark. In Karnataka, the formula was even less of a success.
  • In the current round of elections, Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah went a step further and unleashed U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with the express intention of dividing the electorate. Mr. Adityanath, whose single claim to fame is his anti-Muslim approach in all things, did exactly that. In M.P., he said the fight was between the Congress’s Ali and the BJP’s Bajrangbali (Hanuman). In Hyderabad, he promised to drive out Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen should the BJP get a majority. It didn’t matter to Mr. Modi or Mr. Shah that Mr. Adityanath had failed the electoral test in his own State and had lost a critical by-election in his home turf of Gorakhpur.
  • The bad news doesn’t end here for the BJP. In a majority of Assembly elections held since 2014, the BJP’s vote share has dropped well below what it polled in the Lok Sabha election, a pattern seen in the current elections — whether in Rajasthan, M.P. or Chhattisgarh, the BJP’s vote share is nowhere near what it polled in the Lok Sabha.
  • Looking to 2019

  • Assuming the vote shares repeat themselves in the Lok Sabha election, the BJP would lose over 40 seats in these States alone. In north India, the BJP had reached saturation levels in 2014, a feat it will be hard put to replicate. In the south, where the BJP has historically been weak, it looks increasingly like a washout for the party: the TDP has broken with it while the TRS, with a solid Muslim vote to draw upon, is clearly unwilling to play ball. In Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress are going steady.
  • The disenchantment of the poor is hard to miss, as also the ferment among Dalits and farmers. There’s been an exodus of institutional heads, all of whom have given the thumbs down to Mr. Modi’s disastrous economic policies. But the silver lining for the BJP is Mr. Modi himself. He continues to be popular through the wavering fortunes of his party.
  • Signs of a revival

    The Congress has placed itself firmly as the nucleus of any anti-BJP formation

  • Of the few States where the Congress confronts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) face to face, three will likely have Congress Chief Ministers now. Last year, the party gave the BJP a scare in the fourth, Gujarat. Where the Congress squares off with regional parties, it is at a disadvantage, as Telangana and Mizoram show. That is the summary of Rahul Gandhi’s first year as president of the party.
  • Key organisational changes

  • After taking over as president, Mr. Gandhi sought to engineer a generational shift in the party without antagonising the old guard — “18 or 80, everyone has a place in this party,” he reassured his colleagues in an early meeting. He outlined a three-point approach for the newly appointed office-bearers of the party, a cohort that is a refreshingly diverse, and demonstrably young — strengthen the organisation, honour the worker and ensure ‘social justice’, meaning an outreach to the lower rungs of society.
  • New office-bearers were asked to spend no less than three weeks every month in States they are in charge of, and travel to the booth level. They were asked to treat workers with respect, listen to them and involve them in ticket distribution, formulation of the manifesto and such. They were asked to reach out to the backward castes and Dalits, particularly the former who have kept the electoral balance tilted in the BJP’s favour for some years now in these States. Social justice was to be pursued in both representation and the party agenda.
  • On refining his own image, Mr. Gandhi concluded that his opponents were successful in portraying him as non-Hindu or even anti-Hindu — the root of all his optical disadvantages. His mixed ancestry and a syncretic approach to faith made him vulnerable, he felt. That led to a controversial but apparently successful call, to demonstrate his Hindu faith and personal piety. The wisdom of that is open to further scrutiny, but it may not be a coincidence that the apparent shift in his image among the middle class, to now being seen as a serious power player, overlaps with his Instagrammed pilgrimages.
  • Reading the results

  • The varying magnitude of the Congress victories in the three States can be explained as the result of the varying degrees by which this strategy and tactics fell in place. In Chhattisgarh, the backward caste farmers, primarily Yadavs, Kurmis and Sahus, moved to the Congress in significant measure. Increased representation in seat distribution and Mr. Gandhi’s persistent campaign on farm distress appealed emotionally and rationally to this group, which made all the difference. The party organisation turned robust and proactive. The exit of Ajit Jogi from the party turned out to be good riddance for the Congress as it lost all the baggage of its past. Key leaders of the party are now more acceptable in a wider swathe of the State. All told, the Congress could optimise the anti-incumbency in the State to its maximum benefit.
  • The same process worked in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, but to a lesser extent, as the results show. In Rajasthan, PCC president Sachin Pilot’s perseverance and tenacity breathed fresh life into a dead organisation, but the tensions between him and veteran Ashok Gehlot broke the momentum. Similar is the case with Madhya Pradesh. The social reconfiguration in favour of the Congress was also weaker in these two States.
  • Going forward

  • However, a strategy that wins elections may not necessarily suit governance, and that will be the immediate challenge before Mr. Gandhi. Picking a Chief Minister in Chhattisgarh will be relatively easy, but in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it is going to be a tough call. Balancing the need for generational shift with respecting the wishes of the veterans will test Mr. Gandhi. Balancing his social justice politics with the upper caste claims within the party is also tricky terrain, which will now get trickier.
  • With Tuesday’s results, the Congress has placed itself firmly as the nucleus of any anti-BJP formation, at the national level, in 2019. This will trigger fresh dynamics between the Congress and other non-BJP regional parties. Despite their claims of anti-BJP credentials, entrenched regional parties will not accommodate the Congress easily. A resurgent Congress alarms them even more.
  • If anything, after the massive victory of regional parties in Telangana and Mizoram, regional parties will bargain hard with the Congress. Therefore, the challenge before Mr. Gandhi is to raise his own bargaining power vis-à-vis potential partners to buttress the position of the Congress as an alternative to the BJP — in vision and in governance. An alliance is not something that happens because one searches for it; it is something that happens when parties find it essential for self-preservation and advancement. Having fought back Hindutva in its hotbed, Mr. Gandhi’s next stop will have to be to take the fight to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Northern comfort

    The Congress’s performance in the Hindi heartland will enthuse it in the run-up to 2019

  • For a party that had appeared to be lost in the political wilderness over the past few years, the Congress has plenty to cheer about following the results in the recent round of Assembly elections. In the three Hindi-speaking States, where it was locked in a direct contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress has performed more than creditably, raising hopes of a revival of fortunes as the country gears up for the general election in 2019. In Chhattisgarh, the party probably well exceeded even its own expectations by building a massive 10-percentage point lead over the BJP, setting itself up to win more than a two-thirds majority. The battle in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were on a more even keel, but at the time of writing it appears that the Congress may have done enough to form a government in both States. A measure of how much of a reversal this is for the BJP can be gauged by comparing this result with that of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP won 62 of the 65 parliamentary seats in the three States. If the Congress struggled to breast the tape in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it was because independents and smaller parties registered a few surprise victories; in Rajasthan, for instance, more than a dozen independents were among the winners. If the results are interpreted as pointers on how the 2019 election will play out, then the Congress may be still short of where it would like to be. But the results may well infuse the party leadership with the confidence that it is on the comeback trail.
  • The Congress’s performance in these States will take some of the sting out of its losses in Telangana and Mizoram, where it was bested by regional players. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi won big, making light of the broad alliance put together by the Congress. Indeed, the alliance between the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party may well have polarised the contest in favour of the TRS. The TDP, which rules neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, is not exactly a popular party in much of Telangana because of its vacillations on the question of the creation of the new State. It is possible that the Congress was looking at the larger picture while deciding to ally with the TDP, seeing the regional party’s leader N. Chandrababu Naidu as a rallying point for Opposition unity. United Andhra Pradesh was one State that contributed significantly to the Congress tally in both 2004 and 2009, and to be reduced to such pitiful numbers in Telangana, with little room for improvement in Andhra Pradesh, should certainly be a cause for concern for the national leadership of the party. Winning an ally in the TDP is small recompense for the massive erosion in the Congress’s support base in the region. In Mizoram, where people vote against the Congress whenever the party is out of power at the Centre, the Mizo National Front was, unsurprisingly, the winner this time. But this defeat held another pain point: it saw the Congress losing its last citadel in the Northeast.
  • The best news for the Congress was of course Chhattisgarh. The presence of a third front in the form of the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh, led by former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which took away a chunk of the anti-incumbency votes, did nothing to deny the Congress a big win. Chhattisgarh had voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in 2014, giving it 10 of the 11 seats, and the dramatic reversal in fortunes must have shocked the BJP. But the Congress can also take heart from the performance in Madhya Pradesh, a much larger State that sends 29 members to the Lok Sabha. Although there was not much that separated the two parties in terms of vote share, the Congress can reasonably believe that the momentum is with it. In Rajasthan, where it performed stunningly in by-elections, and where anti-incumbency sentiment was believed to be riding high, the Congress, despite its victory, may regard its own performance as sub-par. For the BJP, the setback in Rajasthan, which has not been kind to the incumbent from 1998 onward, was no surprise. Despite conceding a substantial number of Assembly seats, the party can take solace from the fact that the difference in vote share between it and the Congress was minuscule. However, looking forward, the BJP will be worried that the results will encourage the Congress and the BSP to come together in an electoral embrace. In Madhya Pradesh, the BSP has demonstrated its strength, or at the very least its capacity to be a spoiler. An alliance of the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the Congress that extends beyond Uttar Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh can seriously alter the political landscape of the region.
  • As for the BJP, the results are an opportunity to introspect. Not just on the performance of its governments in the State, but also the performance of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. To reduce the results of the Hindi-speaking States to the intangible anti-incumbency sentiment would be a mistake. After all, both Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan survived two elections as incumbents. A potent mix of rural distress and urban angst seem to have contributed to the erosion in the BJP’s support base. Farmers suffered disproportionately and for longer following demonetisation, and small traders in urban areas have felt handicapped by the straitjacket of the Goods and Services Tax. It may be tempting to think that aggressive cow vigilantism and the Ram temple will influence voter behaviour, but these elections underline it is livelihood concerns that really matter. The BJP will need to tackle issues of employment and development with better intent if it is to arrest the slide. The first term of a Prime Minister is won on promise, but the second term will have to be won on performance. Not even Narendra Modi is an exception to this.
  • Never waste a good crisis

    The situation created by Urjit Patel’s resignation should be used to push through much-needed reforms

  • Among the quintessential traits of a central banker is to be unpredictable in action so that the markets can be kept guessing. Urjit Patel exhibited this quality in ample measure when he announced his decision to walk out of his job as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday.
  • His resignation caught everyone by surprise, including the markets which had been lulled into believing that the spat between the central bank and the Centre had been amicably resolved. The rumours of him resigning, which were doing the rounds before the last meeting of the RBI central board three weeks ago, had died down. He had chaired the Monetary Policy Committee meeting just last week and also a meeting of the Board for Financial Supervision that discussed the issue of Prompt and Corrective Action on some banks.
  • Governance issue

  • So, what went wrong suddenly? Given that Dr. Patel has not offered any clues in his resignation letter, we can only speculate. The one important issue that remained on the table after the November board meeting was of the central bank’s governance and autonomy. Interestingly, in the days following the meeting, there were reports of how the Centre was planning to push for board committees that would supervise specific areas of the central bank’s operations. Such a move would have compromised the Governor’s position and curtailed his operational freedom. Was this the proverbial last straw for Dr. Patel?
  • We’ll never know unless he chooses to write about this in his memoirs. But it is disappointing that he chose the easier option of walking away over standing up and fighting for the institution. This is a battle between the government and the central bank, not between individuals representing the two sides. But sadly, Dr. Patel seems to have taken the Centre’s push as a personal affront.
  • It is not as if RBI Governors have never had serious run-ins with the government before. But they were always handled quietly behind the scenes and the only way that the public ever got to know of these episodes was when RBI Governors wrote memoirs. This time was different though.
  • Ill-advised escalation

  • In late October, Deputy Governor Viral Acharya made an explosive speech, which, in retrospect, was a needless escalation. In that speech, Dr. Acharya cautioned that governments that disregard the autonomy of central banks risk incurring the wrath of the markets. There are those who believe that the RBI had no option left after the Centre began consultations under Section 7 of the RBI Act, which empowers the Centre to direct the RBI to act as per its instructions. Yet, all that the speech achieved was to harden the Centre’s stance. It upset the delicate balance between the RBI and the Centre. Though, as the sovereign, it holds the ultimate authority, by convention the Centre has granted a certain autonomy to the RBI in its functioning.
  • The main point of friction between the two — on monetary policy — was also addressed through the introduction of the Monetary Policy Committee two years ago by amending the RBI Act. In effect, an important thread in the relationship was institutionalised and the personal element was taken out, precisely to avoid situations such as the current one.
  • It is true that the Centre has been more assertive in its relationship with the RBI in recent times, but it has some genuine grievances such as on the issue of providing liquidity for non-banking finance companies and a less stringent capital norms regime for banks. As the political executive, the Centre obviously feels that it is responsible for ensuring that there is no freeze in the credit markets. There is nothing wrong with that. The central bank, however, is more conservative. The last thing that it wants is to create another bad loans environment just as it is beginning to get out of an earlier mess. And there is nothing wrong with this either. The fact is that both sides were working with the right intentions and reasons, and given this, it should not have been impossible to find a middle road behind closed doors.
  • Added to this is the Centre’s grouse that the RBI was found wanting in its supervision role. The Punjab National Bank fiasco and the IL&FS collapse both happened right under the nose of the RBI, which is supposed to have conducted regular inspections of both entities. Neutral observers have also pointed to these lapses.
  • That said, the Centre deserves blame for pushing the Governor into a corner. It was probably too aggressive in pushing its ever-growing agenda. At last count, there were at least six issues that it had raised with the central bank for resolution, all of them profound. It may have pointed to the nuclear button of Section 7 but Dr. Patel has had the last laugh.
  • His resignation has queered the pitch for the Centre, which is now scrambling for non-existent defences. The outgoing Governor’s resignation has trained the spotlight so sharply on the festering issues between the RBI and the Centre that it is extremely difficult for his successor, Shaktikanta Das, to act on any of them in favour of the latter, even if it is merited. Seen from this angle, the Centre has probably shot itself in its foot.
  • The road ahead

  • The damage is now done, but what’s the road ahead? The crisis points to several reforms that are needed in the RBI and changes in its equation with the Centre. As former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan points out in his book, we need a clearer enunciation of the central bank’s responsibilities. The position of the RBI Governor in the government hierarchy is not defined clearly. “There is a danger in keeping the position ill-defined because the constant effort of the bureaucracy is to whittle down its power,” argues Dr. Rajan.
  • Not just this, the personal element in decision-making in the RBI has to be taken out and replaced by an institutional mechanism, much like the MPC did in the case of monetary policy. The reference of the reserves sharing issue to a committee is one such idea where there will be little scope for the Governor to act on his own just as the government too cannot exert pressure on him.
  • Never waste a good crisis, said Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff. After having created the crisis, the least that the Centre can now do is to use it to reform the system.
  • Unstoppable in Telangana

    K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s welfare schemes helped the TRS surge ahead despite discontentment in some regions

  • The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), led by K. Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, has registered a huge win in the Assembly elections. This can be seen as a vote for welfare. The formation of a separate State was seen as a possible solution to a sustained agrarian crisis and massive jobless growth. KCR won his first term as Chief Minister in 2014 after leading an unprecedented mass mobilisation for a separate State. Telangana region moved overnight from a state of economic crisis to a State rich with resources, a surplus budget, and with a rising per capita income. The government did reasonably well in providing irrigation and power, and formulated welfare policies for occupational groups in rural areas. It managed to shift the surplus generated by the IT sector and other Hyderabad-based sources to the rural poor. The State remained relatively peaceful without incidents of street violence and other kinds of social strife.
  • Brewing discontent

  • This does not mean that there has been no discontent in Telangana over the last few years. Primary among worries has been the issue of jobless growth, and the only recruitments made by the TRS government were of police constables and school teachers. The aspirations of the youth remained unaddressed. KCR’s leadership also disallowed dissent of any kind. Leaders of the Opposition, including the leader of the Telangana Jana Samithi, M. Kodandaram, were not allowed to hold meetings and rallies to elaborate on issues that the TRS government had failed to address. The ruling party managed to use money power to bring to its side various Opposition leaders. Further, the standard of public discourse was brought down by the repeated use of vulgar and abusive language against anyone who questioned KCR’s governance. Telangana was transformed into a welfare State without democracy. The students of Osmania University, who played a pivotal role in the formation of the State, were the targets of an ill-directed repression — even funds to the university were cut when students protested against the passage of the Telangana State Private Universities Bill. The leader of a mass movement demonstrated utter contempt for public spiritedness, dissent and dialogue.
  • The Opposition parties, led by the Congress, had the scope and responsibility to address this discontent. But the Congress failed to provide an alternative narrative. Instead of becoming representatives of the same public spiritedness that delivered the separate State of Telangana against all odds, the party was busy stitching up electoral alliances. The leadership of the Congress should have ideally connected with various social constituencies to make sense of the mood and understand the nature of their demands. Perhaps, a corporate model of growth leaves very little to offer compared to what the TRS has delivered on the ground. Further, the Congress’s alliance with the Telugu Desam Party and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s campaign looked more like an electoral calculation than an attempt to provide a suitable alternative. What Telangana was looking for included long-term solutions, not mere loan waivers for farmers, and full-time employment, not contractual and lower-end jobs. The Congress failed to convince voters that it would address these concerns. While Telangana was demanding more than what was delivered by the TRS, the Congress was promising more of the same. This left the electorate with little choice, and they decided to vote for what had already been delivered rather than demand more.
  • Implications for 2019

  • This result will have implications for the 2019 general election. KCR was uncertain of the results and called for an early poll. Now he needs the support of neither the BJP nor the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. This will have an impact on the TRS’s equation with the BJP. If KCR manages, as a result of the popular mandate, to walk over the BJP, the crisis of finding alliance partners for 2019 will only deepen for the BJP. This, however, does not make it easy for the TRS to join the mahagathbandhan, given that the Congress remains its primary rival in Telangana. Also, KCR is not known to be a champion of democracy and tackle the issue of failing institutions. It will be interesting to observe what path the TRS will chart for itself next year.
  • Providing health for all

    Japan and India are exchanging ideas and expertise in many projects to promote universal health coverage

  • Today, on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, I wonder how many readers are aware of what UHC is. According to the World Health Organisation, UHC means “ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship”. It sounds basic, yet the basics often pose a major challenge. Japan has been leading the international efforts towards UHC, including its inclusion in the sustainable development goals and G20 agenda under our chairmanship next year, because health is one of our fundamental rights.
  • India has taken the vital first step towards UHC through Ayushman Bharat. This challenge is reminiscent of the path that Japan took more than half a century ago. Japan created national health insurance coverage in 1961, when it was yet to take off economically. A major political decision was required to expand national health insurance and establish medical schools all over Japan. The implementation of UHC could only have been possible through an early and vast national investment, and through a comprehensive government effort, with the Ministries of Health, Finance and Education, as well as local governments, working together.
  • This investment has paid off. UHC has increased the number of healthy people and healthy workers in Japan. It has contributed to the economic miracle of Japan. Moreover, UHC has ensured social equity by functioning as a mechanism for redistribution of incomes. Even in the remotest of places in Japan, you do not have to worry about healthcare. The peace of mind which UHC ensures to the Japanese is an indispensable ingredient of our overall well-being.
  • We are also partnering with India in wide-ranging projects for better healthcare. Japan has previously worked with India to eradicate polio in India. Today, Japanese and Indian doctors are exchanging ideas and expertise at a research and control centre on diarrhoea established by Japan in Kolkata, and precious lives of newborns are being saved daily in a children’s hospital constructed in Chennai. In 17 cities across Tamil Nadu, urban healthcare systems are being strengthened with our cooperation.
  • When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Japan at the end of October, India and Japan signed a new Memorandum of Cooperation on healthcare to pursue the synergies between Ayushman Bharat and Japan’s Asia Health and Wellbeing Initiative. We aim to pursue our cooperation in various fields, such as honing skills of doctors in surgery of trauma as well as providing technical training for Indian nurses studying in Japanese caregiving facilities. We hope these efforts will lead to a better health ecosystem and the promotion of UHC in India. Japan is also willing to learn from India. For instance, Ayurveda can bring a new dimension to Japan’s healthcare system. The path towards UHC is not short. But India has taken the first bold step, and Japan will march along with India on this path, sharing its lessons, as a friend.