Last mile connectivity at the heart of Modi’s governance
The Indian Prime Minister has painstakingly built a technology-enabled link to every citizen. This is facilitating the delivery of rations, money, subsidies and even houses, toilets, cooking gas and piped water to every Indian home. And this is delivering a massive electoral bonanza to Modi and his party.
What is common to e-commerce giants like Amazon, JioMart and Flipkart, start-ups like Zomato, Swiggy, Big Basket and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
The answer to this question is not immediately apparent, but it lies at the heart of the success enjoyed by both the e-commerce players as well as the Prime Minister, his government and his party BJP.
Just as these business houses fulfil key needs by setting up their last mile delivery systems, Modi has, since his days as Gujarat Chief Minister, realised the importance of and perfected the system of delivering governance and goodies to the electorate – at their doorstep.
This laser focus on last mile delivery is what differentiates the Modi government from its predecessors and can be one explanation for sizzling chemistry he seems to enjoy with the Indian people, more than six years into his reign as Prime Minister.
Bihar election a litmus test of Modi governance
The most recent example comes from Bihar, where the Modi magic brought the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in which the BJP is now the senior partner, back to power in a tight election.
Bihar was one of six states that had seen a massive reverse migration of workers from the workplaces in the far-flung corners of the country as a fallout of the Covid-induced lockdown of the country.
Assuaging angry migrant workers
The consensus among large sections of the Indian commentariat was that these millions of poor workers had suffered tremendous hardship and so, would punish the BJP and its alliance partners in the Bihar elections by voting for their rivals.
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The results, however, proved this consensus to be wishful thinking by a section of influential anti-Modi political analysts. Far from anger, what became evident from the results was the continuing trust the electorate – even those impacted by the migrant crisis – continued to place in Modi.
The reason: The efficient and seamless last mile delivery system he had put in place in his first term in office. This enabled his government to deliver free rations, money, cooking gas and other necessities to almost every affected family.
Technology played a key role
Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has completely revamped the paradigm of governance by focusing on the last mile. A former Prime Minister had said that for every rupee the government allocated for the poor, only 15 paise reached the intended beneficiary. The rest was eaten up by administration costs, bureaucratic inefficiencies and brazen loot. Now, technology has ensured that transmission losses have been brought down to the bare minimum.
Farmers, senior citizens benefit
Other examples of this focus on the last mile are the rollout of the scheme assuring a minimum income to farmers. Under this initiative, small farmers owning up to 5 acres of land get Rs 6,000 per year. This is putting an additional $10 billion into the pockets of 120 million small farmers and helping ease their burden.
The additional spending of this amount is generating demand for a variety of items and providing a fillip to economic activity from which the entire country, and by extension Indian and foreign investors, are benefiting.
The $8-billion Ayushman Bharat medical insurance scheme for 500 million poor people is another example of the Modi government’s focus on last mile delivery. Likewise, the social security scheme, in the form of an old page pension for workers in the unorganised sector, is also benefiting millions at the bottom of India’s economic pyramid and setting off a virtuous cycle of consumption that is benefiting the entire economy.
— PM Jan Dhan Yojana (@JanDhanYojana) August 27, 2014
The JAM trinity
This focus on the last mile began with the Jan Dhan Yojana, the world’s largest financial inclusion scheme, which ensured that every Indian family, even in the most remote districts, had at least one bank account.
Then, using the triangulation method using the bank account number, the mobile phone number of the beneficiary and the Aadhaar number (the universal identification number allotted to every Indian) – dubbed JAM by the Prime Minister for Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, mobile – the government zeroed in on individuals and deposited subsidies, scholarships and other benefits directly into the bank accounts of residents.
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Homes, toilets, tap water and more
This focus on the last mile also enabled the building of hundreds of millions of toilets in homes that didn’t have them, It is also the basis of the Modi government’s initiative to provide every Indian family with a brick and mortar home with piped water supply by 2024.
At a town hall meeting with students in 2016, Modi had said as much. Responding to a question on governance, he had said, “Last mile delivery is as important as policies. The benefits must reach the intended beneficiaries.”
On World Toilet Day, let us take a moment and acknowledge the transformative role of Hon'ble Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) for creating a social revolution around cleanliness. #toilet4all pic.twitter.com/kCo8X36eMd
— Guru Prakash Paswan (@IGuruPrakash) November 19, 2020
Huge electoral bonanza
This formula, which has repeatedly delivered electoral jackpots to Modi, his party and his alliance partners, seems fairly straightforward and simple, at least in theory. The first step is to identify a problem or some basic things that people want. The second step is to use the painstakingly set up last mile technology-enabled connectivity to deliver it to them.
This has reduced and sometimes even eliminated any need for human interfacing and with it, the corruption and underhand dealings that have typically marred governance at the lower levels of the Indian bureaucracy.
This is also allowed Modi to build a personal connect with the electorate – as a man who understands their needs and can overcome the last mile hurdles to deliver what they need when they need it.