“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. The true mask of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action.”
Right from taking the Indian Railway to what he termed as a ‘samriddhi success’ to being the Prime Minister’s Sherpa for the G20 and G7 Summits, he has been enhancing lives in every possible sector. Mr. Suresh Prabhu is a genius rank holder Chartered Accountant, now working as a determined responsible member of the Rajya Sabha. He has achieved it all right from being the ‘Indian of the Year 2017’ to being featured among the top three Indian leaders of the future in the cover story, “Giant on the Move” of the Asia Week Magazine. His continuous efforts towards making India a focal point in new power dynamics in trade multilateralism have been a boost to the economy.
Tracing his life in words is a difficult task and a lengthy one for sure. His never-ending accomplishments might actually make one wonder of the ways to develop a similar kind of dedication. Mr. Prabhu initiated his professional journey as a Chartered Accountant, rather a splendid one, having aced the CA examinations with an 11th All India Ranking. However, his venture into real politics began with his work as the Union Minister for Industry in 1996 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. When entitled to this portfolio, Mr. Prabhu brought about a great deal of transparency in the functioning and fuel clearance of pending works.
His journey for polity had a sail-through when he was elected the Union Minister for Environment and Forests (1988-199), wherein his role was utterly instrumental in the preparation of a comprehensive National Environmental Action Plan, conducting time-bound programs for abatement of the growing pollution in the country. When on the post, Mr. Prabhu introduced 100%centrally funded schemes for reducing pollution in 23 major cities in India and introduced unleaded petrol in the National Capital Area. It goes unsaid how contributory his role stood to be in setting up of the Indian Centre for the Promotion of Cleaner Technologies (ICPCT) in association with the World Bank and other agencies and academic institutions.
None would deny that the values of honesty and adherence to his principles have made Mr. Prabhu a global representative of a proud New India. He has left a lasting imprint in areas of Environmental clearances and tasks of introducing policies and legal initiatives that enable a methodical yet equalized functioning of the system. His initiatives for the conservation of natural resources and waste management and the impressive yet much-needed projects for saving tigers and animals led to a fruitful session as the Union Minister for Environment and Forests.
However, the journey had just begun and there was a long way to go. Mr. Prabhu next became a very potential Union Minister for Power, during the course of which he won praise for his performance from ‘The Indian Express’. As the Minister of Power, he ushered in transformational policies in the Power sector with a thrust on rural-electrification, T&D reforms; encouraged big-ticket investments, and batted for Sustainable Power Development, etc. He presented a Power Generation Augmentation, preparing an action plan for the creation of an additional capacity of 1,00,000 MW to give power on demand by 2012 and formulated a well-versed ‘Renovation and Modernization action plan’. The smartly instituted Policy Measures and Initiatives taken by him during his course of service resulted in the signing of MoUs with States for undertaking reforms and restructuring in a time-bound manner, further executing the Accelerated Power Development Program (APDP). Mr. Prabhu’s role stood out to be extremely influential in the implementation of the landmark tripartite agreement which allowed the Union government to recover the amounts due from the states by deducting them from central devolution.
It was not later than 2002 that he was elected to be the Chairperson of the Task Force for Interlinking of Rivers (2002-2004) He chaired the comprehensive program of the Government of India aimed at ensuring the country against water stress through linkage of major rivers in the Himalayan and Peninsular regions of the country and thereby, steered the Task Force towards making an action plan for completion of the feasibility studies and providing guidance on norms of appraisal of individual projects in respect of socio-economic impacts, environmental impacts, and economic viability.
Mr. Prabhu has shown concern towards the environment, an example of which was seen as he spoke at the inauguration of the three-day textile event, “Farm to Fashion: Indian Textile Global Summit 2018”, organized by the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and Maskati Cloth Market Mahajan (MCMM), in Ahmedabad. Voicing his apprehensions on how Khadi, wool, and silk fabrics have only 1.4 percent share in the country’s total fabric production and claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was trying to implement the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu emphasized that the NDA government was “working on making khadi a globally accepted fabric. Talking about khadi, Prabhu said, “Why did (Mahatma) Gandhiji, think about khadi? It is very interesting… He realized that this is one product that will help grow the economy, create jobs and opportunities. It is one product that will have a perennial market. Gandhiji had a great idea and vision. We have to convert that vision into modern-time idea. “This is a great opportunity for India when the world’s fashion is changing. Can we change along with the fashion or can we be the next change agent for fashion?” he added. “I feel, the textile industry is going to be the industry of the future; as it was the industry of the past.”
The Progress of Indian Railway under Suresh Prabhu: An economic boon for times to come
On 9 November 2014, Mr. Suresh Prabhu was sworn-in as Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government, entitled as the Union Railway Minister of India from November 2014 to September 2017. This was the portfolio that uplifted many in need and the varied policies fragmented during Mr. Prabhu’s tenure as the Railway Minister is marked in the Indian history to have brought about the most essential connotations to the Indian Railway and economy.
During these times, he introduced one of the world’s cheapest travel insurance plans for passengers which have now been made free of cost. To Mr. Prabhu, as he asserted in his own words, passengers were the customers who had to be taken care of completely. In this belief of his, he dwelled to implement the most essential policies in the history of the Indian Railways. The Indian railways were deployed for sending disaster relief supplies at an unprecedented scale. Foodgrains were supplied in the form of ready to eat food packets to major parts of the North East and most parts of Assam. ‘VIKALP’, the Alternative Train Accommodation System (ATAS), launched with a view to provide confirmed accommodation to waitlisted passengers. It was now when he took many initiatives for Divyangs: Braille signage, toilets, E-wheelchair, battery operated cars, a policy allowing Divyangs to avail concession even while traveling without escort Janani Sewa launched to provide services to mothers of infants and initiated merger of rail budget with the general budget as part of reform agenda.
His contribution towards infrastructural creation as grave traction to speedy infrastructure in Railways led to the Leading Station Redevelopment Program: Largest transit-oriented development program across the world worth Rs. 1,00,000 Crores to redevelop 400 stations.
For his work speaks for himself, there is no trace unseen of Mr. Prabhu’s major involvement and effort in the arena of national economics and industry development that he accomplished as the Union Commerce & Industry Minister (2017-19). He has been the minister of Commerce and Industry since September 2017 and was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from the state of Andhra Pradesh on 3 June 2016. During his tenure, he took several steps to boost manufacturing in India. Right from boosting the domestic manufacturing at the district level to achieve USD 5 trillion economy to the initiation of the Startup, the pilot District Level Development plan in six districts across five states with a focus on interventions critical to boosting manufacturing at the district level, he has implemented a gradual yet firm progress that stands strong in the roots of the economy. Out of the much initiative he carried out in his tenure, the following tasks have brought a registered glory through his intellect-
- Drove policies which resulted in India registering its highest ever merchandise exports of over USD 330 bn in 2018-19.
- Took steps towards a more focused approach en route for export promotion.
- Achieved a massive USD 10 billion cuts in trade deficit with China in 1 year; this was the first time in 30 years that trade deficit with China reduced.
- Introduced India’s 1st ever Agriculture Export Policy to address barriers in the agricultural sector; the policy is aimed at doubling the agricultural exports in 2018 to USD 60 bn by 2020.
- Pivoting multilateralism on India.
- Continuous efforts towards making India a focal point in new power dynamics in trade multilateralism; organized a special mini–ministerial WTO meet in India.
- Reinforcing the efforts towards increasing the Ease of Doing Business in India for both foreign and domestic players.
- Committing to technology, innovation skills, and path-breaking initiatives, particularly in Railway and Power.
- Initiated the pilot District Level Development plan in six districts across five states with a focus on interventions critical to boosting manufacturing at the district level. Total employment generated because of that has been for over 130,000 persons.
- Working on creating a master plan for Make in India 2.0 to boost domestic manufacturing with an ultimate target of creating million-plus jobs in the coming years.
- Made key policies for greater flow of credit to the export sector.
However, things don’t end here, do they? Mr. Prabhu’s position as the Union Civil Aviation Minister (2018-2019) further was a portrayal of his embarked intellectual involvement in policymaking as he released India’s first-ever National Air Cargo Policy, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Policy, the National Green Aviation Policy and ultimately the Drone Policy. His role as an initiator of Investments in Aviation further drove the implementation of the regional connectivity scheme or UDAN as more than 12 lakh passengers flown under UDAN till 31 January 2019. More embarking projects like AIR SEWA 2.0, DIGIYATRA, Digi Sky, and NABH gained global recognition.
Mr. Suresh Prabhu, on every platform, has made his principles and depictions shine, the acknowledgment of which is very evident from the many awards and praises he has received since the beginning of his political venture. He received the Goud Saraswat Brahmin Samaj Maharatha Award and has constantly featured in the list of top five ministers in India from 2014 to 2017 in terms of both performance and accessibility in nation-wide surveys conducted by various institutions. Further, the declaration of him being the “Best Member of Parliament in 13th Lok Sabha” in April 2004 by Aaj Tak, a leading TV Channel in India, is not unknown.
Mr.Prabhu is the founding chancellor of Rishihood University founded on the principles of social impact and development with a focus on high-impact areas such as entrepreneurship, healthcare, creativity, education, and leadership. Further adding up to the impact of Make in India, the University, under Mr. Prabhu, has put up a major emphasis on ‘Design in India’ in order to explore and apply the great ethos and culture of inquiry in a modern sense. His unending and admirable work through his NGO – Manav Sadhan Vikas Santsha in Maharashtra of which he is the founding chairman, now managed by his wife, Smt. Uma Prabhu aids the nation with a humane and holistic sustainable development vision for the development of a healthy and prosperous Konkan region. This hexagonal model of development folding around the economic, physical, cultural, socio-spiritual, intellectual, and environmental development was conceptualized and implemented by Suresh Prabhu for the next task to harness local natural resources and social capital. With a goal to ultimately catalyze ‘self-reliant villages’, the NGO targets the upliftment of target groups involving women, backward classes, the youth, ex-servicemen, fishermen, and farmers in every minute prospect starting right from education to a stable and prosperous livelihood.
His extensive writings of the socio-economic issues that are instilled in the Indian administrative system for ages and the ways to limit those on a national as well as an international platform are sourced by many young researchers. His target audience has always been the youth, which hence justifies his enthralled and consistent involvement with youth-led developmental programs. Mr. Prabhu has, since ever, directed all his efforts for the betterment of the nation and continues to instill similar values in the much potential youth of India, truly, a life like no other.