Raghuram Rajan’s patriotism is no less than any of ours: PM
“In this part of the interview to Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami Prime Minister Modi speaks on economy, GST Bill, Raghuram Rajan and other issues. Here are edited excerpts:-
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister I now want to move to questions on the economy. In the past two years you have started many schemes. If we look at the theme of Jan Dhan Yojna for financial inclusion, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop insurance, Swach Bharat, Skill India, Make In India. If we see the theme running through these schemes, is your social agenda at the core of your personal economic philosophy, social transformation? Is the social agenda at the core of your economic philosophy as the Prime Minister?
PM MODI: The first point is our philosophy is to reach the last man in the line. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay’s philosophy forms the core of our political, economic and social ideology. And even Mahatma Gandhi used to say that what is there for the last man? So my development parameter is very simple. It is about how the poorest of the poor can benefit from development. The poor is the central focus of my economic agenda. The poor should be strengthened in such a way that they get the willingness to defeat poverty. By helping the poor make ends meet while they remain in poverty is also one of the ways. I am not saying right or wrong but it’s one of the ways. But today the country’s situation is such that we should make the poor strong so that they become partners in defeating poverty. All these schemes are meant to empower the poor and change the quality of life. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna is not only about opening bank accounts for the poor. Because of this the poor are feeling that they are becoming a part of the country’s economic system. The bank that he was seeing from afar, now he is able to enter that bank. This brings about a psychological transformation. Looked at in another way, did you ever imagine that 40 thousand crores could be injected into the banking system by contributions from the poor. The poor who never had bank accounts, have deposited 100 rupees, 50 rupees or 200 rupees. It means that poor man saved 100 rupees and the change began in his life. We have taken up construction of toilets. I had gone to Chhattisgarh and had the opportunity to get the blessings of one mother. An adivasi mother heard about the scheme for building toilets. She sold her four goats and built a toilet. That 90 old mother uses a walking stick and goes around the cluster of 30 or 40 houses in the tribal village and has been spreading the message to build toilets. This change is becoming the reason for the change in the quality of life. I have begun the cleanliness campaign. It’s estimated an individual spends an average of 7000 rupees for treatment of a disease. The main reason for disease is filth. The poor suffer the most from the filth. If a poor man falls sick, he cannot drive his rickshaw for two days and his children go hungry. So how can we help the poor bring about change in their lives? Now there is a neo-middle class and a middle class in the country. The young have their aspirations. So another aspect of my policies you must have seen are the Start Up India, Stand Up India, Seaport activity, port activity, railways expansion, railway station upgradation. These changes directly appeal to the middle class. The middle class has its aspirations. We have to create jobs? How will job creation happen? Till I invest in the development of infrastructure, there be no job creation. You must have seen that the maximum electricity generation since Independence has occurred this year. The maximum amount of coal mined has been in this year. The maximum length of roads being constructed daily is happening in this year. The fastest loading and unloading of steamers at sea ports is happening now. All these changes are creating opportunities for employment like in Start up India, Stand Up India. For instance in Stand Up India, I have said that every bank should give an economic opportunity to one woman, one dalit or one tribal person to become entrepreneurs. This will create many job opportunities. So this is the basis of my economic philosophy.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, questions are also being raised on food inflation which has still not decreased. The expectation was that the food inflation would decline. The people had put their hopes on the Prime Minister that you will bring down prices. This not only has a political impact but also has a social impact. Over the past two weeks, there were reports that in some places the price of Arhar dal had touched 150 rupees and 200 rupees for other pulses. The price of tomatoes was also rising. Is this only seasonal because the food inflation is increasing at 7.5 per cent year on year. Global oil prices have fallen. Do you think this creates perception issues for your government?
PM MODI: You can’t view inflation as a perception issue. Price rise should be seen as a reality. What is available for a consumer should be seen for what it is. There should never be an attempt to view price rise as a perception issue as a means of escaping the reality of price rise. We will have to accept reality. You see the fast pace at which prices were rising under the previous government, today that speed has decelerated a lot. You can see the statistics, you will find it there. Second, the country has gone through two consecutive years of severe drought. Drought has a direct impact on the price of vegetables, food and pulses because all these things are produced from the soil. Now when there is such a big drought, it’s not in anybody’s hands. The second option in such a situation is imports. The Indian government has imported pulses in huge quantities. Third, it is the joint responsibility of the state and Central governments. It is not exclusively the state’s responsibility. It is not exclusively the Centre’s responsibility. It is the joint responsibility of both the state and Central governments. This should not be an issue of blame game that the state government did not do certain things and that the Centre did not do certain things. But it will have to be agreed that it is the joint responsibility of both. That is why the Centre has given rights to the states to make stringent laws. How much stocks to keep or not to keep are decisions which the states can take. All these rights have been given to the states. Some states have performed well, some states are trying. But the Centre and state governments are trying to work together on this. I believe that we have been successful to the extent that the speed with which prices were rising (under UPA), what would have happened if the prices were to rise at that speed. We have been successful in stopping that speedy rise of prices. But as far as pulses are concerned, production in India has been very low. Many farmers who were earlier sowing pulses have started cultivating sugar. That is also an area of concern. We gave special incentives for pulses. We have tried to set up a different MSP for pulses. We have taken steps to procure pulses from farmers with bonus. Our focus is on increasing the production of pulses. We are also focusing on building stocks of pulses by importing from abroad. An all out effort is being made and I believe that nobody doubts the sincerity of this government
On Raghuram Rajan:
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister what is your view about the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan as the RBI Governor? A lot has been spoken about this. There was commentary that it may effect India’s image, perception as a global economy. What’s your own view of the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan?
PM MODI: When my Government was formed in May 2014, you take newspapers from May, June, July 2014 and check television debates during that period. The topic of the television debates would be – Will the new govt let Raghuram Rajan continue? Or Will the new Government oust Raghuram Rajan? And there was more or less consensus that he was appointed by the previous govt and so Modi won’t let him complete his tenure and will remove him. You have seen, that he worked his entire tenure. For the time he was appointed by the previous government, he completing his entire term. So all the misconceptions have been dispelled. Secondly, according to my 2 year experience in Govt, those who are creating controversies, are being unjust to Raghuram Rajan
ARNAB: Why so?
PM MODI: I will tell you. Those who say…I believe Raghuram Rajan’s patriotism is no less than any of ours. It will be doing injustice to him if one says that he will serve the country only if he is at a particular post. As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country. He is someone who loves his country. Therefore, it’s not like the nation won’t get Raghuram Rajan’s services, Raghuram Rajan is not that kind of a person. He is a person who loves the country. Those who speak such language are doing great injustice to him. My experience with him has been good.I appreciate the work he has done. And my good wishes will always be with him.
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, there’s a question related to this. During your speech at the Executive you used seven words begining with letter ‘S’– ‘Sevabhaav’ (service), ‘Santulan’ (balance), ‘Sanyam’ (restraint), ‘Samvaad’ (dialogue), ‘Samanvay’ (coordination), ‘Sakaratmak’ (positivity) and ‘Samvedna’ (sensitivity). I will ask the question in context with Raghuram Rajan because you used these words in the speech at National Executive Meet speech on June 14 in Allahabad. You said, ‘Our party leaders and party workers should use these qualities in their daily dealings and behaviour.’ Prime Minister, in Raghuram Rajan’s context, your Rajya Sabha MP has made many comments. Later he made critical remarks against senior bureaucrats. My question is, do you think it is right? When we talk about ‘Sanyam’ (restraint) and ‘Santulan’ (balance), is it correct?PM MODI: Whether it is someone from my party or not, I believe that such things are inappropriate. The nation won’t benefit from such publicity stunts. One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong.
ARNAB: That’s a very clear message.
PM MODI: I have a very clear message. I have no two minds about it. On Black Money: ARNAB: And Mr Prime Minister, if I may say so, between May 8 and now, you are speaking as straight as you did before you took over as Prime Minister. I think that answer takes me to the next subject. Mr Prime Minister, the issue is that of Black Money. In a very interesting way you said, prices should not be looked at from the point of perception, equally, Mr Prime Minister it can be said said that an issue like Black Money should not be looked at in terms of perception, but it is perception forming. There are political debates on this. Experts say that the Black Money economy has shrunk, 10-15% economy has shrunk through land dealings and other things. You have passed the Black Money Bill, you have made taxation more transparent, you have started information sharing with other countries, you have taken steps, but Prime Minister Modi, people still expect that a Rs 25 lakh crores will be brought back and put into their bank accounts. How will you address that expectation? The hope that people have taking Black Money, how will you address it?
PM MODI: How did the black money issue arise and how did it become such a serious issue? We have to look at the background. It is an established fact in the minds of the common man those who steal money park their money overseas. It’s a common perception. Even if I look at it from the common man’s perspective, I also wonder where does this money go? This issue was always stalled in the Parliament. When the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ordered Special Investigation Team to look into it, even then the previous government stalled it for three years, from 2011-2014. It’s after this that political parties, the media and the common man started believing that there’s something wrong. Then the issue of Black Money became an agenda. Even today I can say…that yes, when there is money stashed in foreign accounts, there are some norms of engagement with foreign countries on the issue. But between 2011-2014, these people were given the opportunity to launder money here and there
ARNAB: Mr. Modi, there have been several corruption cases about the previous government, which have now come out. There is AgustaWestland, many defense scams and defense transactions are now being analyzed seriously. The cases which were quoted in the CAG reports but were ignored are now coming in the forefront. This question is important because this isn’t just about financial corruption but these questions have direct implications on the national security of the country. Do you think, when they say that this is a political witch hunt by Narendra Modi Sarkar, do you think all of these cases would have been possible without political patronage?
PM MODI: There are many things which are not visible. One can’t imagine the difficulty I am experiencing in taking out things from dirt. One who is working there knows the amount of dirt that exists and how certain things have been caught in a web. There are certain powers behind it. The case about Agusta helicopters. I can’t deny it and I believe that we have the right to doubt that people behind this are very experienced. They have perfectly practiced the art of doing wrong deeds. They are very experienced and knowledgeable. And one can also smell the fact that such a thing wouldn’t have been done without a shield. Now, agencies are probing. Let’s see how far the probe goes. But the investigation shouldn’t go ahead while people are being targeted, neither does my government target anyone. The sin has been committed, but how much is done, How was it done, who did it, probe agencies will find out in a professional way. Whatever comes out, will be put out
ON GST BILL:
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, do you think the GST bill which has been stuck for over one and half years, it is a path-breaking economic reform. It unifies the country. Recently you met Ms Jayalalithaa after she was sworn in as the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has extended her support for GST and Congress allies at the state level are supporting the GST bill. Do you feel optimistic that GST bill will be passed in the next session of the Parliament?
PM MODI: First we need to understand, that we look at GST only within the purview of an economic reform because of which the right information doesn’t come out. Not having GST straight away means loss for the poor of Uttar Pradesh. Absence of GST straight away means loss for the poor people of Bihar. Not passing the GST would mean loss for the poor people of poor states like Bengal, Orissa and Assam. People who sit in the Rajya Sabha must understand this. GST is beneficial for the poor people of the states represented by them, because those states will economically benefit the most from GST. The money will be used for the welfare of the poor people of those states. This is why be it Mamata Banerjee, be it Nitish Kumar, be it Akhilesh Yadav or Naveen Patnaik, all these states want the GST bill to be passed at the earliest. There is just one group which has made it the issue of prestige. Now the kind of arithmetic which is working out, I hope that this decision is passed in favour of the poor. You will be surprised to what extent has the opposition reached to the level of distortion. In the previous session we introduced an act. Indian government has Rs 40,000 crore rupees from the CAMPA Fund. Rs 40,000 crore. we wanted to give that money to the states. States have to use that money for forestry, for greenery, for planting trees and plants. The bill is meant for that. Had this Rs 40,000 crore reached the states before the monsoons, it would have been used for the forests. A lot of people would have got employment, people who plant trees would have been employed. There would be plantation and due to the rains the plants would start growing within a year. But just because of obstructionism, states have been deprived of the benefit of Rs 40,000 crore. The money was meant for the forests and for the tribals. They blocked it. There was no argument on it
ARNAB: The reason…you had tried
PM MODI: Made all efforts.
ARNAB: You had invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi here at the Race Course Road
PM MODI: We held talks at every level
ARNAB: Still? The word you used ‘ego issue’, why has it become an ego issue? And people would want to know why is the Prime Minister unable to end this?
PM MODI: The Prime Minister cannot answer this question. Those creating obstructions can only answer this question. But despite this, I will keep trying. I am ready to convince them in which ever way possible. If I have to convoke someone over a cup of tea at their house, I am even ready for that. I have no problem. My only aim is the welfare of the poor of my country and the poor of states like Uttar Pradesh.
ARNAB: You spoke of Uttar Pradesh. Mr Prime Minister, elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh in 6,7,8 months. The focus of entire nation will be on it. You are the MP from Varanasi. But some comments are made by BJP, some say Sangh Parivar, some independent groups, communal colour is added to it and not just from one party but from other parties as well. Mr Prime Minister are you going to be able to keep development as the sole agenda? The main issue in the Uttar Pradesh polls should be that of development, it shouldn’t get capsized, the focus shouldn’t be elsewhere. Are you confident that communal agenda will not overpower development?
PM MODI: It’s my conviction, it’s my commitment. You must have seen during the 2014 elections that I fought elections on the issue of development. The new generation of the country only believes in development. I believe that solution to all problems is in development. Development is also the solution to the tension that people talk about. If we provide employment to people, if we ensure there’s food on their plates, if we provide them with facilities and give them education, all the tension will end. And this is why, all those who want good for the nation, I request them to compete towards development and for development. This atmosphere should be created in the country and I think such an environment is being created nowadays.
Don’t make heroes out of hot heads: PM Modi
ARNAB: So the hot heads who make extreme comments, is there a necessity to control them? So that there is no politics in the name of religion
PM MODI: Firstly, I am of the firm belief that the nation should progress on the issue of development. And it is necessary that the country moves forward on the issue of development. I would like to tell the media not to make heroes out of those people who make such comments.
ARNAB: But they keep making such comments
PM MODI: Don’t make them heroes, they will stop
ARNAB: We don’t make them heroes, we make them villains.
PM MODI: But why do you make them so big? I see such statements by people on TV, whose faces I haven’t even seen and they end up becoming spokesmen on TV
ARNAB: Self styled spokesmen
PM MODI: I don’t know why such people are encouraged.ARNAB: Final question to you Mr Prime Minister, what motivates you the most? First of all as I said, will you be able to keep this pace? What motivates you the most and also if you can share with our viewers honestly what is your one greatest source of worry?
PM MODI: Firstly, I don’t live under the burden of worries. Problems and challenges are there, you can’t deny that. But you must challenge the challenges and not let the challenges turn into worries. This is my principle. I challenge the challenges. I like to face the problems. I don’t run away from them. Whatever loss I have to face for it, I face it. But I can’t leave the country helpless. This responsibility must be taken and I will continue to do so. For all good and bad things, it is my responsibility. I do not regret anything. I believe, people of the country have given me the responsibility and I must fulfill it. Thirdly, when I see the poor in our country, it reminds me of the work that I have to do for them. Day before yesterday, I was in Pune, and met a Shrimaan Chandrakant ji. A retired teacher with a pension of Rs 16000, donates Rs 5000 every month for Swachh Abhiyaan. If a 70 year old retired teacher with children and family at home, without worrying about them, worries about the country, then being the Prime Minister, I should work a thousand times more than Chandrakant ji. This is my inspiration. People of this country who work day and night, they are my inspiration. I look at them and I work even harder.”