Releases commemorative coin to mark 90 years of RBI
“RBI plays a pivotal role in advancing our nation's growth trajectory”
“RBI has witnessed both the pre and post-independence eras and has created an identity around the world based on its professionalism and commitment”
“Today we have reached a point where the Indian banking system is being seen as a strong and sustainable banking system of the world”
“Government has worked on the strategy of recognition, resolution and recapitalization”
“Steps like active price monitoring and fiscal consolidation kept inflation at a moderate level even during difficult times of Corona”
“Today, India is becoming the engine of global growth with 15 percent share in global GDP growth”
“RBI is the appropriate body for the holistic appreciation of the banking vision of Viksit Bharat”

Governor of Maharashtra Shri Ramesh Bais ji, Chief Minister Shri Eknath Shinde ji, my colleagues in the cabinet Nirmala Sitharaman ji, Bhagwat Karad ji and Pankaj Chaudhary ji, Deputy Chief Ministers of Maharashtra Government Devendra (Fadnavis) ji and Ajit (Pawar) ji, Governor of Reserve Bank Shaktikanta Das, officers of Reserve Bank of India, other dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the Reserve Bank of India has reached a historic milestone. RBI has completed its 90 years. As an institution, RBI has been a witness to both pre-independence and post-independence eras. Today, RBI's recognition worldwide is attributed to its professionalism and commitment. I extend my congratulations to all the employees and officers of the Reserve Bank of India on the 90 years since its establishment.

Furthermore, I consider those who are associated with RBI at this time to be very fortunate. The policies you formulate today, the work you do, will determine the direction of RBI for the next decade. This decade will take this institution to its centenary year. And this decade is equally crucial for the ‘Sankalp Yatra’ of a ‘Viksit Bharat’. And for that, as your mantra suggests - while giving top priority to RBI's rapid growth, it is equally important to focus on trust and stability. I extend best wishes to RBI for its objectives and resolutions as well

Friends,

You are experts in your respective fields. You know that the country's economy and GDP largely depends on the coordination of monetary and fiscal policies. I remember when I participated in the Reserve Bank's '80th' year program in 2014, the situation was entirely different. The entire banking sector of Bharat was grappling with problems and challenges. Concerns about the stability of Bharat’s banking system and its future were widespread, especially regarding non-performing assets (NPAs). The situation was so dire that public sector banks were not able to contribute significantly to the country's economic progress. We all started from there. And look, today Bharat’s banking system is considered a strong and sustainable system in the world. The banking system, which was once on the verge of sinking, is now making profits and showing record growth in credit.

Friends,

You also know that such a significant change in just 10 years was not easy. This change came because there was clarity in our policies, intentions, and decisions. This change came because there was determination and honesty in our efforts. Today, the country is witnessing that when intentions are right, policies are also right. When policies are right, decisions are also right. And when decisions are right, the results are also right. In short, what I want to say is - when intentions are right, results are right.

How the country's banking system transformed is in itself a subject of study. There wasn't any stone left unturned. Our government worked on the policy of 'recognition', 'resolution', and 'recapitalization'. To improve the condition of public sector banks, the government infused nearly 3.5 lakh crore rupees of capital and implemented several governance-related reforms. The new framework of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code alone resolved close to 3.25 lakh crore rupees worth of loans.

And one figure that the citizens must know is that more than 27,000 applications, with underlying defaults of over 9 lakh crore rupees, were resolved even before admission into the IBC. This demonstrates the effectiveness of this new system. The gross NPA of banks, which was around 11% in 2018, has decreased to less than 3% by September 2023.

Today, the problem of the Twin Balance Sheet is now a part of the past. Today, banks' credit growth has reached up to 15 per cent. In all these achievements, the RBI has played a significant role as a partner and its efforts are commendable.

Friends,

Discussion about institutions like the RBI often remains confined to financial definitions and complex terminologies. It's natural given the intricacies of your work. However, the work you do directly impacts the lives of ordinary citizens. Over the past 10 years, we have highlighted this connection between the central bank, the banking system, and the common person at the grassroots level. Financial inclusion for the poor is a significant example today. We have 52 crore Jan Dhan accounts in the country, with over 55% of these accounts held in the name of women. The impact of this financial inclusion can also be seen in sectors like agriculture and fisheries.

Today, more than 7 crore farmers, fishermen, and livestock owners have farmer credit cards. This has given a significant boost to our rural economy. The cooperative sector has also received a major boost in the past 10 years. Cooperatives play a crucial role in the cooperative banking sector, which is also an important area of regulation and supervision for the Reserve Bank. The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has now become a globally recognized platform. It processes more than 1200 crore transactions every month.

Now you are also working on Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). This is also a snapshot of the transformation that has taken place in the last 10 years. Within a decade, we have entered into a completely new banking system, a new economy, and a new currency experience. And as I mentioned earlier, what has happened in the last 10 years is just the trailer. There is still much to do, we have to take the country much further ahead.

Friends,

It is crucial that we have clear goals for the next 10 years. We need to work together to expand the possibilities of digital transactions in the next decade. We also need to keep an eye on the changes coming from the shift towards a cashless economy. We must also strive to improve financial inclusion and empowerment efforts further.

Friends,

The banking needs of such a large population can indeed vary widely. Some people prefer the traditional physical branch model, while others prefer digital delivery. It is essential to formulate policies that improve the ease of banking and provide credit access according to everyone's needs. To make Bharat a leader in the field of Digital Payments Infrastructure (DPI), we need to continuously leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The Reserve Bank must continue to take consistent steps for Bharat’s progress to be rapid, inclusive, and sustainable. As a regulator, the RBI has ensured rule-based discipline and financially prudent practices in the banking sector.

 However, it is also essential for the RBI to anticipate the future needs of various sectors, prepare in advance, and encourage banks to take proactive steps while assessing their requirements. I assure you that the government stands with you. You may recall that dealing with double-digit inflation was not reflected in financial policies ten years ago. To address this challenge, our government entrusted the Reserve Bank of India with the authority of inflation targeting. The Monetary Policy Committee has done an excellent job in fulfilling this mandate. Additionally, the government has taken steps such as active price monitoring and fiscal consolidation. Therefore, despite the COVID crisis, situations of war in different countries, and tensions, inflation in Bharat has remained at a moderate level.

Friends,

A country with clear priorities cannot be stopped from progressing. During the COVID crisis, we prioritized financial prudence while also giving top priority to the lives of ordinary citizens. That's why Bharat’s poor and middle class are now driving the economy forward despite the crisis. While many of the world's largest economies are still struggling to recover from the shock, the Indian economy is setting new records. The RBI can take Bharat’s success to the global level.

Balancing inflation control and growth is a unique challenge for any developing country. It is essential to think about which monetary tools can be used to address this challenge. The RBI can play a global leadership role by serving as a model for this approach. I say this based on ten years of experience, and after closely observing and understanding the world. This could greatly benefit the entire Global South.

Friends,

While setting targets for the next 10 years, we must also consider the aspirations of Bharat’s youth. Bharat is one of the youngest countries in the world today. RBI has a vital role in fulfilling the youth’s aspirations. Over the past 10 years, new sectors have emerged due to government policies, providing new opportunities for the country's youth. We can see expansion in emerging sectors such as green energy today.

The government is promoting sectors like solar energy and green hydrogen. There's been consistent growth in ethanol blending in the country. Bharat has emerged as a prime player in digital technology, and efforts have been made towards indigenous 5G technology. Additionally, we are playing a significant role as a defence sector exporter.

MSMEs are the backbone of the Indian economy and the manufacturing sector. All these sectors require different types of financing, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Credit Guarantee Scheme for MSMEs provided a significant boost to this sector. The Reserve Bank also needs to think about out-of-the-box policies going forward. And I have seen that our Shaktikanta ji is an expert in thinking out of the box. And I am happy that most applause was reserved for this statement. It is very important to ensure that our youth get adequate credit availability, especially in new sectors.

Friends,

Innovation will play an important role in the 21st century. The government is making record investments in innovation. As you have seen we have allocated a research fund of 1 lakh crore rupees for innovation in the recent interim budget. It is essential to think about how we can prepare those who want to work in the field of cutting-edge technology, considering the proposals that come in. RBI should also start thinking about how it will assist them. We need to identify such individuals and create teams. We should develop expertise in both traditional businesses and upcoming subjects.

Similarly, the space sector is opening up, with new start-ups emerging. We need to see what kind of support they need for credit. Similarly, one of the largest sectors emerging in Bharat with full force is the tourism sector. The tourism sector is growing, and the whole world wants to come to Bharat, see Bharat, and understand Bharat. I read somewhere that tourism experts have said that in the coming years, Ayodhya will become the world's largest capital in religious tourism. We need to see our preparations to financially support this sector. As new sectors emerge in the country, we need to develop expertise in them from now on and brainstorm on how we will support them.

I am busy with elections for the next 100 days, so you have plenty of time to think, because there will be a lot of work to do right from the second day after taking the oath.

Friends,

We have done a lot of work on financial inclusion and digital payments. As a result, the financial capacity of our small businesses and street vendors is now transparently visible. Now, using this information, we need to financially empower them.

Friends,

We need to work together to further enhance Bharat’s economic self-reliance over the next 10 years. We should ensure that our economy is least affected by global crises. Today, Bharat is becoming an engine of global growth with a 15 per cent share in global GDP growth. In these circumstances, efforts should be made to make our currency more accessible and acceptable worldwide.

Another trend that has been observed globally in recent years is excessive economic expansion and increasing debt. The private sector debt of many countries has reached up to double their GDP. The debt level of several countries not only affects those countries but also impacts the entire global economy. The Reserve Bank should conduct a study on this matter.

Considering the prospects and potential of Bharat’s growth, it is essential to determine how much credit availability should be there and how it should be managed sustainably in a modern context.

Friends,

It will be equally important for our banking industry to advance in order to fund essential projects for the country. Amidst this necessity, there are also challenges on many fronts today. New technologies like AI and BlockChain have transformed banking methods, changing the entire approach. The role of cyber security has become crucial in the rising era of digital banking. Innovations in fintech are creating new avenues for banking. In such circumstances, we need to think about the necessary changes in the structure of the country's banking sector. This may require new financing, operating, and business models. From the credit needs of global champions to the requirements of street vendors, from cutting-edge sectors to traditional sectors, fulfilling these needs is crucial for the ‘Viksit Bharat’.

The Reserve Bank is a very appropriate institution for this entire study of the banking vision for a ‘Viksit Bharat’. Your efforts will be crucial for the development of a ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047.

Once again, my best wishes to all of you.

Thank you!

 

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Flash composite PMI up at 61.7 in May, job creation strongest in 18 years

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Flash composite PMI up at 61.7 in May, job creation strongest in 18 years
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PM Modi's Interview to The Statesman
May 24, 2024

In an exclusive interview to The Statesman, PM Narendra Modi underscores the need for a strong government and a clear vision for India’s progress. He discusses plans for the middle class, youth employment, successes in Jammu and Kashmir, and Bengal’s future, highlighting the importance of a significant electoral mandate for effective governance and a Viksit Bharat by 2047.

 

Q. The middle class has been a consistent support block for the national brand of Modi. The opposition alleges that the middle class has not got its due from your government. Would you agree? And what are your plans for the middle class?

A: Over the last 10 years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure progress and prosperity for our middle class.

The first area is expanding the middle class and to lift people from poverty. For a long time since Indian independence, for 70 years, there was a push from the top – where the middle class was being pushed into poverty and the poor into abject poverty. But today, we have effectively reversed this system; since 2014, we have recognised and celebrated the parishram of our madhyam varg. Our government ensured that while your darja in society increased, the kharcha did not – because our policies are not meant to extort, but to support.

Twenty five crore people have risen up to join the neo middle class and most importantly, we have changed the narrative that the middle class is one bill away from slipping into poverty. The growth we have achieved is irreversible and here to stay – the only way to go is to climb upwards.

Rs. 11 lakh crore has been spent for infrastructure development in the country encompassing diverse sectors – from road and rail to education and healthcare infrastructure. People belonging to the middle class are the biggest beneficiaries of this development as new opportunities in jobs, contracts and other avenues open up for them.

We have worked hard to enhance the Ease of Living for the middle class. Be it travel or the day-to-day access that they have when the government is concerned, we have ensured that the entire experience becomes quick, comfortable and hassle-free. As far as travel is concerned, the number of airports has doubled, there are 20 cities with metro rail, there are over 100 Vande Bharat trains, we have state-of-the-art expressways, the EV sector is booming and growing. On the other hand – you see how the process for getting passports, filing income tax, registering grievances or registering new companies has been made transparent, quick and without challenges.

We have ensured that the disposable income for the middle class has increased. Where every GB of internet data cost over Rs. 300, in just 10 years – the per GB cost of internet data is down to under Rs. 10. This is saving thousands of rupees every month.

The women belonging to the middle class have been empowered and are becoming job creators in their own right with MUDRA Loans, Stand Up India, GeM portal and so on.

Additionally, six crore new EPFO subscribers since 2017 and greater participation for the labour class shows that not only has employment generation increased, the absolute percentage of people participating in the nation’s growth has also increased. 5.14 crore person years of employment have been generated every year since 2014, as a recent SKOCH report has also recognised.

While all this is happening, you have to understand that there are other things at work as well – average inflation for the last 10 years has been kept under 5 per cent, income tax rates have been greatly reduced. A significant section of the middle class resides in our cities and towns, and under PMAY-Urban – for over 25 lakh beneficiaries, an interest subvention of more than Rs. 58,000 crore has been provided. So, while there are greater incomes, there is also greater savings and this has led to greater investments. Almost 7 crore beneficiaries are enrolled in the Atal Pension Yojana. Today, the middle class is partnering and investing in India’s growth – there are now over 15 crore DEMAT accounts, is this not a sign of prosperity?


Q. Are you satisfied with your efforts at providing jobs for the youth?

A: India is blessed with a demographic dividend. And this blessing comes with a responsibility of ensuring suitable and sufficient opportunities.

If you look back on the last 10 years, you will notice that we have opened up opportunities in many new and emerging sectors for our youth such as in space, defence, drones, EVs, semiconductors, AI, and much more. In many of these fields, India is now emerging as a key player on the global stage.

Today, India is the world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem. We have gone from a few start-ups in 2014 to nearly 1.37 lakh startups today, generating employment for lakhs of people. We have over 100 unicorns and our start-ups have registered over 12,000 patents. This is also led by the youth who are making the most of the opportunities they are getting.

We have provided lakhs of government jobs as well as opened up self-employment opportunities for everyone on a massive scale. The MUDRA loans sanctioned have given birth to crores of new businesses, which have started a chain reaction of employment addition and expansion of the economy. Initiatives like Stand-Up India, Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat have helped change the mindset at the grassroots level. Today, the youth of the country envision themselves as job creators.

India’s digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the economy between 2014 and 2019, creating around 6 crore jobs. With the advent of AI and new-age Digital technology, we aim to expand job generation in this area, too.
The roads, highways, houses, and tunnels constructed require people to work. Direct and indirect jobs have been generated through the construction of Infrastructure. Infrastructure and productive capacity investments have a large multiplier impact on growth and employment. In the 2024-25 budget, we proposed increasing capital investment to Rs 11.11 lakh crore, creating additional jobs because of the multiplier impact.

EPFO payroll data shows that over six crore new subscribers have been added in the last 6 years, indicating a surge in youth employment. PLFS data shows that between 2017 and 2023, the participation rate of the Worker Population increased to over 56 per cent, and unemployment is at a low level of 3.2 per cent. So, we have employed more people compared to the population growth rate.

 

Q: Handling of Jammu and Kashmir is hailed as one of the great successes of your government. From a completely peaceful abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 to historic elections in 2024, everything seems to have gone to plan. What next for the region?

A: First of all, I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Kashmir for their overwhelming participation in the historic Lok Sabha elections of 2024. The record-breaking voter turnouts, be it in Baramulla with a whopping 59 per cent voting, breaking a 4-decade record, or the Srinagar seat witnessing 38 per cent voting in the fourth phase, the highest in 35 years, they clearly show that the decisions we took were in the right direction.

Since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, our government has worked tirelessly to restore normalcy in the region. We have achieved a drastic reduction in terror cases in the valley, thanks to the unwavering commitment of our security forces and the support of the local population. This has laid the foundation for sustainable development and growth in the region.

One of our key priorities has been to deepen democracy at the grassroots level. We have conducted elections at the panchayat and block development levels, which has led to a significant trust-building exercise. The peaceful conduct of the Lok Sabha elections is a clear indication that the people of Kashmir are ready to embrace democracy and participate in the decision-making process.

The next logical step in our plan for Jammu and Kashmir will be to restore the state assembly and statehood to further strengthen democratic institutions and ensure that the people have a greater say in the affairs of their state. We are committed to working closely with the elected representatives to address the concerns of the people and to accelerate the pace of development.

Our vision for Jammu and Kashmir is to enable the region to regain its status as a leader in various sectors. We want Jammu and Kashmir to become an educational hub, a tourism hub, an IT hub, a horticulture hub that exports to the world, and a hub for handicrafts and handlooms. We are confident that with the support of the people and the commitment of our government, we can achieve these goals and transform Jammu and Kashmir into a model of development and progress.

We will continue to work closely with the people and their elected representatives to ensure that the region achieves its full potential and becomes a beacon of hope for the entire nation.

 

Q: Just a century ago, West Bengal was seen as a leader when it came to industry, arts, culture and other sectors. What is your view on the current scenario and what according to you is the way ahead?

A: West Bengal has been a state that the whole nation has looked up to. Whether it is intellectual leadership or industrial activity, science or spirituality, literature or art, music or mathematics, the people of Bengal have played a big role in various sectors, not only nationally but also globally.

There would hardly be anyone who is untouched by the greatness of Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Jagdish Chandra Bose and many such leaders.

When it comes to the freedom struggle, the role of Bengal goes to a different level altogether with a galaxy of leaders and revolutionaries coming from this region.

The excellent foundation that the pre-independence generation of Bengalis had set for the state was squandered completely by the Congress, Communists and Trinamool Congress governments.

Ruling for many decades, each of these parties subjected the state to misrule, mafias, corruption and poverty. Congress was always worried about the welfare of one family. TMC has become very similar. And the Communists were always anti-development. So, the people of West Bengal were subjected to great hardships and the state was turned into a laggard state.

But the core elements that made Bengal a shining star – spirit of its people, culture and ethos – are as strong as ever, just waiting for an opportunity to express themselves. I think that time is coming.

Despite having a hostile state government, we are working to leverage West Bengal’s unique strengths and address its specific challenges.

I am sure that with focused multi-sectoral reforms and good governance, the people of Bengal will make its future even brighter than the glorious past of the state.

First and foremost is that there is a need to focus on law and order. If the crucial foundations of safety and security are ensured, every sector of the economy can make great things happen.

Next, the industrial and agricultural ecosystem needs to be addressed. West Bengal has a rich history in sectors like jute, tea, and textiles. Streamlining regulations and creating a conducive environment for industrial growth can attract new investments and also strengthen the investment climate for existing players. Supporting farmers with policies that help them across things such as soil health, cold storage, irrigation, insurance and market access will give great results.

Additionally, investing in infrastructure, particularly in improving the connectivity of ports, road and rail networks, will further boost trade and industry.

West Bengal’s rich cultural heritage is also a significant asset. Celebrating and promoting the art, culture and festivals of West Bengal can attract domestic and global tourists. When combined with good infrastructure and law and order, this can go a long way in creating opportunities for young people.

The young people of Bengal are some of the brightest in the world. No matter which field they are in, they need no introduction. But due to the TMC’s misrule, today, they are often being forced to go out of the state to find high quality jobs and growth prospects. But with a planned effort to make the state a powerhouse in higher education, services, manufacturing, IT and innovation, their dreams can be fulfilled right here in Bengal itself.

 

Q. Women are acknowledged as the biggest supporters of brand Modi across India. Do you have a special message for the women of Bengal?

A: Bengal is a land blessed by Maa Durga. The Nari Shakti of Bengal, the women, is an embodiment of the divine Shakti. When they decide to bless someone, their blessings are enough to help achieve great heights.

I want the women of Bengal to know that their courage is admired by the whole nation. The way women from the poorest sections of society have stood up to the powerful goons of the ruling party in Sandeshkhali and many other places is inspirational. At the same time, women from the urban areas of Bengal have raised their voices for justice, showing solidarity. It shows that when women unite and decide that enough is enough, no force in the world can stop them.

While I admire the courage of the women of Bengal, I am also deeply pained at what they have to suffer at the hands of an insensitive ruling party that bestows impunity upon those who harass women.

The misdeeds of the TMC are fast adding up and paving the way for an exit from Bengal. The people have decided to punish the TMC, first in the Lok Sabha and later in the state assembly too.

We would like to assure the women of West Bengal that the BJP stands with you. By bringing in Rekha Patra Ji as one of our MP candidates, we have made our intentions clear that we are with the women of Bengal.

Further, we will continue to implement the existing pro-women welfare schemes such as taking tap water and gas connections to poor women for free. We will also implement our new schemes to benefit lakhs of women in Bengal.
Our initiative of creating crores of Lakhpati Didis through Self Help Groups, increased threshold for MUDRA loans, etc., will help women become more and more self-reliant. A number of new sectors like space and defence have now been opened up for women. In line with our vision of ‘Vikas bhi, Virasat bhi’ many new avenues and opportunities have been created for those who have interest in art and culture with the opening of new museums and centres.

So, my message to the women of Bengal is, the dawn of freedom from TMC’s tyranny is near.

 

Q. Kolkata earlier used to be the cultural capital of India. The city also used to be the economic hub for the entire East and North East India. What is your plan for reigniting the economic and cultural activity in Kolkata and also developing other major cities in Bengal?

A: I think the state of Bengal and Kolkata are symptoms of a larger neglect of eastern India that has been seen post-independence. In the priorities of successive Congress governments, there were no specific plans for eastern India and whatever were there, stayed on paper.

However, I have always drawn attention to the fact that eastern India needs focused work and we have worked with an ambitious plan for it.

In our rural electrification initiatives, a majority of the beneficiaries were in Eastern or Northeastern India. Whether it is the work that is going on for the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor or the work that has happened for National Waterways along the Ganga, whether it is the operationalization of many airports in eastern India or the record creation of national highways, we have been giving great importance to eastern India’s infrastructure needs.

If we speak of just railways in Bengal, the average rail budget for Bengal, which was around Rs 4,000 crore before 2014, has now increased to nearly Rs 14,000 crore. Vande Bharat Express trains are running across Bengal. Railway stations from Bengal are included under the Amrit Bharat station scheme, which aims to modernize more than 500 stations.

Automatically, such a big infrastructure push across the East will also result in increase in investments, industry and economic activity. As the pre-eminent city of eastern India, Kolkata stands to gain significantly from the overall development of the region.

Further, when it comes to Kolkata specifically, the first focus is on urban infrastructure, cleanliness and ease of living.

Recently, I had the privilege of inaugurating the underwater metro tunnel in Kolkata which is an engineering marvel that is also boosting connectivity between two important economic hubs of Kolkata.

Further, work has recently been completed on the Kavi Subhash – Hemanta Mukhopadhyay Metro section and the Taratala – Majerhat Metro section.

Over the last ten years there have been multiple such works that have happened in Kolkata and many more such works are envisaged in the future as well.

 

Q. In the past 10 years we have seen that Kashi’s infrastructure has transformed completely. Everyone who visits says this is not the Kashi that we saw 10 years back. How did you make this happen?

A: Kashi is a timeless city. It is a city that everyone in India pines to visit at least once because it has such great spiritual and cultural significance.

At the same time, this city and its infrastructure had been taken for granted completely. Over the last many decades, very few efforts had been made to get even basic infrastructure creation or upgrades done. But we decided that this would change.

Since you mentioned the sight of Kashi 10 years ago, I am sure you all remember the massive number of power cables clumsily dangling over all the beautiful streets. We invested hundreds of crore rupees into taking all these cables underground, ensuring a more beautiful view of the city.

Everyone knows about the connectivity and infrastructure troubles Kashi faced 10 years ago. Since then, we have invested almost Rs 1,000 crore to construct or upgrade 15 bridges or flyovers. The road to Babatpur Airport, Varanasi Ring Road, Lahartara-Phulwariya-Shivpur four-lane road, I can give you many such examples of the construction or upgradation of high quality roads across the region.

Further, over 20 road widening projects worth over Rs 3,500 crore are changing the face of Varanasi and the roads that connect it with other cities.

This apart, the upgradation of the airport and railway stations, construction of world class facilities like the Rudraksh Convention Centre, etc. are also making everyone feel this is a new Kashi.

However, Kashi and its soul remains the same. The only thing that has been added is ease of living for the local people as well as tourists.

 

Q. Kashi is an eternal city associated with our glorious past. How do you envisage the place of such cities in the future of Viksit Bharat?

A: Our vision has always been that Vikas and Virasat go hand in hand. So, heritage and modernity go together.

While I spoke of all the infrastructure creation in and around Kashi, the most striking transformation has actually happened in the heritage sections of the city.

The Kashi Vishwanath Dham is there for everyone to see. We have kept in mind the spiritual soul of the temple while building the temple complex. Lakhs of pilgrims are returning happy to see the larger temple complex and its facilities. The streets around the temple are more accessible and cleaner.

The Ganga is cleaner than ever before. Maa Ganga is slowly being restored to her beauty. Sewage treatment plants are being newly built or upgraded.

Many boatmen have been helped to use environment-friendly boats. For those who would like, more cruises have been made available, including the world’s longest river cruise which starts from Varanasi.

The Ghats along the Ganga are spotless and clean. They have become world class spiritual spaces where one can sit with a clean mind, in clean surroundings and connect with the deeper spiritual vibe of Kashi.

At the same time, Varanasi is also being strengthened as a hub for tourism, culture, weavers, farmers and businesses.

So, I see a Kashi which will play an even more important role in the future of India than it did in the past!

 

Q: How do you describe your relation with Kashi?

Sometimes, when I think of Kashi, Maa Ganga and the people of Kashi, emotions overwhelm me and leave me without words.

I have said even earlier that Maa Ganga has adopted me as her son. At the same time, lakhs of families of Kashi have adopted me as their son or brother. I have always been treated like a family member. The love and affection I get is deeply moving.

It has been my firm resolve that I will repay this affection with record development. A lot has been done but a lot more is in store for the wonderful people of this ancient city.

 

Q. Five phases of elections are over. Now only 114 seats remain to go to polls while the fate of 429 seats has been decided. What is your assessment now nationally for the BJP and NDA in terms of seats and vote share and has it changed from your assessment before the elections began?

A: Our target for 400 seats came from the people and hence it remains the same. This time it seems as if it is the people who are fighting the election and supporting us in an unprecedented manner.

After the polling on five phases I can assure you that BJP has comfortably crossed the majority mark on its own and NDA is looking to return with a historic mandate. The way the opposition has collapsed in one phase after the other, the voters have made their decision quite clear.

The way the opposition is acting can be read like an exit poll. A senior leader like Sharad Pawar said that regional parties do not have any future now and should simply merge with the Congress. On the other hand, the Shehzaada of Congress knew that he would lose from Wayanad and so contested from another seat. Mamata Banerjee, who was one of the founders of INDI Alliance has deserted the alliance. She is speaking of supporting the alliance from outside.

 

Q. You have several times talked of a 100-day agenda and now a 125-day agenda. What does it look like?

A: I have divided my plan into 2 phases, 100 days for the entire nation, and the second one, which has 25 days, would be dedicated towards policies for the Yuva Shakti and how they would like the nation’s development to take shape as we move towards building a Viksit Bharat by 2047.

It is not the first time that I have set a 100-day plan as we head for an election. If you go a little back in time, you would find that post elections in 2014 and 2019, we took historic decisions within 100 days of being elected that transformed India’s growth path and, in a way, destiny. In my first term, in the first 100 days, I introduced Jan Dhan Yojana, providing bank accounts to people who never had a bank account and were kept away from formal banking. In my second term, in the first 100 days we abrogated Article 370, and Triple Talaq. In the third term, we will make historic decisions that would serve all sections of the society.

In the 25-day agenda of the youth, we will focus on the aspirations of the youth and giving wings to their ideas.

 

Q: Why do you want a big majority in these elections? Critics argue that coalitions are better.

A: The question has never been about a coalition or a single-party government. Even though we have had a simple majority for the last two terms – we have continued to lead the National Democratic Alliance.

The question is whether we have a strong government with a definitive vision to move forward and support national growth or if we have a mish-mash band of non-cooperative allies devoid of any vision or track record of development.

The difference is between the vision and the confusion – the former is a must while the latter is to be avoided at all costs.

I believe that alliances should be made with conviction and not compulsions, for cooperation and not corruption, for the nation and not for one’s own family.

As far as the big majority is concerned, it is essential for the forward and swift movement of our vision. In the last 10 years we have taken several decisions which have benefited the nation and her people greatly. Today, the entire world respects us because it knows that we have a huge mandate from the people. Whatever India says, it says with conviction and the world listens, because we have a strong majority.

The people have seen the benefits of a strong government over the last 2 terms and are determined to ensure we get a strong government for yet another term.

Following is the clipping of the interview:

Source: The Statesman