The text of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interview to United News of India (UNI)/UNIVARTA.
(1) How do you personally assess the performance of the NDA government's first year in office? What is its biggest achievement?
I am very satisfied. The most satisfying part of this year is that we have lived up to the promise that our intentions will be pure and our actions will be driven by long-term national interest. Remember the situation one year ago. Large-scale corruption at various levels of Government gave rise to scams on a regular basis. Our precious natural resources were going into the hands of a chosen few. In contrast, there are neither any charges of corruption against my Government nor any scandals. We have given a clean, transparent and efficient Government. The findings of some surveys published by the media show that people have largely appreciated the work that we have done in our first year. This gives us the confidence to move ahead with even greater dynamism.
(2) Your detractors allege that yours is a pro-corporate, anti-farmer and anti-poor government. What is your comment?
Those who gave away precious natural resources like coal and spectrum to their favourite industrialists have no right to say this. Everyone knows where the country stands after sixty years of Congress rule. They have been sustaining their politics only in the name of the poor. But what have they actually done. Poverty is still widespread in the country. You should ask them- If you were pro-poor, why does poverty still exist in India?" In just one year, we have taken steps on every possible front to help bring people out of the vicious cycle of poverty. -- For financial inclusion, we implemented the Jan Dhan scheme and opened more than 14 crore bank accounts. People get insurance cover as well as overdraft facility through these accounts. -- For workers, we introduced a number of schemes including the Universal Account Number so that they can avail their EPF benefits. In addition, we have introduced the pension scheme of Rs. 1000 for them. -- We have launched MUDRA Bank for financing 6 crore small vendors and businesses 61% of whom are SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities. -- We took up the task of providing toilets in all schools. It is going to be completed in next few months. Don't children of the poor study in these public schools? -- The so-called pro-poor have been just repeating that there is leakage in subsidy. We used technology to see that LPG subsidy and scholarships reach to the targeted person directly. -- We are taking up skill development in a big way to enhance employability of the youth to whom we are committed to provide jobs through initiatives like ‘Make in India’. -- We provided for reservation of women in the police force of Union Territories. -- With the regime of auction we have put in place for coal, more than Rs. three lakh crores have already been generated for the poor states of India. -- Swachh Bharat Mission has been started to see that health and hygiene issues of the poor do not affect the working capacity and output of the poor and labourers. These are just a few examples. What prevented these things from being done effectively during the past sixty years?
(3) Do you subscribe to a suggestion that there is a disconnect between the government and the party?
There is absolutely no disconnect between the party and my government. We are working in complete harmony with the party as well as with the people of the country.
(4) The Opposition seems to have largely succeeded in its campaign against the controversial land bill. How do you propose to counter the Opposition charge?
In this country, the Land Acquisition Act was almost 120 years old. The Congress-led Governments used the same Act after independence. Suddenly, before the last Parliamentary elections, the Congress went to another extreme by legislating an Act which is neither in the interest of farmers nor in the interest of the country's development. At that time, we supported the Bill, thinking that if it benefits the farmers let us not come in the way. However, there were shortcomings in it. After we took over, many state governments, chief ministers and public representatives, made representations against various provisions of the 2013 Act. Tell me, in a federal system, should we have ignored concerns voiced by States? Through our amendments, we have only tried to correct anomalies pointed out by States, which were increasing red-tapism. While doing so, we protected the compensation payable to farmers. The criticism against our Bill is politically motivated. In fact, changes made by us correct serious flaws in the earlier legislation. Our Bill focuses on benefitting the farmer and balancing the long-term interests of the nation. The world is changing fast. Even farmers need canals to irrigate, roads to transfer products from farms to markets. They need hospitals, schools and houses. Farmers want modern amenities in their vicinity and jobs in formal sectors for their sons and daughters. This is what the Bill strives to do while safeguarding the interests of farmers. However, we are open to a discussion with all political parties, and consider their suggestions so long as the core objectives are met. I hope that we will get the cooperation and support of the political parties on this matter of national importance.
(5) How will you rein in the elements within the party who are spreading hatred on communal lines.
Some unfortunate comments have been made, which were totally uncalled for. Our Constitution guarantees religious freedom to every citizen and that is not negotiable. I have said this before and I say it again: any discrimination or violence against any community will not be tolerated. My position on this is very clear: Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas. We stand for every one of the 1.25 billion Indians regardless of caste or creed and we will work for the progress of every one of them. Every faith in our country has equal rights; it is equal not only before the law but also before society. My government’s focus has been on governance and development. Our focal point is clear: Vikas, Vikas, Vikas; jobs, jobs, jobs.
(6) The Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojna along with the three insurance and pension schemes have been well received as one of the biggest financial inclusion programmes in the world. But the main challenge is about keeping these 14 crore accounts active. Is our banking system ready and equipped with large volume and low value transactions. Will the interest be sustained?
In any case, banks are facing a huge challenge of stressed assets and NPAs. The problem of NPAs in banks is not new. It is definitely not due to the Jan Dhan accounts. It has been there even before Jan Dhan Yojana was launched. In fact, my experience is that a poor person seldom defaults a bank loan. This is a question of management efficiency of the banks. I have focused on that. I have personally spoken to Bankers and we are committed to give them full functional efficiency. It is also not correct to label the Jan-Dhan accounts as "high-volume, low-value." In fact, Jan Dhan accounts have got more than Rs. 15000 crore as deposits. Moreover, we are channelizing all government payments through these accounts. Hence they will become operational in the real sense. We have started this through LPG subsidy, scholarships and MNREGA.
(7) There are issues with regard to agricultural economy. The farm sector is in a crisis and one of the criticisms against your government has been that the key sector of economy has not received as much attention as it deserved or has been given to the corporate sector. Your comment?
This is not true. We have responded to the recent agrarian crisis with alacrity. We have undertaken steps on the ground as well as at the level of policy reforms. The Union Government has enhanced the relief norms for compensation against crop loss by 50%. The limit of minimum crop damage, for grant of compensation, has been reduced from 50% to 33%. Norms have been relaxed to allow procurement of damaged food grains at MSP rates. The target of agricultural credit has been enhanced in our two consecutive budgets. We need to recognize that the problem in agriculture is endemic, and decades of mismanagement have led to the present situation. We have started long-term steps for the farm sector. Unlike the previous Government, we were successful in defending the interests of the farmers at the WTO. To address the issue of access to irrigation for every farm, and efficient utilization of water, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) has been started. We have launched the soil health card scheme. The price stabilization fund with a corpus of Rs. 500 crores has also been set up for perishable commodities. We have made honest and sincere efforts for the agrarian sector. I have recently launched the Kisan Channel for giving timely information to farmers on inputs and markets. For me, agriculture, industry and services are equally important.
(8) What sense have you gained of China's mind regarding resolution of the boundary dispute during your recent visit to the country?
I made India’s point of view very clear. Both India and China have potential for growth, and we can together tackle the problem of poverty. I and President Xi are committed at personal level to take the cooperative and peaceful process forward.
(9) Curbing price rise and inflation were your main promises during elections. People are perturbed and have started asking when 'achhe din' will come?
The country was passing through such a bad phase that every day, a new scam was unfolding. The government was stunned and the nation was desperate and disappointed. If you can recall that bad phase, misdeeds and wrong doings, you will feel that the country got rid of 'bure-din' (bad phase). Now, I, leave it for you to decide how you view our success in bringing the country out of that bad phase. So far as the price rise is concerned, only one data on inflation is enough to explain the situation. The inflation that was at high mark of 8.2 per cent in May 2014 was brought down to 4.9 per cent in April 2015. The results of independent public surveys conducted recently are also before you. While assessing the government on strict parameters, people have given us very high marks. You cannot imagine, what would have been the level of price rise and corruption, had this government not assumed the power. Prices have come down, that too in adverse weather conditions, 'Achhe din' have already been heralded but some people are trying to belittle and tarnish our performance. The commitment, with which we are advancing ahead would transform totally the scenario in the country in next 5-7 years. This situation is giving them sleepless nights and that is why they are trying to obstruct and creating hindrances in our task, projecting as anti-poor and anti- farmers the initiatives being taken by us with positive and good intentions. However, the poor and farmers have faith in our intention, commitment and understand the situation. We are taking step after step to enhance the income of poor and farmers and generate employment avenues for the youth. I am confident that the public will stand by us, so far as the Opposition is concerned, I just want to know from them, if they are really friends and good wishers of the poor, why poverty still prevails in the country? who stopped them from eradicating it. *Why people still are homeless? who are homeless ? --poor only! *Why farm productivity is low?- Lands are available and climatic condition of the country is also good. *Why there is unemployment? Why our youth power is direction less? How is it that countries much smaller than our country in size have surpassed us in progress, What are shortcomings with India that we are lagging behind countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Korea, some of them are smaller in size than our one state or even some big cities. *Why 14 crore people were out of the bank account facility and 6-7 crore small traders were not getting banking services. We accepted all these challenges and took initiatives for the benefit of such people. Would these benefit the poor masses or not? Let the country decide who is anti poor. Our strategy is to wage a war against poverty, we have to wage this war making poor our trusted friends and partners and to win this war. We believe that in this war poor themselves will be the most powerful medium and we are heading for a sure win.
(10) From day one, you have taken initiatives for improving relations with the neighbouring countries, but you have so far not undertaken visit to Pakistan. What is the reason and is there possibility of breaking the deadlock between the two nations in the near future?
From Pakistan, we have only one expectation, that the nation follows the path of peace and non violence. Then there is no issue. Violence is beneficial neither to that nation nor to us. The deadlock should end.
(11) During your foreign visits, you are getting good people's response but statements made by you there are evoking sharp reaction back home. How do you view it?
Congress believes that their scams are not known outside the country.They should feel ashamed of their scams and not of their description and disclosure to others. We realise that in the 21st century the entire world was having high expectations from India. However, during the past one decade, an atmosphere of disappointment prevailed about India. At the onset of the 21st century, the concept of BRICS emerged and it was believed that the present Century would be driven by these nations. Soon this impression started emerging that India is weak in BRICS and entire hypothesis of BRICS got upset. This situation put responsibility on my government. I was aware of the significance and impact of the challenges. The world was new for me and I was new for the world. Changing image and perception about India in the world was a compulsion and I did accept this challenge--I shall go myself to hold dialogue to effectively tell the world about India, its potentials, and prospects. Today, it is matter of satisfaction to me that a major positive shift is there in the world over perception and image of India. The credit for this goes to policies, strategy and efforts of our government and also to 125 crore people of India who had voted for an absolute majority government in the country after 30 years. That helped us to enjoy the image of a decisive government with confidence in the world. And It should be matter of proud for any Indian that India proposes before UN the idea of the International Yoga Day and that proposal is supported by as many as 177 countries for the first time in the history of UNO and the resolution is passed within 100 days.
(12) Optimism generated initially over bringing back Black Money, Swachh Bharat campaign, Make in India, Digital India programme is waning out. Neither investment is coming nor employment avenues are getting enhanced and exports are also declining, in such a situation, how would you like to assure the youth of the country.
In the 60-year Parliamentary history of India, last year was unique, Parliament had prolonged discussion on Black Money. People started discussing over this evil. We have brought a stringent Bill over Black Money in Parliament, stopped generation of black money by way of fair auctions of natural resources and curbs on corruption. Various channels took up a campaign for telling the nation that Swachh Bharat campaign is an opportunity to realise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and pay the father of the nation true tributes on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. In every household, kids are taking lead reminding their elders that cleanliness should begin from the home, your question also points out at the same thing, I do strongly believe that if every citizen decides to be partner of the Swachh Bharat mission than cleanliness would automatically be there in the entire society. Make in India, reflects sentiments of 80 crore young citizens and the world has also realised it within a short period of time. Recently I went to France, Germany, Canada, China and Korea, whenever I referred Make in India, industrials, entrepreneurs and politicians of those countries responded in more warm and encouraging manner. In the given short period of time, the foreign direct investment(FDI) this year has recorded 39 per cent rise as compared to the last year, this is reflective to response of the world to our programme. In the last 10 years, Indian entrepreneurs and their companies felt dire need of expanding their arm out of India, some had decided to proceed out, today that sentiment of deserting out has totally been subsided. Moreover, India's young talent that gone abroad to make career in the want of avenue back home here are now willing to return back home to serve the motherland. So through this Make in India programme India has strengthened and expanded its influence in the world, it is equally effective in India and abroad. So far as Digital Power is concerned it is in our blood and this would soon show its impact even in our remote villages. Your concern about cleanliness is itself the success of the Swachh Bharat, I only wish that every citizen be concerned of it, then cleanliness would prevail everywhere.