Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Bhupendrabhai Patel ji, my colleagues in the Union Council of Ministers Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw ji and Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar ji, all the representatives from different states, all the beneficiaries of Digital India, all the partners associated with start-ups and industry , experts, academicians, researchers, ladies and gentlemen!
Today's program is a glimpse of India becoming increasingly modern in the 21st century. India has exemplified before the world how revolutionary the use of technology is for the entire humanity in the form of the Digital India campaign.
I am glad that this campaign, which began eight years ago, has been expanding with the changing times. Every year new dimensions are added to the Digital India campaign and new technologies are incorporated. The new platforms and programs that have been launched in today's program are taking this chain forward. As you saw in short videos, be it myScheme, Bhashini-Bhashadaan, Digital India - Genesis, Chips to startup program, or all other products, all these are going to strengthen Ease of Living and Ease of Doing Business. In particular, it will be of great benefit to the start-up ecosystem of India.
With the passage of time, time moves ahead leaving the country, which does not adopt modern technology, behind. India was a victim of this during the Third Industrial Revolution. But today we can proudly say that India is guiding the world in the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. I am very happy that Gujarat has played a leading role in this regard also.
A little while ago, Gujarat's experiences of the last two decades with regard to digital governance were shown. Gujarat was the first state in the country where pillars such as Gujarat State Data Center (GSDC), Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN), e-Gram centers, and ATVT/Jan Seva Kendras were erected.
The eGram Vishwagram scheme was launched at a program organized in the memory of Subhas Babu to mark the occasion when he became the President of Congress near Bardoli in Surat.
Gujarat's experiences have helped a lot in making technology a wider part of governance at the national level after 2014. Thank you Gujarat! These experiences became the basis of the Digital India mission. Today when we look back, we realize how easy Digital India has made our life in these 7-8 years. Those who were born in the 21st century, which is our young generation, find digital life very cool, a sort of a fashion statement.
Recall the situation 8-10 years ago. There used to be queues for birth certificate, bills, ration, admissions, results and certificates and in banks. Over the years, India has solved the problem of queues by going online. Today, most of the government services from birth certificates to life certificates for senior citizens are digital. Otherwise, senior citizens, especially pensioners, had to go to departments every time to prove that they were alive. Things that once took days to accomplish are now done in a matter of seconds.
Today India has one of the best infrastructures for digital governance. The trinity of Jan Dhan-Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) has benefited the poor and middle-class of the country the most. The facility provided by this along with the transparency is saving money of crores of families of the country. Today the money that had to be spent for internet data eight years ago is many times less. It’s almost negligible. Better data facility is available at a nominal price. Earlier, one had to make rounds of offices for every such service as paying bills, for making applications, for reservation and for bank related work. For railway reservation, a poor person living in a village had to go to a nearby city by spending 100-150 rupees for the bus fare and spend the entire day waiting in the line. Today he goes to the Common Service Center in his village and his work is done from there itself. And the villagers are also aware of such an arrangement in their village. It has also cut down unnecessary expenses like bus fare and save time on commuting. This saving is even bigger for the hard-working poor people because their entire day is saved.
We often hear that ‘Time is money’. It feels good to hear, but it is heart touching when you hear its first-hand experience. Recently, I went to Kashi. Since it causes traffic snarls and people are also inconvenienced during day time, I went to the railway station late at night to see the situation. Since I am an MP from Kashi, I have to go there for various issues. I was talking to passengers and station master. Nobody was aware since it was a surprise visit. I enquired the people about their experiences and occupancy of Vande Bharat trains. They said there was huge demand for that train. I asked them for the reason because the ticket of the train is a bit expensive. They told me that it is the workers and the poor who travel by this train the most. I was surprised. They cited two reasons behind their preference for this train. One, the Vande Bharat train has enough space for their luggage and secondly, it saves their time by at least four hours. Since they reach their destination early, they find work immediately. The cost of the ticket is compensated by the money that they earn in six-eight hours. The value of ‘Time is money’ is better recognized by the poor compared to the educated people.
With the launch of tele-consultation services like e-Sanjeevani, many basic requirements like access to big hospitals and senior doctors are taken care of through mobile phones. More than three crore people have availed of this service until now and consulted senior doctors at big hospitals from their homes only. You can imagine how difficult it would be and how much money they would spend if they had to visit the doctor in cities. All these things will not be required now due to the Digital India service.
Most importantly, the resultant transparency has liberated the poor and middle-class people from corruption at different levels. We have seen the times when it was difficult to get any facility without paying a bribe. Digital India has also saved this money of the common family. Digital India is also eliminating the network of middlemen.
I still remember a debate in the legislative assembly which journalists can still find it. It was regarding the pension for widows. At that time, I had proposed to open the accounts of widow sisters in post offices where there would be their photograph along with other necessary details so that they could get their pension in time. It led to an uproar. People started questioning me how a widow sister could step out of her house. How would she go to a bank or a post office to get her pension? You will be surprised if you go through their speeches at that time. I told them about my intention and sought their help. But they didn’t. We went ahead because the people supported us. But why were they creating ruckus? They were not concerned about the widows. When I made arrangements for photographs and identification cards in the post offices, the digital world had not progressed so much at that time. You would be surprised that there were many women who became widows before the birth of their daughter and pension money was being released. You must have understood in whose account the pension money was going. This was the reason why there was so much uproar. Some people would naturally feel perturbed if all such holes are plugged. Using the technology, more than 23 lakh crore rupees have been sent directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer in the last eight years. Due to this technology, the country's 2.23 lakh crore rupees i.e. about 2.25 lakh crore rupees have been saved which otherwise used to go into the wrong hands.
One of the greatest achievements of the Digital India campaign is that it has bridged the gap between cities and villages. We all are aware that there were some facilities available in cities, but the situation was very bad for the people in villages. Nobody could imagine that the gap between villages and cities would be bridged one day. People were forced to make rounds of the offices of the block, tehsil or district headquarters even for a minor issue. The Digital India campaign has eased all such difficulties and put the government at the doorstep of every citizen in his village through the phone.
More than four lakh new Common Service Centers have been added in the villages to provide hundreds of government services digitally in the last eight years. Today, the people of the villages are taking advantage of Digital India from these centres.
I met my tribal brothers and sisters when I went to Dahod recently. There was a Divyang couple aged 30-32 years. They took loan under the Mudra Yojana and started Common Service Centre in a small village in the tribal area of Dahod after learning the basics of computers. That couple met me and told me that their average monthly income was Rs. 28,000 and all the people of their village were using their services. Look at the power of Digital India, brothers. More than 1.25 lakh Common Service Centers are bringing e-commerce closer to rural India.
I would share with you another experience how systems can prove to be advantageous. When I was in Gujarat, I remember the farmers faced a lot of problems in paying their electricity bills. There were 800-900 collection centres. In case of a delay, the electricity was disconnected due to the rules. People had to pay again for new connections. We requested the then Indian government of Atal (Bihari Vajpayee) ji that post offices should be allowed to collect payment of electricity bills. Atal ji agreed with me and the farmers in Gujarat got rid of this problem. I made one such experiment when I went to Delhi as to how the systems can be utilized. The habit will not go easily as we the people from Ahmedabad are used to single fare, double journey. There is a strong Wi-Fi network of the Railways. This is before the 2019 elections. I told my friends in the Railways to make Wi-Fi free at the railway platforms so that the children from the nearby villages could come there and study. Once I was talking to some students virtually and you would be surprised to know that many students prepared for the competitive exams at the railway platforms due to the free Wi-Fi facilities and cleared them. No need to go to coaching classes, no expenses, except for the home-made food prepared by their mothers! The best use of railway platforms for studies! Look at the power of Digital India, friends.
Not many people from cities have paid attention to the PM Svamitva Yojana. For the first time, mapping of village houses is happening and digital legal documents are being given to the villagers like in cities. Drone is mapping every house in the village from above. The people are getting certificates once they are convinced. All the hassles of visiting courts have come to an end. This is due to Digital India. The Digital India campaign has also created a large number of employment and self-employment opportunities in the country.
There is also a very sensitive aspect of Digital India, which is not discussed very much. It will touch your heart to know how Digital India has brought many lost children back to their families. I request you to visit a digital exhibition here. You should also bring your children to this exhibition. You will realize how the world is changing by visiting that exhibition. I met a daughter there just now. She was six years old when she got separated from her family. She lost touch with her mother at a railway platform and boarded some train. She was unable to tell much about her parents. Many efforts were made to find her family but to no avail. Then an attempt was made to trace her family with the help of Aadhaar data. When the child's Aadhaar biometric was taken, it got rejected. It was found that the Aadhaar card of the girl child had already been generated. On the basis of the Aadhaar details, the family of that girl was traced.
You would be happy to know that today that girl is living with her family and trying to realize her dreams in her village. As per my information, more than 500 children have been reunited with their families with the help of this technology in the last few years.
The potential that Digital India has created in the country in the last eight years has helped India a lot in combating the Corona global pandemic. Can you imagine what we could do in the country during the biggest crisis in 100 years if there had been no Digital India campaign? We transferred thousands of crores of rupees to the bank accounts of women, farmers and workers of the country through a single click. With the help of One Nation-One Ration Card, we have ensured free ration to more than 80 crore countrymen. This is the wonder of technology.
We ran the world's largest and most efficient Covid vaccination and relief program. Arogya Setu and CoWIN are such platforms through which we are able to maintain records of about 200 crore vaccine doses. We get all the information regarding who has been left out and are able to vaccinate all the targeted people. Even today the world discusses how to get a vaccine certificate and it takes several days. In India, the moment a person is vaccinated, a certificate is available on his mobile phone. The entire world is discussing the vaccination certificate through the CoWIN, but there are some people in India who have problems with the photo of Modi on the certificate. It was such a huge task, but some people got stuck on it only.
I would also like to mention India's digital fintech solution. Once there was a discussion on it in the Parliament and you can also check it. A former finance minister in his speech questioned how people would go digital when they did not have mobile phones. What else did not he say? You will be surprised if you listen to him. This is the state of the people who are very educated. Today the entire world is attracted to Fintech UPI i.e., Unified Payment Interface. Everyone, including the World Bank, has appreciated it as the best platform. An entire section has been devoted to Fintech in this exhibition. You will get to see how these systems work and how the payments are made and received through mobile phones. And I would say that this Fintech initiative, which is by the people, of the people, for the people, is the best solution. There is indigenous technology in it, i.e., by the people of the country. The countrymen made it a part of their life i.e., of the people. It made the transactions of the countrymen easy i.e., for the people.
Friends, you will be proud to know that there were more than 1.30 lakh UPI transactions in every minute in the month of May this year in India. On an average, 2,200 transactions were completed every second. That is, when I use the words ‘Unified Payment Interface’ while talking to you, 7,000 transactions are completed through UPI during that time. All of this is happening through Digital India.
Friends, look at the potential of the country and its people. Ours is a developing country, but you will be proud that 40 percent of the world's total digital transactions happen in India compared to the world’s developed nations.
BHIM-UPI too has emerged as a powerful medium for digital transactions today. Importantly, the transaction technology that is available with the sellers of big brands and the rich people in any shopping mall is also with the street vendors on footpaths who earn only 700-800 rupees daily. Otherwise, we have also seen the days when credit and debit cards were prevalent in big stores and the street vendor friends would look for coins of small denomination to pay back his customers. Once, I found that a beggar in Bihar was begging on a platform and he was taking money digitally. See, both of them have the same power. This is the power of Digital India.
Therefore, today digital products like UPI are the centre of attraction for developed countries of the world, or those countries which cannot invest in this type of technology. Our digital solutions have the reach, are secure and have democratic values. Our Gift City project, mark my words and listen to my speech either in 2005 or 2006. What I said regarding Gift City at that time is about to happen. Gift City is going to emerge as a huge force as far as data security in the world of Fintech and finance is concerned. It is becoming the pride of not only Gujarat, but the entire India.
Several initiatives are being taken today to make Digital India the solid foundation of India's new economy in future and to keep India at the forefront of Industry 4.0. Today more than 100 skill development courses are being run across the country for many such new age industries like AI, Block-chain, AR-VR, 3D printing, Drones, Robotics, Green energy, etc. Our endeavor is to re-skill and up-skill 14-15 lakh youth in collaboration with various organizations for future skills in the next 4-5 years.
Today the focus is also at the school level to build the skills needed for Industry 4.0. Today, more than 75 lakh students are working on innovative ideas in about 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and getting exposed to modern technology. I just saw the exhibition here. I felt very happy that there is a daughter from distant Odisha, Tripura, or someone from a village in Uttar Pradesh and they have come with their products. Girls of 15-16-18 years have come with solutions to the problems of the world. When you talk to those girls, you will feel that this is the strength of my country, friends.
The environment created in the schools due to Atal Tinkering Labs has resulted in children coming up with solutions to big problems. I asked a 17-year-old boy to give his introduction and he told me that he is a brand ambassador. ‘I am the brand ambassador of the equipment we are working on in the field of Digital India,’ he said. He was speaking with amazing confidence. When you see this kind of potential, then the faith becomes stronger. This country will realize its dreams and fulfill its resolutions.
The new National Education Policy is also going to play an important role in creating the necessary mindset for technology. A huge network of Atal Incubation Centers is being created in the country. Similarly, the PM Rural Digital Saksharta Abhiyan i.e. PMGDISHA is running a campaign to encourage digital empowerment in the country. So far, more than 40,000 centers have been set up across the country and more than five crore people have been trained.
Reforms are being carried out in different directions to provide maximum opportunities to the youth in the field of digital skills and digital infrastructure as well as technology. Be it space, mapping, drones, gaming and animation, many such sectors which are going to expand the future of digital technology have been opened for innovation. Now the InSpace Headquarters has been made in Ahmedabad. Provisions like InSpace and new drone policy will give new energy to India's tech potential in the coming years of this decade. When I came here for the inauguration of the InSpace headquarters last month, I had a conversation with some school children. They were planning to launch satellites in space. There I was told that they were going to launch 75 satellites made by the school children to mark the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence. This is happening in my country's school education, friends.
Today, India is working on the target of taking electronic manufacturing to more than $ 300 billion in the next three-four years. India wants to become a chip maker from a chip taker. Investment in India is growing rapidly to increase the production of semiconductors. The PLI scheme is also helping in this regard. That is, the double dose of the power of Make in India and Digital India is going to take Industry 4.0 to new heights in India.
Today's India is moving in a direction where citizens will not need to come physically to the government for documents and the benefits of the schemes. The Internet reaching every household and the diversity of India's regional languages will give a new impetus to India's Digital India campaign. The Digital India campaign will continue to add new dimensions in the same way and it will give direction to the global leadership in the digital space.
I was short of time today so I couldn't see everything. There are so many things out here to see that maybe even two days will fall short. I would ask the people of Gujarat not to miss this opportunity. You must bring your school-college children there. You should also take some time from your schedule and visit this exhibition. You will see a new India. You will see India aligned with the needs of the common man. A new trust will be born and new resolutions will be taken. With the confidence of fulfilling the aspirations through Digital India, the country is progressing at a fast pace towards the India of the future, the modern India, the prosperous and powerful India. What has been achieved in such a short time, India has talent and India has the potential of the youth and they need opportunities. And today there is a government in the country which trusts the people of the country, trusts the youth of the country and is giving them opportunities to experiment. As a result, the country is moving forward with unprecedented strength in many directions.
I wish you all the very best for this Digital India Week. This exhibition will probably continue for the next two-three days and you will take advantage of it. Once again I also congratulate various departments of the Government of India for creating such a wonderful program. I was in Telangana in the morning, went to Andhra Pradesh and then I got a chance to come here among you. It gives me joy when I see the enthusiasm of all of you. I also congratulate the departments for organizing this wonderful program in Gujarat. With the belief that it will become an inspiration for the youth of the country, many best wishes to you all.