Shri Sameer Jain and Shri Vineet Jain of Times Group, all dignitaries present at the Global Business Summit, industry colleagues, CEOs, academicians, people from the media world, other dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen!
Before I come to my point, I would refer to Shiva Bhakti and worship of Lakshmi (as mentioned by Sameer ji). You (Sameer ji) suggested an increase in the income tax rate. I don't know what these people (in the finance department) would do later, but for your information, a very important decision was taken in this year’s budget for women especially. If they make a fixed deposit in a bank for two years, they will be assured of a special interest rate. I think it is a laudable step and you would also like it. Now it rests with your editorial department to give an appropriate place to this news. I greet and welcome the business leaders who have come from all over the country and the world.
Earlier, I had the opportunity to attend the ET Global Business Summit on March 6, 2020. Though a period of three years is not very long, if we look at this specific period of three years, then it seems that the whole world has come a long way. When we met last time, masks were not a part of everyday life. People used to think that vaccines are necessary for children or for those patients who are suffering from a serious disease. Many people had also made preparations for vacations during the summer holidays. Many people must have booked hotels too. But the WHO declared Covid as pandemic just five days after the ET summit of 2020. And in no time, the entire world changed. In these three years, the entire world has changed, global systems have changed and India has also changed. In the recent past, we all have heard a lot of discussions taking place on the interesting concept of 'anti-fragile'. You are the global leaders of the business world. You are well versed with the meaning and spirit of 'anti-fragile'. A system that not only combats adverse conditions, but also becomes stronger by using those conditions!
When I heard about the 'anti-fragile' concept for the first time, the first thing that came to my mind was the collective resolve of 140 crore Indians. When the world was bracing the challenges of Corona, war and natural calamity in the last three years, at the same time India and its people displayed an unprecedented strength. India has demonstrated to the world what it means to be anti-fragile. Give it a thought! Where earlier there used to be talk of Fragile Five, now India is being identified with anti-fragile. India has convincingly shown the world how to convert calamities into opportunities.
Humanity will also be proud of itself after 100 years by studying the capability shown by India during the biggest crisis in 100 years. Today India has laid the foundation for the third decade of the 21st century and has entered the year 2023 with this belief in its potential. The echo of this capability of India is also being heard today in the ET Global Summit.
The theme of this year's ET Global Business Summit is 'Reimagine Business, Reimagine the World'. By the way, I don't know whether this ‘Reimagine’ theme is only for others or for opinion makers as well. Will they apply it also? Most of the opinion makers in our country are busy in re-launch of the same product every six months. And interestingly, they don’t even re-imagine during the re-launch. Well, there are very intelligent people sitting here. Whatever it may be, this is a very relevant theme in the present times. The first thing that we did was to re-imagine when the country gave us the opportunity to serve. Such was the situation in 2014 that the reputation of the country was at stake due to scams worth lakhs of crores. The poor were also yearning for basic needs they were entitled to due to corruption. Aspirations of the youth were being sacrificed at the altar of nepotism. Infrastructure projects were getting delayed for years due to policy paralysis. It was difficult for the country to move forward rapidly with such a thinking and approach. Therefore, we decided to re-imagine and re-invent every single element of governance. We re-imagined how the government should reform welfare delivery to empower the poor. We re-imagined how the government could create infrastructure in a more efficient manner. We re-imagined what kind of relationship the government should have with the citizens of the country. I would like to tell you a little in detail on the re-imagination related to welfare delivery.
Earlier it was not considered necessary that the poor should also have a bank account, the poor should also get loans from the bank, the poor should get the rights of their house and property, they should also get facilities like toilets, electricity and clean cooking fuel or fast internet connectivity. It was very important to change and re-imagine this approach. Some people used to talk about removing poverty, but the truth was that earlier the poor were considered a burden on the country. Therefore, they were left on their own. On the other hand, our focus is on empowering the poor, so that they can contribute to the rapid growth of the country with their full potential. You have the example of Direct Benefit Transfer. As you are aware that corruption, leakages and middlemen in government schemes were common in our country and the society had reconciled to it. The budget and the spending of the governments increased in subsequent years, but poverty also increased simultaneously. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had said about four decades ago that if one rupee is sent for the welfare of people from Delhi, only 15 paise reaches the beneficiary. I don't know whose palms were greased then. Our government has so far transferred 28 lakh crore rupees under different welfare schemes through DBT. If I interpolate the remarks of Rajiv Gandhi ji, it means that 85 percent of the total amount, i.e., 24 lakh crore rupees, would have been pocketed by unscrupulous elements. This amount would have been looted by some people and the matter brushed aside. In reality, only four lakh crore rupees could have reached the genuine beneficiaries. But since I re-imagined and preferred the DBT system, today the entire one rupee from Delhi reaches the poor. This is what re-imagination is all about
Once Nehru ji said that the day every Indian will have the facilities of toilet, that day we will know that the country is at a new height of development. I am talking about Pandit Nehru ji. You can imagine how many years ago this was said. It means Nehru ji was also aware of the problem, but did not show the readiness to find solutions. As a result, a large part of the country remained deprived of basic facilities for a long time. When we got the opportunity to serve the country in 2014, the sanitation coverage in the rural areas was less than 40%. We built more than 10 crore toilets in such a short time and started the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Today, the sanitation coverage has reached 100 percent in the rural areas of the country.
I would also like to give you an example of aspirational districts. I want to keep myself limited to the theme of ‘Reimagine’. The situation in 2014 was such that there were more than 100 such districts in the country, which were considered very backward. Poverty, backwardness, no road, no water, no school, no electricity, no hospital, no education and no employment were the identities of these districts. And most of the tribal brothers and sisters of our country used to live in these districts. We re-imagined this concept of backwardness and made these districts aspirational districts. Earlier, officers were sent to these districts as punishment postings, today the best and young officers are deputed there.
Today everybody, including the Central Government, PSUs, state governments and district administration, are working diligently for the turnaround of these districts. As a result, we have started getting better results and the real time monitoring is also being made possible through the extensive use of technology. For example, the institutional deliveries have now increased from 47 per cent to 91 per cent in UP's Aspirational District Fatehpur and as a result, there has been a sharp decline in maternal and infant mortality rate. Since we are concerned about the lives of the children, the number of fully immunized children has increased from 40 per cent to 90 per cent now in Madhya Pradesh's Aspirational District Barwani. The success rate of TB treatment used to be 40 per cent in Maharashtra's Aspirational District Wasim which has increased to almost ninety per cent. The number of gram panchayats with broadband connectivity has now increased from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in Karnataka's Aspirational District Yadgir. There are many such parameters, in which the aspirational districts, which were once made untouchable by being called backward districts, are becoming better than the national average. This is a re-imagination.
I will also give you an example of clean water supply. Only 30 million i.e. 3 crore rural households in our country had tap connection even after seven decades of independence. 160 million rural households i.e. 16 crore families were deprived of clean drinking water. Rather than making lofty promises, we have given 80 million i.e. 8 crore new tap connections to people in just 3.5 years. This is the feat of re-imagination.
The experts present in this summit will also acknowledge that better infrastructure is essential for India's rapid growth. But what was the situation in the country earlier? And why was it so? Several editorials have been published in Economic Times in this regard and different experts have given their opinions. The highlight of those editorials has been that the decisions related to infrastructure were not considered as the requirements of the country and political ambition was given priority. As a result of this, the entire country has been the victim of it. Political gains used to be weighed if roads were to be built somewhere, whether it would fetch votes or not. The routes and stoppages of the trains were also decided in the backdrop of political gains and losses. In other words, the potential of infrastructure was not understood in a real sense. You would find these facts shocking, but it is true. Such issues might not have been highlighted by the journalists of Economic Times. Unfortunately, dams used to be built in our country, but there was no provision of the network of canals. Can you imagine no provision of lifts or staircases in a six-storey building? Can you imagine dams without canals? But probably, ET did not find it appropriate to report such issues at that time.
We had mines, but did not have connectivity to transport minerals. We had ports, but there were huge problems with railway and road connectivity. We had power plants, but transmission lines were not enough and those that existed were also in poor shape.
We stopped the practice of viewing infrastructure in silos, and re-imagined infrastructure building as a grand strategy. Today, highways are being built in India at a speed of 38 kms per day and more than 5 kms of rail lines are being laid every day. Our port capacity is going to reach 3000 MTPA in the next two years. As compared to 2014, the number of operational airports has increased from 74 to 147. About 3.5 lakh kilometers of rural roads have been built in these nine years. About 80,000 kilometers of national highways have been built. I am giving you the account of all these nine years. This needs to be re-emphasised because there are many people sitting here who ‘blackout’ it. In these nine years, three crore poor families have been given pucca houses. And this figure of three crore is so huge that many countries of the world do not even have such a population.
The first Metro train in India started in Kolkata in 1984. We had technology and expertise, but what happened in subsequent years? Most of the cities of the country remained deprived of Metro. Till 2014 i.e. before you gave me an opportunity to serve the country, new metro lines used to be built only around half a kilometer every month. Since 2014, the average length of laying metro network has increased to about six kilometers per month. India is now in the fifth position in the world in terms of metro route length. We are going to reach number three in the world in the next few months in this regard.
Today the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan is giving momentum to infrastructure building, and as Vineet ji said, we have combined both speed and power. This whole concept is giving speed and you can see the results. It is not limited to just the construction of railway lines or roads. When we think about ‘Gati’ (speed) and ‘Shakti’ (power), it also has the concept of area development and the development of the people there. Those who are interested in technology available on the GatiShakti platform would find this information very interesting. Today, our platform of GatiShakti has more than 1600 data layers of infrastructure mapping. And decision on any proposal goes through 1600 layers with the help of Artificial Intelligence. Be it our expressways or other infrastructure, today it has also been linked to Artificial Intelligence to decide the shortest and most efficient route. Let me give you an example of how development of an area and the people take place with the power of PM GatiShakti. On the basis of 1600 parameters, we can map the population density and availability of schools in any area. And rather than allotting schools only on the basis of political consideration, we can build schools where there is a need. In other words, the GatiShakti platform can also determine where mobile towers will be useful. This is the unique system that we have developed.
Another example of how we are re-imagining infrastructure is our aviation sector. Very few people present here would be aware that a huge airspace was restricted for defence for several years. As a result, airplanes used to take more time to reach any destination in India, because they could not fly in the airspace if it was restricted for defence. Therefore, the airplanes had to take longer routes. We discussed the issue with the armed forces to find a solution to this problem. Today 128 such air routes have been opened for civilian movement. As a result, the flight routes have become shorter which is saving time as well as fuel. I would share another statistic with you. This one decision has led to the reduction of about one lakh tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is the power of re-imagination.
Today, India has put a new model of development of physical and social infrastructure in front of the whole world. The combined example of this is our digital infrastructure. We have laid more than six lakh kilometers of optical fiber in the country in the last nine years. Mobile manufacturing units in the country have increased manifold in the last nine years. The rate of internet data in the country has decreased by 25 times in the same period. It is the cheapest in the world and what was the result? India used to contribute only two percent of the global mobile data traffic in 2012 before I formed my government, whereas the contribution of the western market was 75 per cent then. India had 21% share of global mobile data traffic in 2022, while North America and Europe have only one fourth share of global traffic. Today, 40 per cent of the world's real time digital payments take place in India. This is the reply to the people of those countries who used to question the capability of the poor people of India in making digital payments. Recently, someone sent me a video where a person was playing ‘dhol’ at a wedding party and a QR code was printed on it. And they were giving money to him with the help of QR code by rotating their mobile phones on the groom’s head. The people of India have rejected the thinking of such people in this era of re-imagination. Some people used to say how the poor could make digital payments during their speeches in the Parliament. They never had any idea of the power of the poor of my country, but I have.
Those who used to run the government in our country for a long time preferred the ‘mai-baap’ culture very much. Don’t confuse this with preferential treatment and nepotism. It was an altogether different culture. The government used to behave like a master among the citizens of its own country. The situation was such that no matter what the citizens of the country achieved, the government of the day used to look at him with suspicion. And whatever the citizen wanted to do, he had to take the permission of the government. As a result, there used to be an atmosphere of mutual distrust and suspicion between the government and the citizens in those times. I would like to remind one thing to the senior journalists sitting here. You will remember that there was a time when a license was required for TV and Radio too. Not only this, it had to be renewed again and again like a driving license. And this practice existed not in any one sector but in almost every sector. You know very well how difficult it was to do business then and how people used to get contracts then.
In the 90s, some old mistakes were rectified due to compulsion, and they were given the name of reforms, but this old mentality of ‘mai-baap’ culture did not end completely. After 2014, we re-imagined this ‘government first mentality’ towards ‘people first approach’. We worked on the principle of trusting our citizens. Be it self-attestation or eliminating the interview round for lower rank jobs, it is the computer which decides a job on the basis of merit. Be it decriminalizing small economic offenses or the Jan Vishwas Bill, collateral-free Mudra loans or the government itself becoming a guarantor for MSMEs, trusting the people has been our mantra in every such program and policy. Now the example of tax collections is also in front of us.
The country's gross tax revenue in 2013-14 was approximately Rs 11 lakh crore, whereas it is estimated to be more than Rs 33 lakh crore in 2023-24. That is, the gross tax revenue has increased by three times in a span of nine years. And this happened when we reduced the tax rates. We have not yet put our mind to Sameer ji's suggestion. On the other hand, we have reduced the tax rates. I'll focus on three things. Firstly, the number of taxpayers has increased. Now tell me who you will credit if the number of taxpayers has increased. Naturally, the credit will go to the government. In other words, it can also be said that now people are paying taxes more honestly. In this case too, the credit goes to the government. So the bottom line is that when the taxpayer feels that the tax paid by him will be used in the public interest, in the interest of the country, in public welfare, in the welfare of the country, then he comes forward to pay tax honestly. He is motivated to pay taxes. And this is what the country is witnessing today. Therefore, I express my gratitude to the taxpayers that they trust the honesty of the government and are coming forward to pay taxes to the government. It is simple that people trust you when you trust them. The change that is reflected in India's tax system today is because of this reason. It is due to this trust that we have simplified the process of tax returns. We came up with a faceless assessment. Let me give you another figure. The Income Tax Department has processed more than 6.5 crore returns this year. Out of these, about three crore returns have been processed within 24 hours. The rest of the returns were also processed within a few days, and the money of taxpayers was also refunded. Earlier, it used to take 90 days on an average to complete the refund process. And people's money used to lie with the government for 90 days. Today it is done in hours. This was unimaginable till a few years back. But this too has been made possible by the power of re-imagination.
Today, the world's prosperity is in India's prosperity, the world’s growth is in India's growth. India’s theme for the G-20 ‘One World, One Family, One Future’ has the solution to many challenges of the world. This world can become a better place only with common resolutions and protecting everyone's interest. There is unprecedented trust for India in this decade and the next 25 years. India will achieve its goals faster with everyone’s efforts. I would call upon all of you to get involved in India's development journey as much as possible. And when you join India's development journey, then India guarantees your development. This is the strength of India today. I am thankful to ET for inviting a person like me here. I may not get a place in the newspaper, but I find this space sometimes here. I was wondering if Vineet ji and Sameer ji would speak about re-imagination, but they did not touch on that topic at all. Maybe their editorial board would have decided this and would not have told the owners at all. Because it is the owners who decide what is to be printed. So maybe it would have happened like this. Well, along with these mixed emotions, I thank all of you very much.