IANS | 19 Aug, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an
interview that since India's independence, one of the biggest things
holding us back was corruption. Corruption spared no one, neither the rich nor
the poor, and we decided, right from day one, to attack the menace of corruption.
Excerpts of the interview…
You complete 75 days of your government
today. Every government passes through such milestone numbers and talks about
steps taken. Why should we think your government is any different?
Narendra Modi: We have set an unprecedented pace within just the
first few days of our government. What we have been able to achieve is the
result of ‘Spasht Neeti, Sahi Disha (Right Intentions, Clear Policy)’. In just
the first 75 days of our government, a lot has happened. From children’s safety
to Chandrayaan-II, from action against corruption to freeing Muslim women from
the scourge of triple talaq, from Kashmir to Kisan, we have shown what a
resolute government with a strong mandate of the people can achieve. We have
taken a headstart in tackling the most pressing issue of our times, with the
formation of Jal Shakti Ministry for a mission mode and integrated approach to
improve water supply and augment water conservation.
Did the unprecedented mandate help you
firm up your commitment to the people of India with an unstinting resolve that
reform has to percolate down? And you have used your political heft by going
beyond the executive and using the mandate in the legislature?
Narendra Modi: In a way, it is also the result of the government
coming back with a stronger mandate. What we were able to achieve in the first
75 days was the outcome of the robust base we were able to build in the last
five years. Hundreds of reforms in the last five years have ensured the country
is now ready to take off, powered by the aspirations of the people. The first session
of the 17th Lok Sabha has been a record-creating one – it was the most
productive session since 1952. This is not a minor achievement but, in my view,
a historic turn for the better and one which will make our Parliament much more
responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people. Many momentous
initiatives have been taken such as pension schemes for farmers and traders,
reform of the medical sector, important amendments in the Insolvency and
Bankruptcy code, beginning of labour reforms… I could go on and on. But the
gist of the matter is that when the intentions are right, there is clarity of
purpose and implementation, and there is people’s support, then there’s no
limit to what we can do.
There has been some noise on the medical
reforms front from various quarters. Do you think the changes you have brought
in are well thought through?
Narendra Modi: When we formed the government in 2014, there were
many concerns about the existing system of medical education. Earlier, courts
have used strong words for the institution overseeing medical education in
India, calling it a ‘den of corruption’. A parliamentary committee did rigorous
study and took a very dull view of the state of affairs in medical education.
It pointed out mismanagement, lack of transparency and arbitrariness. Earlier
governments too had given a thought to reforming this sector but could not go
through with it. We decided to go through with it because this is not a matter
that can be taken lightly, as it concerns the health of our people and future of
our youth. So, we set up an expert group to look into what is plaguing it. The
expert group studied the system carefully and brought out the problems and
improvement areas. It is based on the suggestions from experts that we came to
the current bill.
Why is there so much hullabaloo about the
Narendra Modi: The National Medical Commission is a far-reaching
reform in this space and seeks to correct the prevalent problems. It contains
multiple reforms that curb avenues of corruption and boost transparency. At a
time when nations are looking at India to power the next wave of growth in the
world, we realise that this can happen only with a healthy populace. Freeing
the poor from the vicious cycle of poverty that lack of health perpetuates is
very important. The NMC serves this purpose well too. It will ensure
transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education
in the country. It aims to lessen the burden on students, increase the number
of medical seats and reduce cost of medical education. This means more talented
youth can take up medicine as a profession and this will help us increase the
number of medical professionals. Ayushman Bharat is bringing about a revolution
in the healthcare sector. It is increasing awareness as well as affordability
of quality healthcare, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 towns.
We are also working to ensure that there is at
least one medical college between every 3 districts. With rising awareness
about healthcare, rising incomes and greater focus on aspirational goals among
people, we will need thousands and thousands of doctors to fulfil the demand,
especially in rural and rurban areas. The NMC seeks to address these issues for
a better outcome for all stakeholders. You must have also read that the academic
year 2019-20 will see the biggest addition of medical seats in government
colleges in a single year with the creation of around 2 dozen new government
medical colleges. Our roadmap is clear – a transparent, accessible and
affordable medical education system leading to better healthcare outcomes.
Education is critical for a young nation.
However, in the conversations surrounding your government, education seems
missing. What is the government doing on this?
Narendra Modi: Education is not just critical but the most
important component in the overall spectrum of skilled human resource for a
technology-oriented, inclusive, people-centric and people-driven growth model.
It not only has to the potential to positively transform lives but also has a
bearing on the future of the nation. We are working on all aspects of
education. At the school level, special focus is being paid to improving
quality of education, improving learning outcomes, giving a boost to innovation
and scientific temper, improving infrastructure, using technology to improve
understanding among the students. We are trying to leverage technology like
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning to improve school education. In
higher education, we are constantly striving to increase seats, increase
presence of premier institutions across the country, give more autonomy to
institutions, and while boosting research and innovation. We set up a Higher
Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an aim to provide funds upto Rs one lakh
crore by 2022. Rs 21,000 crore has already been sanctioned till now. 60 Higher
Educational Institutions, including 52 Universities have been granted autonomy.
These universities will remain within the ambit
of UGC but will have the freedom to start new courses, off campus centres,
skill development courses, research parks and any other new academic programs.
They will also have the freedom to hire foreign faculty, enrol foreign
students, give incentive-based emoluments to the faculty, enter into academic
collaborations and run open distance learning programmes. Progress has been
also made in taking forward the mission of National Education Policy. The first
draft of National Education Policy (NEP) got lakhs of inputs and suggestions
right from the block and panchayat level.
Looking at the response and the interest of
various stakeholders, the committee went for another round of consultations.
The latest draft of the Education Policy, drawn after such extensive
consultations, has again been put in the public domain for a final round of
inputs. All stakeholders in education – the states, parents, teachers,
students, counsellors, have been heard a multiple number of times. Our focus is
that the National Education Policy should be driven by educationists, experts
and stakeholders so that it does not remain a policy but is adopted in practice
at the earliest. India with its huge demographic dividend, has the potential to
become a leading knowledge economy in the world.
A couple of important decisions related
to corruption sent shock waves in the bureaucracy… what message were you
intending to send?
Narendra Modi: Since India’s independence, one of the biggest
things holding us back was corruption. Corruption spared no one, neither the
rich nor the poor. People resorted to corruption either due to some greed or to
make a quick buck or due to some compulsion. But even these people wanted
corruption to stop. The question in everyone’s mind was that who will start the
fight against corruption and from where. The fight against corruption always
had the support of people, media, institutions, because everyone agreed that
corruption was a major obstacle in India’s development journey. And this was
not only an issue related to money. Corruption eroded trust in the society, be it
a government office or the market. A person going to the police station would
think whether he will get justice and similarly a person buying something from
the market will fear adulteration.
We decided, right from day one, to attack the
menace of corruption. Someone had to make a start somewhere, we decided to do
this, without caring for political consequences. The results show that we are
succeeding. Not only is corruption coming down, but trust in society is
increasing. The number of people filing income tax returns almost doubled in
the last five years. We have systematically clamped down on corruption and made
tax filing and refund process online. Already, refunds are being credited
directly to bank accounts of income-tax payers, without any human intervention.
Going a few steps further, we aim to make
faceless assessment of income tax return a reality. This would be a
game-changer in ushering a new era of transparency in the tax system. We are
firm in our commitment that neither will we allow corruption nor will we
tolerate any form of undue harassment. Hence, we took tough steps and
compulsorily retired some tax officials in the last few weeks. In the previous
term also, hundreds of government officials were removed from service when
there were reasons to do so. We have also leveraged the power of technology
through DBT which has resulted in a savings of more than Rs 1.4 lakh crore.
Your decision on Article 370 has been
welcomed by many and also been opposed by a few. There seems to be an uneasy
calm at the moment. Why do you think the people of Jammu and Kashmir will stand
Narendra Modi: Please see the list of people who have opposed
the decisions about Kashmir the usual vested interest groups, political
dynasties, those who sympathise with terror and some friends in the Opposition.
The people of India, irrespective of what their political preference is, have
supported the steps taken in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This is about the
nation, not politics. The people of India are seeing that tough but essential
decisions that were earlier assumed to be impossible are becoming a reality. It
is now clear to everyone how Articles 370 and 35(A) fully isolated Jammu,
Kashmir and Ladakh. The status quo of seven long decades clearly could not
fulfil people’s aspirations. Citizens were kept away from the fruits of
development. The greatest casualty was the lack of any proper economic avenues
to increase earnings. Our approach is differentinstead of the vicious cycle of
poverty, the people need more economic opportunities.
What is your message for the people of
Jammu and Kashmir in the new dispensation?
Narendra Modi: For years, intimidation ruled the roost. Let us
now give development a chance. My sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and
Ladakh always wanted a better future for them but Article 370 did not enable
it. There was injustice against women and children, ST as well as SC
communities. And, most importantly, the innovative zeal of the people of Jammu,
Kashmir and Ladakh was not harnessed. Now, from BPOs to startups, from food processing
to tourism, many industries can avail investment and create opportunities for
the local youth.
Education and skill development will also bloom.
I want to clearly assure my sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh
that these regions will develop as per the wishes of local people, their dreams
and ambitions. The growth of these regions will first and foremost be powered
by those belonging to these regions. Articles 370 and 35(A) were like chains
that kept people tied.
These chains are now broken, people have
been unshackled from such dominance and they will now shape their own destiny.
Those who are opposing the decisions on Jammu and Kashmir should answer one
basic question- what is their defence for Articles 370 and 35(A) remaining?
They would have no answer to this question. And,
these are the same people who are used to protesting when it comes to anything
that helps common people. There is a project to provide water to people, they
will oppose it. There is a railway track being built, they will oppose that.
Their heart only beats for Maoists and terrorists who have only bullied common
citizens. Today, every Indian is fully standing with the people of Jammu,
Kashmir and Ladakh and I am confident they will stand with us in the aim to boost
development and bring peace.
But aren't there concerns about
democracy? Will the voice of the people of Kashmir be heard?
Narendra Modi: Kashmir has never witnessed such a strong
commitment in favour of democracy. Remember the turnout during the Panchayat
elections? The people voted in large numbers and did not get cowed down by
bullying. In November and December of 2018, there were 35,000 Sarpanches
elected and the turnout in the Panchayat elections was a record 74 percent.
There was no violence during the Panchayat elections. Not a drop of blood was
shed in poll violence. This, when the main parties there were lukewarm to this
It is very satisfying that now Panchayats are
back at the forefront of furthering development and human empowerment. Imagine,
for so many years those in power did not find it prudent to work towards
strengthening Panchayats. And remember, they gave great sermons on democracy
but the words never led to action. It surprised and saddened me that 73rd
Amendment did not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. How could such injustice be
tolerated? It was in the last few years that Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir
got more powers to work towards people’s progress and various subjects
transferred to Panchayats under the 73rd amendment were transferred to
Panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, I have requested the Honourable Governor to
work towards organising Block Panchayat elections too. Recently, the Jammu and
Kashmir administration did the ‘Back to Village’ programme, where the entire
government machinery went to the people instead of vice versa. They went just
to mitigate people’s problems. The common citizens appreciated the programme.
The results of these efforts are for all to see. Swachh Bharat, rural
electrification and other such initiatives are reaching the grassroots. This is
what democracy truly is.
In any case, I have assured people that elections
in Jammu, Kashmir will continue and it is the people of these regions only who
will represent the larger public. Yes, those who ruled Kashmir thinking it is
their divine right to do so will dislike democratisation and peddle incorrect
narratives. They do not want a self-made, younger leadership to emerge. These
are the same people whose own conduct in the 1987 elections has been suspect.
Article 370 has helped the local political class avoid transparency and
accountability. Its removal will only empower democracy even more.
You have appeared in Man Vs Wild. What
prompted you to appear in this very unconventional show for a politician?
Narendra Modi: Sometimes it is good to do something
unconventional to highlight a conventional cause. I believe that it is always a
good time to speak and act for the right cause. Every community, every state,
every country, every region has a cause dear to it. But I believe the cause of
environment conservation is larger than the sum total of all causes affecting
select groups of people. This affects every single human being, every single
herb and bush, every single animal on the planet today. It is a test of
humankind, of how fast and how effectively can we rise above our self interests
to think about global interest. India has a great tradition of living in
harmony with nature. Across the country, across states and cultures, various
aspects of nature are considered holy, automatically helping in its
preservation. This is in a way is a natural conservation mechanism inbuilt in
Our upbringing is such that we are trained to
co-exist with nature. We just need to remember these ideals. I think we are
also succeeding, as the recent released figures show an impressive increase in
the tiger population. The programme was a good medium to show India's flora and
fauna, along with its beauty and its richness to the world. India is blessed
with innumerable places for people who love nature, places rich in various
forms of vegetation, places rich with various forms of wildlife. The last five
years have seen an increase of almost 50 percent in terms of the foreign
tourist arrivals in our country. I am confident that with various initiatives
planned to boost infrastructure, connectivity and safety we will see even more
tourists coming in from across the world to experience the beauty of Incredible
How do you see the developments in Congress Party
where Sonia Gandhi became the President after Rahul Gandhi had publicly said
that he doesn’t want any Gandhi to get the role? What happened in the Congress party is an internal matter of their family. I
would not like to comment on it.
Narendra Modi: It was believed in 2014 that you would
not able to establish friendly relations with Gulf countries, but we have seen
that India's relations with the gulf countries have been improving since 2014.
Currently it may not be wrong to say that India's relations with Gulf countries
are the best now in the last 7 decades. How do you explain this?
I feel that there are two aspects to this. First,
a certain section of people believed that my government - and I personally -
would fail on the foreign policy front not just in the Gulf region, but also in
the wider context. The reality is that my government's successful track record
on foreign policy across the world is there for everyone to see. In fact, after
assuming office in 2014, the very first Foreign Minister my government received
on an official visit was that of the Sultanate of Oman. So, what others thought
of me, and what the reality turned out to be, is for them to introspect. I want
to focus on the second aspect instead - the importance of the Gulf region to
India. This is a region that has deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with
India. It is home to almost 9 million Indians whose remittances are a
significant contributor to our economy and they have also contributed immensely
to prosperity in the region. I have always found that leaders of the Gulf
countries value the enriching presence of the Indian diaspora and care for
their well-being like a guardian. This region is also our major partner in
ensuring our energy security. We have gone beyond a buyer-seller relationship
with them. UAE has participated in our strategic petroleum reserve programme,
and both UAE and Saudi Arabia are to invest in the world's largest oil refinery
project in India. For the first time, Indian companies have secured rights in
offshore oil fields in the Gulf region.
I have made a special effort to focus our foreign
policy on enhancing our ties with all countries in the region. Our outreach to
the region has been unprecedented, right from the official level to the
political level. I have myself visited the region many times, and we have also
hosted many leaders from the region in India. Some of my closest and warmest
interactions anywhere in the world are with leaders in the Gulf region. We are
regularly in touch. And, I think our policy has succeeded to a large extent
because of this outreach, this constant engagement. We have not allowed any
miscommunication, any doubts to play spoilsport. We have been very open with
all the countries, and they have also reciprocated with warmth and friendship.
I firmly believe that India and the Gulf countries have only begun to explore
the true potential of a partnership which will go far beyond mutual benefits
and can anchor peace, progress and prosperity not only in our common and
extended neighbourhood but also in the larger world.
During the 2019 elections, a lot of
people predicted that you may not get the majority. Some said that 2014 was a
Black Swan moment. While you were campaigning what was your inner self saying
and how confident were you of the victory?
Narendra Modi: There is a set of people, who because of their
prejudice, ideology or some sort commitment, invent logic to defeat people they
do not like. There is a time when the reality becomes evident on the ground,
but these people choose to rubbish the reality. They deploy lies and spurious
data to create confusion in the minds of people. It is these people who invent
theories like BJP will not get majority, BJP will form government but will need
a new leader, BJP will need newer allies, etc. These people also discredit
those who don’t toe their line. They have been caught again and again but their
behaviour remains the same. In our country, election analysis by this set of
people takes into account parties, potential alliances, glamour of families
based on decades old chemistry, but ignores people and their aspirations. In
2014 and 2019, people who chose to talk to people and understand their
preferences knew what was happening. As for us, we don’t work to win elections,
we work to win trust of people. Meeting sarkari targets alone don’t achieve
much if we do not win people’s trust.
"Sarkari Dhan se zyada Janta ke Man ki
Taakat hota hai" (People's views are more powerful than government's
money). We focus on the welfare of the people; election results are a
by-product. For the last 20 years, I have been actively involved in several
campaigns and there has not been one election where my defeat has not been
predicted. There are doom-Sayers and I wish them well. Talking specifically
about 2019, I can tell you that I was very confident about our electoral prospects.
This confidence stemmed out of the track record
of our government and the manner in which we have delivered on the agenda of
good governance and development. Wherever I went, I could see the groundswell
of support for the BJP and NDA family. The people had made up their
mindcorruption, nepotism, dynasty politics are not acceptable in 21st century
India. We live in the era of politics of development and performance, not
outdated rhetoric and tokenism. To give you an example- the Congress Party
spoke about NYAY Scheme. Perhaps it was the biggest ever pre-election promise,
but the people saw through such empty promises. They did not see the Congress
as having the honesty and capacity to deliver on such a scheme. No wonder those
who promised Rs 72,000 could not even manage 72 seats!