March 23, 2019

Speaking at a programme of FICCI’s Ladies Organisation in Hyderabad

But as I was saying in a programme earlier today in the morning, the media, all our friends from the media, journalists and eminent writers like Siri, are the chowkidars of any government. Because unless our work keeps getting monitored, how will the people of India be able to hold us accountable for the work that we are supposed to do. Thank you very much Siri for making it possible for giving me an opportunity to respond to all those questions.

Thank you Hiraji, I think your persistent efforts did get me here. And shows you the strength of a woman who decides that she has to do something and get something done, when I see the number of times she has made sure that I come to meet all of you, all the past chairs of FICCI FLO organisation, all the distinguished members of the FICCI Ladies Organisation, all the lesser half who have assembled here. And I didn’t know, but I have never been invited in any FICCI FLO organisation where the men were also there, you do? Okay, but that’s good. But I thought हमारा तो अस्तित्व ही ख़त्म हो गया आहिस्ते-आहिस्ते.

But great to interact with all the concerned citizens of Hyderabad, who were wanting to know more about the vision that our government has for India, the direction in which we have worked over the last five years and what we see for the nation in the years to come. Of course, I was just reading about FICCI FLO. It’s a 36-year old organisation, one loses track. I think many of you in this room may not even be 36 years old as I can see it. Well, it’s an organisation that is having a remarkable influence, both on public life and society and what better certificate can you have than the fact that Prime Minster Modi literally launched his 2014 campaign from a FICCI FLO event in Delhi, if I am not mistaken.

And that was a very successful programme. It was almost telecast all over the country and the enthusiasm of the women was to be seen to be believed. And probably, that’s where we got the first signs of a government coming into power with an absolute majority. As I said, once the women make up their mind, men have not got much choice behind them. And truly, we are grateful to all of you for the confidence you reposed in Prime Minister Modi, his party, his government for the involvement of FICCI as an organisation and the ladies’ wing in various initiatives of the government over the last five years.

And thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to interact with all of you. I will be happy to respond to any questions that you may also have. But it’s really great to see the theme that the chairperson has initiated this year – Infinite Possibilities. It actually resonates very well with our own thinking, because as you say, once you choose to think a little out-of-the-box, lots can happen. Then impossible is not a terminology we need to worry about, it’s only that we have got to open our mind, we have got to decide that we want to have some outcomes out of the work that we want to do. And it naturally opens up the frame of infinite possibilities.

And, truly, if you look at any of the government’s schemes in the last five years, almost all of them seemed near impossible when we started off. I remember very earlier on when the government had just come in, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister announced that we will electrify all the remaining villages in the country in a thousand days. My wife and I were sitting there at the Red Fort. I had no clue he is going to make that announcement and I was the Power Minister. And I am listening to it and clapping and my wife said, hey, it’s your job. He’s put you on the mat.

But that’s what the world of infinite possibilities opens up. So we got back home from the 15th August programme. And by the evening, my whole Power team, though it was a holiday, had assembled with ideas, with thoughts, what we are going to do? How we are going to do it? Probably, sitting here, it’s very difficult to imagine what those 18,452 villages that needed to be electrified were like. Some were in dense forests in Jharkhand, or Chhattisgarh, Naxal and Maoist infected areas. Some were at the top of mountains – not hills – mountains, with no road access, and the only way to carry every the poles, electric poles, was either on the shoulder of men or on the mules or whatever form of transport one could take to the villages.

I have actually had an instance where while taking electricity to a village, some of our engineers got kidnapped by the Maoists, who didn’t want development to reach there and took us 10 days or 8 days of persuasion to get them out. But these were the 18,452 villages which had never seen electricity in their lives – 70 years after independence, nearly 70 years. Obviously, they were difficult otherwise they wouldn’t have remained unnelectrified for so long. But you have got to open up your mind that it’s possible to take it there, and it’s possible to take it there in a defined time frame, and one would not take failure as an option.

And I am glad, of course, the final villages got completed after I had left the Power Ministry, the last I think 200-300 villages of that got completed, or 400 villages got completed after I had left. But every action that we took was reported real time to the people of India with mobile apps giving out data minute to minute of what we are doing, what’s happening, photographs, which villages are getting electrified. And we had the people of India and the press monitoring the work.

I can share a small example, if I am a little long, is it okay? One day a newspaper article came in the Times of India in Jaipur. There are a lot of people in Rajasthan I can see, including you originally. A Jaipur Times of India report which said three villages that are being written in my app, I had an app called GARV (Gramin Vidyutikaran), village electrification. In the GARV app, we were reporting whatever was going on. They said these three villages just don’t exist, so how does the app show that it is electrified. Now, obviously, the central government works through the state governments in the power sector, so we got the report from the states. I immediately checked our records; it was all reported to have got electricity.

So we sent teams out to those three villages, and guess what we found? We found those three villages done just don’t exist. Because the water table had gone so much below the ground, people had left those villages. There was nobody living there. Now, some super smart officer there at the state level must have said if there’s nobody, it’s as good as the village is electrified. And he reported it.

But that was a learning for us. Learning because you guys were doing monitoring what work we are doing. The press was monitoring our work. We immediately checked all 18,452 then with this information, and we found two things. We had about 900 such villages on that list, which just didn’t exist. And we had a thousand more which were not on that list but did have electricity, right?

So, look, two good things came out of it. I would have otherwise, as central government paid for electrification of those 900 villages, so there would have been some corruption somewhere which got saved. And that same money, we could use to those thousand villages which would otherwise have remained unnelectrified with electricity. Thanks to that journalist, a little article in the Times of India. And by the way, this is a story I have said on many occasions. I have felicitated the Times of India and that journalist for the good work that they did and I am proud that the media is playing that role of chowkidar on us.

In fact, I just came out with a railway app, called Drishti, in that I have given out all the information of the railway without leaving anything secret. Now you don’t need to do an RTI to get any information of railways. It’s all on that app and you can put it on your mobile phone, and if it’s not there, if you inform me I am happy to put some more information on it, no problem. There is no storage limitation.

One of the things in that, and I think maybe sometime some of you may be going by train, I don’t know. I hope so. You do? Okay, great. So, one complaint has always been catering on the trains. Over a period of time, they gave out all these catering contracts to outsiders. So much as we always believe the private sector does a great job and we bash the public sector all the time. This is a reverse case. The private sector has messed it up, mired in corruption and given bad quality food to my train passengers. We are, in fact, now taking it back into the railways, so that we can give the same food that some of us relatively middle aged people in this room will remember in the good old journeys of the trains where you used to get nice toast, butter, tea in that proper, either a flask or in that stainless steel pearl utensil or whatever.

There was a joy to having a meal on the train once upon a time. It doesn’t exist anymore. I want to get it back into the railways. So what did I do? I got cameras put on all the kitchens of the railways. The IRCTC has started having some kitchens and we are trying to reverse back that we will prepare food for the consumers. We put cameras all around, packing area, vegetable cutting area, where the ovens are, where the chapatis are made. And you can actually go on your app and look up those kitchens. Now when the data was being prepared in the test runs. We have media here, मैं अपने पांव पर कुल्हाड़ी मार रहा हूँ. But there was actually a small insect which was visible on that camera. You zoom in so you can get a real close up picture.

So my staff and suggested, ‘sir, I think let’s leave these live feed out of the Drishti app, why because they said if any of this gets reported then the media will have a heyday, twitter will all be abuzz and I will trend for all the wrong reasons.’ And I said, no, this has only reinforced the fact that we must put it on live for the people to say, because that’s the best way our officers and all of us will improve. If once or twice this thing gets reported, we will all become far more responsible, and hopefully, our passengers won’t have to have bad food. And we put in on. And I believe we have already had one twitter story going around on similar lines, but no harm in that. Accountability and being available for scrutiny is what good governance is all about. And once you are willing to accept that challenge, then again it opens up infinite possibilities for improvement.

So what are we planning now? The meal that you get is going to have a barcode. You can put your smartphone on it, click and it will take you straight to the kitchen from where that food got packed and came. And it will have a date and time on it. Simple thing, not done for 160 years in the railways. But are we going to live in that 160-year heritage and history of the railways, or are we going to go for the new possibilities? That’s the challenge before all of us.

And everyone of our programmes, I remember when we launched the LED programme. We decided we will change all the incandescent bulbs, you know those 60-90 watt bulbs we all used to use in our homes. We decided all of that should be replaced by LED bulbs. But those LEDs were quite expensive when we came in, in 2014. Some of you may remember buying it for Rs 500-600. The government was buying it at Rs 310, plus taxes, pending on distribution, marketing, what not? We had a government company doing it.

When we studied the project, we realised that instead of 60 and 90 watts or 100 watts, the same lumination is available with 7 watts. And if you go for a 9 watt bulb, then it gives you additional 30% more lumination. So let’s make an ambitious programme. We said we will replace 77 crore that was the estimated number of incandescent bulbs that were being sold in the country. So we said we will replace 77 crores in four and a half years. I launched it on 5th January 2015, we had four and a half years more of government. So we said 77 crore bulbs will be replaced by LEDs. And I gave my officers the target; this price should be double digit.

And I got all industry, is there anybody from the electrical industry or any of this industry here? So you know how the LED story has moved, right? So I got all the industry guys to come in and sit with me and understand what their problems were, and sorted out all their problems. One of which you will like. They said we get paid over five years. They said the bulb has a five year life, so we will pay you over five years. Now, which businessman is going to trust his money in the government for five years?

Just that one change. I said we will pay you on the 30th day by RTGS into your bank account. You don’t have to go to anybody’s office to get your cheque, because that’s another way to do corruption. Money is guaranteed 30th day into your bank account. Can you believe how much the price reduced just by this once change – five-year payment reduced to a – five year they were giving annually 20% payment. I said instead of that, take a 10% bank guarantee for quality and pay on the 30th day. Government borrows at 7-8%, it’s not very expensive. Rs 60 got reduced because of that in the bulb, just by this small change.

Total e-procurement, all corruption out. If anybody has ever had to pay a single rupee for selling an LED bulb to the government, please do tell me at the end of this session, somebody will lose his job or go to jail. But we were able to bring down the cost of government from Rs 310+++, to Rs 38. That’s an 87% reduction. It’s a possibility which nobody was willing to accept. When I said double digit, they were not willing to even think of 99, forget 38. But you do honest procurement, you procure to scale, don’t discriminate, don’t try to give your brothers and sisters and friends the order, but let everybody participate equally, it opens up infinite possibilities, as you have taken up that theme.

And by the way, the Rs 38 bulb came from Phillips, the world’s largest lighting company, and instead of a 7 watt bulb that we were buying at Rs 310, this was a 9 watt bulb – 30% more lumination. And you will be amazed, this country today – and four and a half years are not over since then, they will get over in June – this country has replaced 140 crore LED bulbs so far already. Total amount spend in replacing these bulbs is under $2 billion – less than Rs 14,000 crore. The annual saving in your electricity bills, and you look up your bills at home if you have changed to all LED, look up your factory or office bills. The saving of the nation, and I am taking the saving only at Rs 4 average cost in commercial and rich people’s residential it’s Rs 8 and 10 and 12. I have taken Rs 4 because even farmers are changing, the poor people are changing, everybody is changing.

At Rs 4 per kwh per unit, the saving is 50,000 crores every year in electricity bills. Spending Rs 14,000 crore one time, bulbs have a 5 to 7 year life, the nation is saving Rs 50,000 crore. And for those of you interested in climate change, we have reduced the carbon dioxide emission by over 80 million tonnes per year, because that much less coal-based power we are generating. And the peak load during evening hours and morning hours, मॉर्निंग में तो इतना नहीं लगता है but I believe it must be the evening hours, has reduced by 20,000 MW. So country need not invest one and a half lakh crore more on new power plants to meet that peak load.

Look at the multi-dimensional benefits, not one programme can give to the nation and to the people of India. That’s what infinite possibilities are all about. And everyone of that – Ujjwala, now look all of you have or your ancestors had boarded a train as they say, sometime or the other and didn’t get left behind like KareenaKapoor in Jab We Met. And thanks to that, we don’t know what cooking with wood and coal is anymore. We all have cooking gas in our homes, LPG cylinders or piped gas.

But for those seven crore poor women, our mothers and sisters, who are still cooking with wood and coal, inhaling 400 cigarettes every day. And their children are also studying there with a kerosene lamp which hardly gives any light messing up their eyesight and their lungs and their lives. Look at the transformation that the lives of these 7 crore poor families has undergone with a free cooking gas connection. And don’t believe any of the fake propaganda that says, oh, but they don’t buy the LPG refills. It’s all computer controlled, it’s all computer data. So you are monitoring and seeing how people are engaging and buying those cylinders and with what periodicity. And it’s an extremely satisfying result that we find that people are using in a large way.

It’s possible you may find a few cases who may not be using that LPG connection that we have given free of charge to 7 crore women, 7 crore 10 lakhs now. But again that’s the myopic thinking of some people, including some media anchors who will take a mike and shove it up somebody’s throat and say ‘tell me, tell me, you are not using LPG cylinders that Mr Modi has given you. Tell me you can’t afford it, somehow tell me that.’ And then the poor lady is saying, but I am using LPG cylinders. ‘No, but you are not using it all the time.’ But I am using it most of the time. Ahaaa, you are using it most of the time.

What is his tagline? No, that’s not Arnab. His tagline is ‘My Take’. Am not taking any names here. ‘My Take’ on the subject, some of you who follow television may have figured out whom I am referring to – who go to Madison Square and shove camera into people’s mouths and say ‘aren’t you unhappy that Modi has become the Prime Minister of this country?’ In New York!

In fact, in one of their programmes, I actually picked up a piece of paper. I threw it on the ground. And I said यार यह स्वछता तो इस रूम में अच्छी नहीं है।I said, I am going to go back and say you guys organize this programme but स्वछता अच्छी नहीं थी।Because that’s what they will do. You try to make the nation clean. Of course, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.

In the railways, I tried to clean up the tracks in Mumbai. We took out 75,000 cubic metres of muck, some of which accumulated for decades. We had to have shovels, JCB tractors taking out that muck along the tracks. सालों साल की गंदगी अगर इतनी जल्दी साफ़ हो सकती थी तो देश का पता नहीं इतना बुरा हाल ही नहीं होता in the first instance. But then they will go looking for some place where they can find some muck and say ‘but Modi has failed to make India clean.’

That’s the mindset that we have to move out of. And that’s what infinite possibilities are all about. The confidence that we can do it. The confidence that we are going to work towards making a difference, to making a change, to making a better India. That I am going to participate in this changing story. That I am going to not be a mute spectator, but be involved because unless I get involved, unless I am the person who participates in making a difference to the lives of the people of India, I lose the authority or the right to criticize.

In fact, I do hope all of you are going to certainly make it a point to go and vote. I think Hyderabad goes to polls on the 11th April. I hope it’s not a Monday or a Friday. No, it’s a Thursday, so please don’t take a Friday off and go to Singapore or Hong Kong or even to the nearest hill station. Please do go and vote, because your vote matters and unless you vote you lose the right to criticize. Because then you get a government that I believe you didn’t deserve in the first place, but you brought it to yourself.

And if you all participate, like you did in 2014. We saw the highest voting percentage in 2014, then you get a good government which is working towards a better tomorrow for you, your families, which works towards a vision, which works with commitment, with honesty, which gives leadership, a strong leadership to both development and the nation’s security. Even I believe, this election is all about a better future for our youth, for the people of India, a safer country for all of us to live in, an honest country where the mindset of the nation changes to a mindset of honesty, a mindset where the ‘chalta hai’ attitude is thrown out of the window. जुगाड़ से देश नहीं चलेगा। We won’t say whether there is a Rail Minister or no Rail Minister, 12,000 trains will start every day.

But we will hold people accountable. We will demand the very best. We will participate to get the very best and never believe anything is impossible, just like I saw in the certificate that you just gave me that you have taken up women’s menstrual healthcare and hygiene as a subject. I am really very happy to hear that. In fact, it’s an area of serious concern. We even removed the GST on that about a year ago. We are trying to make that available at very affordable costs across the country in the Jan Aushadhi stores that’s the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Pariyojana (PMBJP). Under that yojana, we are making sanitary pads available for the women in the villages at a very affordable price. I think they are also packs of three, at probably 10 bucks. My own sense is, just like we did in the LEDs, if you all of you participate wholeheartedly, we can bring down sanitary pads of good quality to Rs 1 a pad. And at that price point, my sense is we will not have a single women deprived of sanitary pads in this country.

And I think I would be happy to participate in any programme that you all take up to encourage more and more women, particularly of good means to work towards taking this project to the villages of India, to the poor of India, to the slums in our cities. And make it a mission, maybe FLO can make it a mission that in the next, say thousand days, since that was the power time I got for the villages – in the next thousand days, can we ensure that not a single women who requires sanitary pads is ever deprived of this facility. So that no girl child ever has to leave school and not pursue education for lack adequate hygiene equipment or healthcare facilities.

And to my mind, amongst the many things that we have done for a better dignity of our mothers and sisters, this should be the next step that we take up. From the government we would give you full wholehearted support in every and every which way that we can to make this mission successful. We have a lady IAF officer in Ghaziabad, called Ritu Maheshwari. She used to be in the Power Ministry with me earlier. I had gone for a Delhi Public School programme in Ghaziabad, and I had thrown her this challenge to take it up in Ghaziabad as a pilot to see how she can ensure that not a single women in her charge, in her district ever is deprived of sanitary pads. And I don’t know, maybe one of you can check with her. My office boy can put you in touch with her, give you her number, see what success she has had so far, learn from experiences.

But truly, it will be a holistic plan. You will have to educate the women. I don’t know how many of you saw that movie, what was that? Padman? You have? So, it really is something we should not allow any women to have to face this kind of ignominy in this country. And if we can take this as a national mission, the government will be willing to come forward and participate with all of you. This government stands for the dignity of women, for the empowerment of women. And when I read out the interim budget earlier on in February, the 9th dimension of that vision was based on women’s right.

And I will just quote one line from there – ‘A healthy India built with the participation of women having equal rights and concern for their safety and empowerment.’ And I think there can be no better project than the one you have undertaken, which will encapsulate this entire vision and can become an element of this vision where there is talk of participation of women – Janbhagidaari. There is talk of equal rights. Should the poor women in the village or in the slum be deprived of this facility? Certainly not. Equal rights, concern for their safety, which includes health concern and empowerment, because every girl child who is saved from dropping out of school or college, thanks to this effort that all of us together can do will empower one more girl child in this country, will save one more future. Because as they say, when you empower a women you don’t empower only the women, you don’t empower only the family, but you empower generations. And that’s what I believe in a small humble way Prime Minister Modi and this government have tried to do. I invite all of you to be a part of that change, so that you can be a part of the change that you want to see in the world.

Thank you very much.


Panel interaction

Sir, thank you so much for the wonderful, very positive sense of what’s been accomplished, and the deeper sense of the belief in possibilities that enabled these as first two steps. Since you have covered most of the positive, I will try and cover a set of things we could not. The Bharatiya Janata Party under Shri Narendra Modi, going into the elections of 2019 must be the only instance in not Indian politics, but world politics, where your entire campaign has been drawn from a slur thrown at you by the opposition. It was ‘Chaiwala’ in 2014. It’s Chowkidar Piyush Goyal I am asking this question to for 2019. After the elections are over, do you remember to send thank you cards to the Congress party?

A. Well, in the budget, I did thank all the honest taxpayers, but probably, that may not have applied to many of the members of that party. But, yeah, that’s true. It’s very unfortunate that they have taken politics down to such a low level that based on fake figment of imagination theories they try to make allegations where none exist. And, to my mind, the people of India I am doing a lot of these surveys these days. It’s a part of my duties for the party, and none of this is resonating with the common man.

In fact, the common man today feels safe and secure with Prime Minister Modi as a chowkidar to protect the borders of India. The common man feels safe with you as a chowkidar, keeping a check on the work of everybody, whether in government or the opposition. The common man feels safe in the care of our women who make sure that our children study well, have some good moral values, who grow up to be good children.

Now certainly, all of us mothers here have brought up our children in the best possible way. We have inculcated the best values, and every mother desires that. But it doesn’t mean that there will not be some wayward elements, even from amongst good families, and everywhere. Of course, some children remain under-developed all their life even when they are close to 50 years old. Now you can’t blame the mother for that. It’s like that small piece of kachra that I threw.

Now we are trying to change the thinking of the country towards the swachhabharat, but if there is still somebody who chooses to throw a piece of garbage, will you slap him or will you say कि बेटा, अगली बार मत फेंकना ऐसे, कोई बच्चा गलती करता है तो आप क्या बोलते हो उसको – सिखाने की कोशिश करते हो, कॉउंसिल करते हो, मौका देते हो। तो हम भी सिखाने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं कभी न कभी समझ आ जाएगी।

Q.  One of the viewpoints leading to this election has been that whatever be the Congress strategy to talk about chowkidar or not, or Rafale or not, the Modi government should have been quizzed and tested on what some people feel should have been the area of the maximum rigorous interrogation of the government, performance of the economy. I must confess, my father was in Indian railways. I had studied in a railway school. I must tell you this good news. Recently, I was on a train, there was some problem with the water in the bathroom, and somebody said अगले स्टेशन पर ठीक नहीं किया तो मैं ट्वीट कर दूंगा।

So, no longer are people saying मेरे को जनरल मैनेजर .. ट्वीट कर दूंगा। So, yes there is a sense of transformation in some areas. The question that everybody wants to ask you, and you, the second ranker in what is considered as the toughest exam in the world. Being a chartered accountant in India is one of the toughest. You acted in between for a specific…..Minister, Finance in this country, you presented an interim budget, you know business, micro and macro-economics. How has your government fared in economics? Have you done satisfactory jobs, next five years then threats come not from investment cycles alone, but things like robotic manufacturing, artificial intelligence. Are we even having a conversation on where the next million sets of jobs will come from?

A. Well, first of all, most people in this room would have some business background, being part of FICCI. Look back to 2014, India was called a Fragile-5 economy, amongst the weakest economies. We were not sure whether we would even get a credit downgrade. Inflation during the last five years of the congress 2009-14 averaged over 10%, so in few years it went up to 12 and 13% inflation. You may remember dals at 260 bucks a kilo. I don’t think it’s anywhere, probably, one-third that price today, Rs 100. I thought it was more like 80. I am also monitoring madam.

Fiscal deficit was taken up to 6.5% in the congress government. When we came into power also, it was above 4.5%. Fiscal deficit is basically government over-spending, more than it earns it spends, so it borrows, and that borrowing our children will have to repay, mind you. It’s like we guys borrowing, splurging it in a casino or wherever and then hoping our children will pay those debts, or like in the old days hoping that it’s the bank’s responsibility. We had borrowed money, now we are not required to repay. They didn’t know that Mr Modi will come into government and force the richest of people if they don’t pay their loan back to repay the bank.

एक ज़माना ऐसा ही था ना? Small borrower used to have the pressure of repaying. If there’s any small-scale industrialist, he knows here what the pressure of repaying  the bank, the bank manager will even reach your home. But a fellow who borrowed 50,000 and one lakh crores used to only roam around in private jets, because he never had any problem. Banks never would go after them, it was the bank’s problem to handle their accounts. They never thought the pressure they will have to repay, now they will have to repay. No more preferential treatment to anybody, which is why they are running like rats from this country and then we have to follow them with rat traps and bring them back.

Then, take any other figure. Current account deficit was at about 4% at that time? Growth had started falling, and even the growth now we realise in that period was on the back of a massive credit expansion. So if you start from the banks giving money out indiscriminately. Suppose each one in this room is given a 100 crores, that’s about a lakh and 50,000 crores if I judge the number of the people in this room right – no, about 15,000 crores. 150 people, 100 crores each – 15,000 crores. That 15,000 crores if they splurge in the economy or if they buy equipment that they never needed in the first place, create capacities that are more than the demand. That 15,000 being spent is going to give a bump to the economic growth number. But it’s going to be a liability that will someday come home to roost and you have to pay back, at that time it will just collapse the growth numbers.

So we had an artificial growth for three-four years when they pump primed the economy with high fiscal deficits and expansion of bank credit. And then we inherited an economy which was one of the worst in the world. And look at our position today, the world’s fastest growing large economy. We are all proud of that, I am sure. Lowest inflation – the inflation is down to 2.5% last month. The average of four and a half years is about four and a quarter percent or so – four and a quarter against 10% in the last five years that the congress was there. Fiscal deficit is down to 3.3-3.4%. Current account deficit will be about 2%, from 4% plus that we inherited.

Every single parameter, the Indian economy today is standing strong. The world is looking up to us. And I think on the economy is one area where we have outshone every other country, including China. The entire world now is aspiring to be a part of the India growth story. We are getting large amounts of FDI, highest FDI in the last five years in any comparable period. Our forex reserves are at the highest ever, and the $300 to $400 billion growth is not on the back of an external debt on the country.

What the congress did is they increased their forex reserves, but by only borrowing more money. The BJP government has increased the forex reserves, not by borrowing, but by actual investment into the economy. I said it one of the India Today or AajTak shows I think, or Conclaves that happen quite often that our forex debt and our forex reserve, the ratio has increased, significantly improved in the last five years. So these are very technical issues.

Q. But you are saying the growth is more sustainable, the foundations are stronger. I will still like to take you back to just two specific pointers. Vis-à-vis NPAs, how strong are our banks, what about jobs?

A. First of all about NPAs, our banks are what they always were. Only we have shown them a mirror. Earlier, many people here would have also experienced the same thing – your account went bad, you would reschedule it. Went bad a second time, we will reschedule it a second time. Very often, if you are more influential you will take a fresh loan and repay the whole loan, that’s called ever-greening. And the real picture of so many large accounts, corporates were never known to the people at large. So there was a thing called stressed accounts, stressed accounts were those which were rescheduled. So while the NPA number was about 3% in 2014, the stressed accounts were 6%. Today, there is no stressed account because we have declared all those stressed accounts for what they were worth, either they have repaid the loan and become alright or they have gone into the NPA.

Ultimately, the bad banking story is not of our making. We didn’t give any of these loans which are today in stress or NPA. In fact, bank credit in the last four years has not grown at all compared to the last 6-7 years, from 2008 to 2014. Are you aware, 2008 to 2014  the public sector banks’ credit increased from 18 lakh crores to 52 lakh crores – three times in only six years. Is that anywhere resonating the growth numbers? But it was an artificial credit flow in the economy, which people thought we will never have to repay. And, therefore, indiscriminately they spent on projects which never were required, on over-invoicing, transferring money out of India, all of that is coming home to roost. That is why you get a lot of people quite concerned, oh there is a problem and the economy is not doing well. These are the naysayers who have had to bear the brunt of an honest economy. They were not used to this level of honesty.

I will tell you Siri my own feeling is that India and all Indians basically are honest, basically we don’t want to do some of the things we have been forced to do for so many years. Most people in this room would love it if they didn’t have to pay a bribe, I believe so. Most people in this room would love it if they didn’t have to do two sets of books, in Marwadi we say ‘Bahikhaata’. एक कच्चा एक पक्का बहीखाता. Correct? You don’t want to do that, right? And you know, whenever there is a new law which is tightening the screws a little bit, and put in the front to engage with industry. So we introduced excise duty on coal and jewellery and all that, right? There was a lot of consternation, jewellers went on strike. Any jewellers here, please pardon me. There went on strike and all of that. So I was required to engage with them.

When the textile industry we brought GST for the first time, there was chaos, they were ready to …. We could have lost a couple of elections on that. But they made me talk to everybody. I promise you ladies and gentlemen, everyone of my engagements, I am a blunt speaking fellow. Those, Prakash Kundalya knows me, some people here have seen me or heard me before. I speak my mind, I don’t mince words. Not always the right thing for a politician, but as Raghuram Rajan, the famous RBI Governor said ‘I am who I am.’ I can borrow from him a little bit, much as I disagree with his policies.

But the reality was that the older people, or the middle-aged people were used to a certain way of working. I would find that they had a little concern, यार यह नई मुसीबत, टैक्स आ गया यह वह।  So I would never find them very enthusiastic, but the youngsters in the room would cheer like anything, no youngster wants to go down the path that his forefathers were forced to go down. They want change. They want an honest economy. They want to do things, live a happy life, go to office, do your work, enjoy doing your work, never be fearsome of who the hell comes, which inspector, anybody comes, no problem, I am clean. Finish work, go and party, party hard, party till late night – if the mothers allow it. Come back home, sleep a peaceful night and not be worried that next morning when you wake up, there will be a white ambassador car outside your house or your factory with a round circle behind it. I don’t need to say what that circle says, right?

So, nobody wants that. We want an honest country and that is the basic DNA of this country. दुर्भाग्य से परिस्थितियों ने देश को एक गलत रस्ते पर डाल दिया।I entirely believe that we are the victim – most of us, there will be a few black sheep – most Indians are a victim of bad policy. They are a victim of circumstances that if eight people were tax evasion, or rather eight people were doing honest business, but if one black sheep came in the marketplace and his products became cheaper and no action was taken. Those eight had no choice but to join them to remain competitive or to shut shop and go back to the village. And that is how gradually this nation went down the wrong path. If we act on that one person, then these eight will also be allowed to work in peace and do an honest day’s job and that’s what we are trying.

Q. I have one question. This government has changed the definition of defence, from crossing the LoC, actually getting into the international border. Sir, were you expecting any international backlashes, were you expecting the support that you got from the citizens, and the support you didn’t get from the opposition?

A. Well, as regards crossing the LoC, there is a point of time in life when all of us say enough is enough. I mean if 40 of our jawans are going to get butchered, murdered like this by terrorists, this nation cannot be sitting, like Mr Sam Pitroda would like you to believe. I mean, clearly, I come from Mumbai. I don’t know if any of you was there in Mumbai when 26/11, 2008, when those terrorists stuck Mumbai – three days of mayhem, right? And what does MrPitroda say? Eight people did something!

Now, I can’t believe that’s the mindset of some people. I don’t know if there is a law by which you can send them back to America. वैसे तो even he may not be welcomed there also. At the end of his interview, he has even brought Trump into the picture and derided Trump also. I mean, in the nation you don’t deride other countries’ duly elected leaders. You like him or you don’t like him. As public servants and he is a chairman of the manifesto committee of the grand old party, only problem is the ‘grand’ is disappearing, the ‘party’ is disappearing, and even the ‘old’ are disappearing, actually what’s left?

But the fact of life is we will not tolerate anything. If the terrorists think that they can come to India and get away with it like this, this government will not tolerate it. We have full support of 130 crore Indians and we have full faith, and they have full faith in Prime Minister Modi to protect this country. As regards the international community, it’s the first time that India got the kind of support it did from the international community that’s thanks to five years of painstaking relentless outreach and relationship building.

Some of the same leaders who even opposed this anti-terrorist strikes at Balakot and the surgical strikes, they used to make fun of Prime Minister Modi’s outreach to foreign leaders, the relationship building and all of that. Ask them, would they have rather had that the OIC castigates India and invites Pakistan, or are they now not happy that even the Organisation of Islamic Countries chose to have India as a guest of honor, even though Pakistan boycotted it. That is today India’s strength in the world and that strength hasn’t come from Mr Modi alone, it comes from all of you. He is a representative of 130 crore Indians. And everybody who meets him, all world leaders recognize your strength. And it’s your strength that there was this international support that almost the entire world stood by India, even though we had crossed the Line of Control.

Q. The question I would like to ask, this has clearly been communicated to Pakistan that the next cost of terror will be much-much heavier. In some sense, can Indians say, by and large, unless the nation that’s our neighbour is suicidal, is Pulwama the last attack?

A. You know, in every field there will always be some black sheep, including journalists, including politicians, correct? Now if you indoctrinate a set of people and that indoctrinated person is willing to give up his life, then it’s nothing to do with Pulwama being the last thing or whether you can eliminate anything whatsoever. Can you guarantee me that after some of the journalists who used to once upon a time decide who will become a Minister, what portfolio a particular Minister will get. You remember those states, right? There was a time when journalists used to decide cabinets, not Prime Ministers. Now, can you guarantee that that will never happen again?

It’s like that kachra that I showed you. Prime Minister Modi is trying to clean the nation, so if somebody asks him, are you guaranteeing कि आज के बाद कोई व्यक्ति बाहर शौच करने नहीं जाएगा, तो उसका गारंटी कैसे ले सकते हैं। हम उस को पकड़कर जेल में तो नहीं डाल सकते।

Q. But the price will be terrible?

A. Price that a person who does terror will be absolutely tough. Of course, a suicide bomber is gone, but for his handlers and for all those who support him, and you can see, one after the other our intelligence agencies are catching all the people in this and nobody will be spared that I can assure you. Just on a lighter note, मज़ेदार बात क्या है प्रेस की, not you, प्रेस की, कि अभी इस का ट्विस्ट क्या आएगा, इस स्टेटमेंट और इस आंसर का ट्विस्ट कैसे आता है। Maybe one day, I will also become a journalist, I started thinking like one. ट्विस्ट यह आएगा, ‘Mr Goyal is saying there will be another attack.’ Because I have not said, I am guaranteeing there will not be another attack.

So, this is not the way to look at things. It’s again about infinite possibilities. If all of us decide, we can eliminate corruption. If all of us decide, no terror act can happen. There are rules. You give out a house on rent, you are supposed to follow a set of rules. You see some suspicious object, you are supposed to follow a set of rules. But if we are complicit, or we are careless and something like that happens, I think instead of just blaming it on one or the other or crying about that we will have to become more and more conscious of our duties. We will all have to participate, because as I said earlier also, without people’s participation nobody can really achieve the kind of extraordinary results that are possible.

I think everybody in this room must have given up gas subsidy. You gave up that gas subsidy voluntarily, nobody forced you. But a poor lady got a gas connection, thanks to you giving it up. So, हम सबके collective effort से यह देश आगे बढ़ेगा।

Q. So, the next thing I would like to ask you is because of the transformation that you are talking about, you are talking about prospects of coming back to power. All this hinges on the kind of leadership MrNarendra Modi has brought in. You havehad the privilege, one of working closely with …. But you have also seen many-many leaders before come from a family of illustrious political lineage. Give us a sense, and I suspect all of them want to get a feel of it of what is it about him you are seeing that makes it so easy for him to take the kind of risks no one else can. Or somebody told me that when they got Mr Modi and speak of an idea and say इससे इलेक्शन जीतेंगे, he said don’t bother about election, idea अच्छा है we will do it, don’t bother about election. Give us a sense of why is it that he can do something like the demonetization, the GST before elections or a triple talaq or the reservations for the economically backward classes and Balakot or Uri before that, why isn’t he afraid of losing elections?

A. See that’s a very good question and actually that’s what makes you different from the rest of the journalists and really a good question, because – I hope you don’t misunderstand me. As you rightly said, I have worked with at least eight party presidents already. I have worked very closely with Atalji who was like a family member for me. And we have all had illustrious leaders, all of whom contributed to the shaping of a karyakarta or for party man like me in some form or the other. But the last four and a half/five years have been truly phenomenal, and in some sense, very different from the past.

For example, I will share one trait of Prime Minister Modi which is unique, and it’s absolutely contrarian to mine – he is a very good listener. He doesn’t talk too much. So, if I have a one hour meeting with him, general ratio would be that 55 minutes I would talk and 5 minutes he would talk. Very good listener, absorbs whatever you are saying. Sometimes you are repetitive or you are boring, but he doesn’t stop you. He lets you talk.

Of course, on a lighter note, on my first birthday after I had become a Minister, I was trying to take a day off with my wife. We were driving towards the airport and he called to wish me early morning. नया-नया मंत्री बना था तो Prime Ministers call, so I parked the car at the side, should not be a call-drop. He wished me and he said, ‘और आज एक चीज़ बोल रहा हूँ, कम बोलो।’ मुझे समझ ही नहीं आया in my nervousness, I didn’t realize it. सर मैं समझा नहीं? ‘अरे भैया कम बोलो, थोड़ा सुनो भी दूसरे को।’

That’s the kind of like a father figure, he’s training all the young colleagues of his. Another instance how he uses management principles and teaches you how to do your job better, I gave you the LED bulbs programme. I had actually gone to report to him about the coal blocks that we were auctioning. You all know about Coal Gate, right? The Coal Gate was where coal blocks were given out to Members of Parliament of Congress, relatives, people with money on payment of bribes and all that. Without eligibility, coal blocks were given to wrong companies. Supreme Court struck it down, and being Coal Minister I devised a new methodology, a very transparent auction. So I had gone to report to him about my whole calendar, by which I would auction. That day it was early morning, around 9 or so. I had gone to his home, we were sitting. I briefed him about the whole time table I had drawn up for coal blocks. Two big lessons I came back from, this was in my first year in office. Two big lessons, and both unrelated, one related to coal, one related to LEDs. On coal, I gave him a whole calendar.

He said, पीयूष, इतना लम्बा समय क्यों लगेगा? I said sir, मैंने एकदम परफेक्ट सिस्टम बनाया है, it’s absolutely transparent, honest. Nobody, even if you tell me to give a block to somebody, I cannot favour him. Such a perfect system, and therefore, this-this-this time it will take. He just casually said, oh, तो अगर तुम 90 दिन में करोगे तो ईमानदार होगा, 30 दिन में करोगे तो भ्रष्टाचार आ जाएगा, ऐसा बोल रहे हो?

And it was a big lesson for me. Time doesn’t define honesty and integrity, the system can be devised to work faster and implement faster. You can’t say कि honesty के garb मेंइतनाडरजाओकिचीज़ोंकोलम्बाखींचतेजाओ।You can compress time. You can do the same thing faster, better. Remember this thing, speed, skill and scale? तुम्हारे FLO मेंहीबोलाथातब 2013 में, if I remember correctly.

So, one lesson, तो बात ख़त्म हो गईI said I will try to speed it up. उठने लगा literally, he said कितने बल्ब बिके हैं अभी तक? I was shocked. I had come for coal block auction, I had not come prepared for LED bulbs. I said ध्यान नहीं है मैं पता करके आपको बताता हूँ, ऑफिस जाकर पता करता हूँ फिर बताता हूँ। It was almost like a ‘कितने आदमी थे’ moment for me. He said पीयूष, जब तक काम को मॉनिटर नहीं करोगे, regularly, तब तक आप किसको ज़िम्मेदार कैसे, accountable कैसे ठहराओगे? देखना पड़ेगा क्या हो रहा है, कितना काम हुआ, कितना प्रोग्रेस हुआ, regular monitoring करना पड़ेगा। और उसके पहले आपको याद होगा जन धन एकाउंट्स का एक बड़ा अभियान चलाया था so that every household has at least one bank account for financial inclusion of the poor. And we had tried every woman has a bank account, we wanted the subsidy to go the women’s account.

He made me sit down and he explained, he said कि तुम जन धन अकाउंट देख रहे हो कितने खुल गए, some 13 crore had been opened by that time, उस पीरियड में। I said, हाँ सर, and आप हर Wednesday यह कैबिनेट में डिसकस करते हैं। He said नहीं,  कैबिनेट में तो मैं तुम्हें रिपोर्ट करता हूँ। Mark my words, Prime Minister of India telling me – ‘कैबिनेट में तो मैं तुम्हें रिपोर्ट देता हूँ.’ मैं रोज़ सुबह मेरी टीम के साथ बैठता हूँ, assess करता हूँ किधर-किधर कितने अकाउंट खुले, जजमेंट लेता हूँ कि किधर आवश्यकता ज़्यादा है, किधर काम स्लो हो रहा है उधर मैं स्वयं कुछ बैंक मैनेजर से बात करता हूँ। And then it has a domino, people talk, यार प्रधानमंत्री का फ़ोन आया था। That’s how the projects get implemented fast.

So he was monitoring it, he was holding people accountable for performance and that’s how the project got implemented. I came back to the office, in 7 days, exactly 7 days, I had a dashboard, which is available on all your mobiles, called UJALA – UnnatJyoti Affordable Lighting For All, in which जो सरकारी कंपनी थी जो 310 में खरीदती थी और बाद में 38 में खरीदने लगी वह कंपनी ने कितने LED bulbs बेचे वह real time, हर एक मिनट में वह फिगर चेंज होता है, हर एक मिनट में, real time, जहाँ भी वह कंपनी बेचती है वह उसमें लॉक करती है। शुरू में तो सरकार ने पुश किया, बाद में private sector took over, अब तो हमको कुछ करना ही नहीं पड़ता है। अब तो प्राइवेट सेक्टर ही सस्ते में LED bulbs बेचता है।

But the kick-start and the monitoring we did that way, so I would monitor on that कभी-कभी तो 2-3 बजे रात को फ्री होता था पेपरवर्क ऑफिस से, सब मीटिंग से तो रात को बैठकर देखता था आज कितना प्रोग्रेस हुआ। अच्छा उसमें you can go drill down, right up to the location. So if you see the annual figure, then you can see state में कितना बिका, then you can see हर डिस्ट्रिक्ट में कितना बिका। तो हैदराबाद का अलग फिगर आएगा उसमें, फिर आप हैदराबाद को टिक करके देखोगे क्या फिगर है, हैदराबाद को क्लिक करोगे तो you can go down to the locations where it is available, those bulbs at that time. Now it’s available in every shop. And if you click there, by Google Map they will even show you how to go to the shop or the utility centre where you can get those LED bulbs.

So we made that arrangement that simple for everybody and that’s how we could do 140 crore bulbs. The kick-start the government did, 30 odd crores, the rest the private sector.

Q. Now I will ask you the kind of questions, these are wonderful enunciation of detailing of the sense of the Vikas that was promised or the change of life of people. But your corest supporters have a few complaints, one of them, रामजीकामंदिरकबबनेगा?

A. नहीं-नहीं, हम श्री राम जी का पूरा आदर सम्मान करते हैं और भगवान राम का मंदिर वहीँ बनेगा, अयोध्या में ही बनेगा उनके जन्म स्थान पर ही बनेगा यह हमारा पक्का विश्वास है। और अगर कपिल सिब्बल जैसे कांग्रेस के वकील बाधाएं डालना बंद करें कोर्ट केसेस में तो शायद अभी तक उसका निर्माण का काम भी शुरू हो गया होता। दुर्भाग्य से कपिल सिब्बल ने कोर्ट में दलीलें डालकर उसको डिले करवाया, उसके पहले judges जो डराने की धमकाने कीकोशिश की गई कांग्रेस द्वारा – impeachment motion in Parliament, फलाना ढिमका, कुछ judges ने press conferences कर दी।

They have tried everything in the book and even beyond the book to delay the judgment of the court case in the Ram temple issue. We believe constitutionally it is the right thing to do. That piece of land belongs to the deity. The title suit is in the supreme court and we will use every constitutional means that are possible, but we will make sure the Ram Temple is built there. Because for us, religion and faith are intrinsic. It’s a part of us. It’s a part of our very thinking, of our belief and we don’t go to temples for political tourism.

Q. So I will push you further. Mr Rahul Gandhi for example….

A. You lost out on the political tourism. आपको विंध्याचल मंदिर, बनारस के मंदिर में आज कल जो टूरिज्म चल रहा है उसको भूल रहे हो।

Q.No but I would like to just explore his a little further. If everything adds up what you said, how many seats do you think you will win? Do you think you will get the majority, as in the same like last time, cross the magical 270, as a BJP and not as NDA?

A. Sriram same as last time? Where are the infinite possibilities. BJP will cross 300 seats on its own. And as NDA, we will get two-third majority in this election and that is borne out by all the tracking surveys that are going on and that is borne out by the love and affection and the support we are getting across the country.

Q. जो हम हैदराबाद में हैं, तेलंगाना में, और हमारे जो मुख्यमंत्री जी हैं, के चंद्रशेखर राव जी he and his party has given a view that it’s not only impossible for BJP to get the majority but the numbers will be falling short by so much that southern parties, regional parties – whether that could be MrJaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh or Mr K ChandrashekharRao here. I will be honestly asking you if, and I am saying if I know you wouldn’t like it, if your government in case falls short, is either Mr K ChandrashekharRao or MrJaganmohan Reddy a potential ally to join the NDA, or as some romours go around in the city, are you also in talks with MrChandrababu Naidu to come back into NDA, should he, of course, win some seats?

A. Jaganmohan Reddy ya Chandrababu Naidu?

Q. Whoever it is, the people of Andhra will decide.
A. I thought it was with foregone conclusion that Jaganmohan Reddy is winning. You yourself took Jaganmohan Reddy, end में यह चंद्रबाबू कहाँ से आ गया?

Q. ऐसा है, fortunately there is no GST on daydreaming. We are confident that with the good work that has happened over five years, with the fact that there are 22 crore families today in India. Mark my words – 22 crore families, who have received direct benefits from this government. This government has been a government of the poor, the government of the socially and economically weaker sections of society, the marginalized sections of society. We have cared for youth, for women, for middle-class. We have ensured equitable development across the country, taken development to the North East, taken development to Eastern UP, Bihar, Odisha, hitherto under-developed areas.

We have worked for development of every citizen, irrespective of caste, creed, religion. We have not asked anybody, like Samajwadi party used to do in Uttar Pradesh and give electricity to a particular community or religion and not give electricity to the Hindus. When we take electricity, we take it to every house. We don’t ask them their religion, their caste, their creed. Nobody has to pay a bribe to get an electricity connection today. Nobody had to pay a bribe to get a direct benefit transfer of their gas subsidy, it goes straight bank-to-bank.

So, I think we have changed the rules of the game and 22 crore families in this country today – because we believe in Antyodaya, we believe in what PanditDeendayalUpadhyaya said – the nation’s resources should first be used for the person at the bottom of the pyramid – the last man in the queue, the man who is standing last has the first right to the nation’s resources. And that’s what we have tried to do. At times, there will be some people who may not like it, but I personally believe each one of us sitting in this room should be proud that the tax that you have paid, that the contribution that you have given to nation building is the reason why somebody got electricity, is the reason why some woman is relieved from chulhas of wood and smoke. That’s the reason that there is healthcare, free healthcare to 50 crore people in this country.

And, actually, all you can give yourself a loud applause, yourself, for what you all have done for this nation. देखिये आप अपने आपको भी एकनॉलेज नहीं कर रहे हैं।

Audience questions

Q. Sir as you said that media is kind of looking what government is doing and media is the chowkidar, why has Prime Minister Modi not come up and spoken to media in his tenure, why are only few media houses getting a chance to talk to Prime Minister Modi and not all of them?

Q. Good evening sir, sir firstly from all, I don’t know for the rest, but I really want BJP to win the elections because I am a pro-pro-pro, I would say I am also a chowkidar. So, really, I just have one question for you when you entered the room and you said that if a woman is determined, they can do anything. And right now, we see there is a lot of determination coming from Priyanka Gandhi, so what is your take on that? Because she is actually determined, so what do you say, a lady is determined and here we are and the elections are just around the corner?

Q. Sir, is the government truly supporting diversity in its policies, what new policies and benefits can women in general and women entrepreneurs expect from the BJP government in future. We have not seen substantial thrust from the government to promote women in the manufacturing sector which is actually considered to support employment and the economy’s growth. So has BJP not seized these opportunities, and if not then what does it plan in the future?

Q. Sir, we appreciate your equitable distribution for resources. You being a Coal Minister, what have you done to ensure that tribals and the owners of that land they are benefited in a proper manner?

Q. Hello sir, actually I want to know about the vote for the cash. There are so many poor people who just believe it’s for the BJP also, but one day before they change the mind and they get the cash and they just change the mind. What’s your take on that one?

A. Well, about the question about the media, I think Prime Minister Modi has been alleged to be speaking more than he should be speaking. He’s all the time all across the country talking to people, engaging with people. He’s been giving media interviews. What you are referring to possibly only a press conference, right? As far as talking to media, he’s been going to so many forums and addressing them and doing Q&As with journalists also. I don’t know if you have ever seen a press conference off late, it’s almost becomes like a slanging match. And very often, the good old days of media being a harbinger of news has now changed to a media which is very much very often motivated media with a particular view, so you will find that it will become literally a slanging match where a media journalist in that room will want to just try and attribute his viewpoint and every word will be twisted. Like I said earlier in the conversation that while I said, you know, the question on Pulwama, how that will be twisted into a headline.

So, because of that I think today the day and age, I do lot of press conferences also, next day you have to wonder what will be the spin. Now my spin is not going to affect the nation, but a spin or a wrong spin given on anything that he says can affect our international story also. And he cannot be like the previous Prime Minister who speaks in mono syllables only.

Very good question madam, I am happy all the youngsters asked the question. On Priyanka Gandhi, I think the serious politician that is required to really achieve that determination is sadly lacking. For example, for getting into public life, you don’t come 60 days before the election and expect that 130 crore people will understand who and what you are and what you stand for. You have to be serious about your work. Now it’s a different matter, suddenly you realised your brother has failed, and therefore, your thrust into the hotbed. Then what do you do? You make an opening entry in the capital of UP. Fortunately, I don’t know whether you all didn’t see, but at least if you didn’t see it’s better आपके मन में थोड़ा भ्रम रह गया है, those who saw it realise that while that cavalcade or so called thing in Lucknow one month ago was going, there were not even 500 people along with them. So they went from airport to the office with less than 500 people accompanying them. Of course, even if I walk on the street with so many guards and all that, तो सब लोग देखते हैं कि कोई तो होगा अगर guards हैं इतने सारे साथ में।

And then for one month after that you disappear again. लखनऊ की डेट गूगल कर लीजिये one month there was not sign at all. Now this is not serious politics, so well, she could be determined. She can announce from here that she is determined to be the Queen of Sheba, but it’s not going to happen. So I think you need some more seriousness about public life. यह जनता कोई बेवकूफ नहीं है, जनता सब समझती है बड़ी समझदार है भारत की जनता नहीं तो 70 साल डेमोक्रेसी टिकती नहीं इस देश में। Emergency के बाद they threw out Indira Gandhi for all those excesses and because she killed democracy, but because the opposition didn’t do a good job and at that time Janta Party was probably similar to today’s महामिलावट गठबंधन they threw … out also in two years.

So this janta is very smart, and the beauty is the people vote across the nation vote most peacefully. Change is effected peacefully, this is the strength of India’s people and its democracy. But we need serious politicians. This fly-by-night operation to try and cover up for a failed brother, I don’t think it’s going to help. If you want a prediction, since you have been asking me predictions, my own sense is congress will not cross 60 seats in this election. But for NDTV, there will be a nice headline – the seat share has gone up by 30%. I hope my friends, if any from NDTV or any guys who like NDTV, don’t mind it. You must take it in the same spirit that I take criticism against me also.

About women entrepreneurs madam, 53% of the Mudra loans given to all small entrepreneurs have gone to women. And 70% of the borrowers are women entrepreneurs. In fact, we find that women are making excellent self-generating opportunities. One of the cases that came to my attention was a woman who took a small Rs 5000-10,000 loan, took a sewing machine but didn’t stitch clothes. She ran a tuition class for others and trained many other girls, then with that tuition fees repaid that loan, took a larger loan, made a self-help group of 10 or 12 girls, then started tailoring. And like that she’s grown to more than 100 people working in her self-help group, and gradually Mudra loan keeps going up. Without collateral, without any surety, you can get up to Rs 10 lakh in Mudra and become a job creator rather than a job seeker.

We are working on the manifesto of this election. We had actually worked on a scheme, I will share with you privately, the final manifesto is not final as yet. But we actually thought of a very good scheme which honorable FM only in the last meeting about four days back thought it is worth pursuing, we are working on final details, where we believe that there’s a lot of goods that are importing at present. You know even candles and toys, which can be made in India if we give some encouragement and support. So we are working on some such schemes to promote women entrepreneurs even further, irrespective we have a reservation in all purchases from units which are run by women entrepreneurs. And I agree with you, we should promote it much more. It’s a good suggestion.

Madam, very good question. I am amazed you were so much concerned about the land owners and the tribals, because that’s one area where I am happy to report to you that we brought about the changes in the Minerals’ laws. And we have introduced a thing called ‘District Minerals Fund’ (DMF). Whatever royalty is paid to the state government on all the minerals that are mined in the country, the mine owner now has to pay 30% over and above the existing royalty, which goes straight to the District Minerals Fund at the district level where the mine is located. And it is only allowed to be used for the welfare of the people in that area.

So, for example, in Chhattisgarh, they were collecting nearly Rs 2000 crore or so in this District Minerals Fund. They leveraged that and introduced Rs 10,000 crore worth of schemes which get repaid out of this DMF every year, for clean drinking water, and other such basic amenities for the villages in that district. Like that that’s one of the things, it’s under Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Vikas Yojana – it’s a scheme in which this District Minerals Fund is created. I am forgetting, it’s now two years since I was Mines Minister. But it’s a very successful way to empower them. Of course, we are giving jobs to any land holder who has more than two acres of land. We are giving very hefty compensation to all those whose land is taken away. So, it’s a whole packet of incentives and benefits that the land owner gets, the DMF being the latest amongst many.

And for the poor people who change their mind, the young girl there, बहुत समझदार हो रहे हैं आहिस्ते-आहिस्ते, there may be few areas where money power prevails. थोड़ा south India में ज़्यादा चलता है। आज भी इतना ज़्यादा सब जगह देश में इतना बुरा हाल नहीं है। You are in a state which is little prone to too much money power, unfortunately. But usually, in the country, this is not – and they are so smart they will take your money also and still not vote for you, so we are not worried about that. Despite all that, Modiji got elected with an absolute majority in 2014 and howsoever much they may try to do that I am confident people will still give him back a bigger majority in 2009.


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