We would probably not have permission for this programme, and whether I can do this programme at all and I didn’t want to start the whole election process with the violation of the election code at the very beginning itself. So I called up Mr Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, honorable Minister for Minority Affairs who has organized the entire Mann ki Baat programme. And he said, I will also get back to you after I talk to the Election Commission, we have been struggling the last half an hour or 40 minutes trying to figure out whether to do the programme or we postpone it till we get the requisite permissions from the Election Commission.
Many said there’s not going to be the board of the BJP anywhere, and I am supposed to listen to you, not talk too much. So finally, I advised that you can go and hopefully there should not be any problem. If I do have a problem, I hope you guys will come and help me out. But thank you very much, although it’s a delight, this scenario reminds me of 3 Idiots. And it’s a great movie, and there couldn’t have been a better introduction of an IIT than the fact that some of the brightest talent comes to IIT, flourishes, invents for the future and makes India proud.
And truly we are proud of each and every one of you, it’s feels to be great to be at the IIT. Probably, my third visit as a Minister to the IIT campus. I have been here at least twice before in the last four and a half, five years, and each one of them has been a delightful experience. It was the last time I think we also launched Professor Solanki’s programme on the lamps, which we had financed.
But you feel young when one is among all of you. The idea really was to hear what you feel about India, what is your aspiration for India, what is your thinking of the future of India. But just to set the context, very often I am asked what is it you would call as the biggest achievement of your government in five years. You can claim one thousand achievements and very often I am required to present the government’s view point or outcomes. And each of the four years gone by, we have gone back to the people through the press on the 26th May, every year, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 – four times, giving a report card of the government, which normally I will present here.
And there are a number of things where we have done extraordinary outcomes, much beyond what would ……. But in the one single biggest thing if you were to ask what this government has changed in this country, it’s the mindset. The mindset of the nation. We have moved away from a chalta hai attitude, from a jugadu attitude, from a – if one was to take an analogy from a paint shop, you have a paint workshop also at the IIT, right?
So there are two ways one can do a job. One is through a touch up on the current wall, just a touch it up. Wherever you find the paint has gone out you touch it up and try to make it look good. That will be a temporary job. It may look good now when you do a touch up, but in the Mumbai language it’s called ‘choona lagaana.’ चूना लगा दिया ऊपर, तो अच्छा तो लग रहा है लेकिन वास्तव में उसका आउटकम बहुत अच्छा नहीं होगा। If you really want a good outcome out of your paint shop, you actually have to scap it out, take out from the source, from the base all the muck that has accumulated. आपको पता हैना दीवारों में दीमक लग जाती है।
You have all these termites which get into wood, get into walls. Unless you remove the termite from the wall, for which you got to scrap down, get to the base, then start doing a foundation on it, do two rounds of coat. You don’t do the final round till you remove the debris, if you allow the debris you allow the … when you painting, and you finish your painting work that’s going to actually spoil it once again. So, you remove the debris from there and then once things are looking neat and clean you do the final painting.
In some sense, this reflects the changing India, the changing Bharat. The thinking has changed to one where we are looking at sustainable solutions to where we are looking at honest way of doing work, 3)where we are looking at how we can prepare the nation and …… to really give them a better quality of life, to make ….. easier, to make doing business easier, to make working easier. And in this path, one of the major focus has been a more equitable development of the entire country.
Sadly, over the years, we have large sections of society who have remained marginalized – the tribals, people living in eastern parts of India, north and eastern parts of India, the north eastern states – all of these areas relatively remained less developed than the western and southern parts of India. You saw a lopsided development, and you can’t have a 150 plus districts of the country with underdevelopment to the extent that it promotes naxal movements or maoist movements. After all, the maoist movement is a reflection of under development, the fact that the fruits of development haven’t reached those areas.
And, therefore, this government also decided that we will look at improving the lives of the poor, improving the lives of farmers of India, those sections of society probably as a Railway Minister I can say didn’t have a chance to board the train, and maybe make a better life of their own, but remain in the villages, remain in these hitherto backward areas but never got a chance to or an equal opportunity to really put their best foot forward.
I will give you a small example which will reflect the changing milieu. Sports has been one field where we never excelled, other than cricket, despite having such a large population. And I think some of the best sportspersons can come from the tribal areas of India, the athletes that the children of the tribal families really have the ability to get more medals than anybody else in the country, just the tribal children.
And we did an experiment. We started a sports academy in Ranchi in Jharkhand, where we now have about 380 children. They all come from the tribal areas, they were selected through a transparent process, giving everybody an equal opportunity. Anybody who tried to put influence was straightaway struck off from the application list. We videographed the entire process of selection. And I tell you, what a delight it is to go to that area. Each child, the enthusiasm of those children, now they are getting good nutrition, they have been trained in the sport of their choice. They have been sent to a school. A good quality, high quality education is being provided to them at the cost of one of our coal companies and the state government of Jharkhand.
We are giving them a monthly stipend. And our target is to have 1400 children there, and to get a 100 Olympic medals out of that sports academy in the next ten years. That’s the target we have set out for it.
It was only a lack of opportunity that held them back. I had a chance to visit them and it was such a pleasure to meet those children. They were powerhouse of energy, but came from backgrounds in which they would never have got a chance to show their talent in the older way of working. Similarly, I believe the number of IITs, IIMs, AIIMs, medical colleges, postgraduate medical colleges, all of these have played a very-very important role in developing India and developing India’s abilities to also serve the world. But we restricted ourselves to very few educational institutions.
I am glad that now we have been able to expand all these facilities, and we have much more students getting high quality, high degree education from institutions such as yours. Incidentally, today is the day when nearly 143 years ago, Graham Bell made the first phone call, in 10th March, 1876 – 143 years ago. And look at the evolution of that industry and India’s own change where today we have become the world’s highest consumer of data on mobile phones. It’s technology, it’s the leapfrogging of India into the most modern technology that has made all this possible.
And no better than our IIT students to understand this that it’s ultimately going to be speed, speed of action. It’s ultimately going to be our passion for invention, for coming up with more research development that’s going to help us lead the world. If you look at America today, what is it that is the strength of America? It’s giving people an opportunity to innovate, best quality education, helping research, and then basis that research providing technology to the whole world and make money out of that.
We in India have that talent, only we need to change the scenario where our talent doesn’t need to go to NASA and get an opportunity to serve, but should get an equal opportunity in ISRO. That’s the change in mindset that we have in the country today. As aspirational India, a billion plus aspirational boys and girls looking for a better quality of life. And I think the best thing that has happened to India is that our expectations have gone up multiple times. Today we have grown out of that mindset of oh, this nation will run irrespective of who is in government and who is not in government. Today, we have become far more demanding of our public representatives, and I think that’s the biggest strength of India.
Of course, the idea today was to hear you, to get your ideas and post this interaction I hope each one you and if you can take this to other colleagues in the campus or may be hostel, it would be great to have ideas from all of you, because we are trying to develop our agenda for the next five years from all of you, after crowdsourcing your thoughts, your aspirations, your expectations and work in the next term to meet those expectations.
Of course, when it comes to what has happened over the last five years, I can give you a one by one, a number of initiatives that have transformed the way India works. After all, the country moved from a Fragile 5 economy, an economy where questions were asked of its very survival in the future, to probably one of the world’s fastest growing economy, large economy. All our microeconomic indices today are amongst the best.
I remember, before the budget I was doing an analysis of inflation, and I found the last five years have been the lowest inflation, for a five year period, in independent India’s history, with an average inflation of about 4.5%. And every one of the legacy indices that we got – fiscal deficit, it had grown up to 6-6.5%, in 2009-10. When we came in government in 2014, it was 4.5%. It’s down to 3.3-3.4% this year. Current deficits, which in 2014 were 4.5%, down to about 2% now.
Inflation was in double digit before we came in. it’s down to 2% as of the January-February. The average was 4.5%, but the fall from nearly 12-13% seven-eight years ago is nearly 2% now. And we don’t find any agitation about dal prices being at Rs 260 or sugar being Rs 70-80. All of that is a thing of the past, today the nation produces more than it can consume and not a single person needs to go on an empty stomach. That’s the strength of India and its food security today.
We have been able to take healthcare to the remotest parts of India and ensured that every poor in the country under Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, 50 crore more people, some 10-11 crore families are going to be entitled to 5 lakh rupees per annum, as a family of free healthcare. And lakhs, something like 14 lakh people have already enjoyed that benefit, used that benefit. I went to the All India Institute of Medical Science about a week or so ago, it was absolutely a mindboggling experience for me to interact with those patients.
I will give you just one example. There was a patient from Bihar who had a heart problem. When I met him, he was smiling. I said अच्छा, आपका ऑपरेशन हो गया, सब हो गया, बोलता है साहब एकदम दुरुस्त हो गया है, एकदम अच्छा हो गया है। And look at it slowly, he said I have had this heart problem for three years, and I have been trying to postpone it. The doctor said now you will have to get operated, so my operation date was set and I needed Rs 90,000, for which I was approaching friends and relatives and trying to collect Rs 90,000. Two days before the operation, just two days before the date of operation, he gets a call from his village in Bihar. That was I think his registered address.
And he says, there is a government letter that has come home. It talks of some Swasthya Bima, Swasthiya healthcare. We don’t know what exactly it was. So, now mobiles being almost a universal feature, everybody having mobiles. We have more than 400 million smart phones in the country. He said whatsapp that letter to me in Delhi, and just two days before his operation date that letter from the Prime Minister to his family was whatsapped to him.
It was the letter saying that you are one of the beneficiaries under Ayushman Bharat. He showed it to the doctors….. a small kiosk where the Ayushman Bharat people are sitting in AIIMS Delhi. And he says from that time onwards, the young boys and girls there who are working under Ayushman Bharat, he said they just took over. I have not had to spend a single rupee. My valves are being replaced. I am completely, उसके चेहरे पर वह था, his words were ‘मैं सब चिंताओं से मुक्त हो गया’. I said अब क्या करोगे, ठीक हो गए हो। He said I am on the way recovery. I said अब क्या करोगे? He says मेरी बेटियां हैं, तो उनको अच्छी तरह पढ़ाऊंगा, अच्छी तरह उनकी शान से शादी करूँगा।
That joy on his face could bring tears to anybody’s eyes. And there was a time when even a middle class family with an ailment at home or some near and dear one needing medical healthcare, could actually get into poverty just for lack of adequate medical facilities or adequate money to pay for his healthcare needs. Electricity was always a problem. We in Mumbai don’t know what electricity shortages are, but any of you come from other parts of the country where the question was not when electricity will go, question was when it will come in our homes. It’s all a matter of history now.
We have a transmission grid across the country. We have one nation, one grid. Electricity can move seamlessly to any part of India. South India at one point of time in the summer months used to buy electricity at Rs 14-15 per kilowatt hour. They get it now at Rs 3-4, even in peak hours you can get it at Rs 4.5-5. The entire nation has surplus power. Electricity shortages are history in the country.
The country’s mindset before 2014 was that we need to import products rather than make it in India. Take coal for example, we always assumed coal will be in shortages, and therefore, between 2006-7 and 2012-13, a number of power plants were set up, thermal power plants, all of them based on imported coal. We have one of the largest reserves of thermal coal in the country. I understand importing coking coal, because we had a problem, we didn’t have enough coking coal. But we had enough thermal coal.
Instead of increasing our mining capabilities, we told people you set up power plants on imported coal. So they came up at the coastal areas on imported coal. After this government came in, between 2014-15 and now our imports have been flat, and sometimes it’s also fallen. But I am not able to eliminate it because those power plants had come up based on imported coal. The design of that thermal, the boiler is such that we cannot take the coal that we had in India with high fly ash, 40-45% in Indian coal.
So, perforce, we had made our nation dependent on imported coal for the next 25 years. That mindset has changed. We didn’t allow a single power plant to come up in last five years based on imported coal. Anything gets set up has be on domestic coal.
Under the Make in India, we developed and I am sure there must have been engineers from some of the other IIT in the railways amongst other educational institutions who developed Vande Bharat, the first indigenously developed train set. Otherwise, what were we doing? We would import designs and prepare our coaches on that. Train set, of course, India didn’t have at all. But I feel proud that our Indian engineers have developed a train set now, the first time in India. We have manufactured it by our Indian engineers and Indian workers in the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai. First one has been very successful, second one has already come. We are now doing the test runs.
Obviously, a new product have initial glitches. I am sure the first phone call that Graham Bell made was not without glitches. I am told he actually registered his patent two hours before his competitor reached there to register his product. So, speed is also of the essence in today’s competitive day and age. But that’s what our IIT engineering courses prepare you for – speed, skill and scale. And I think that’s what has changed in this country.
We are thinking big. When we decided to change all the lighting to LED bulbs in the country. I don’t know if you are aware, today we replaced 1.4 billion that’s 140 crore bulbs, which were those old incandescent bulbs, to LED bulbs in the country. Public and private both, the government has helped to replace about 30-32 crore, the rest the private sector.
And because we did it at scale, prices fell by 87%, the price of LED bulbs, 87% fall. An thanks to India’s large demand, prices have fallen worldwide, because the volumes have gone up. Any of you will understand that when you produce at larger volumes, costs come down. And will you believe it if I tell you that the entire nation to replace these 140 crore bulbs has spent only about $2 billion – Rs 14-15,000 crore in the entire country. And you know how much the people of India, including IIT Mumbai, in your electricity bills are saving for the replacement of LED bulbs about Rs 50,000 crore every year.
Tell me any project that you are aware of where you spend or you invest under Rs 15,000 crores, and these bulbs work for at an average five to seven years and you will save Rs 50,000 crores in your electricity bills every single year. Look at the payback, payback is humongous. So that’s the kind of thinking, the scale at which we have been able to take up projects. We have had I think a great opportunity to serve the people of India.
Very often, in life you have to make a choice between two paths. We always had a simpler path to go on – I think was it Robert Frost who said that that I dare to take a path less travelled. I think it was Robert Frost. I think that’s been the guiding light of this government. We have changed the thinking in a manner that we look at the alternate viewpoint, we look at the new path to development, to growth, to prosperity of our people. And I think the path less trodden, the path less travelled in the past has been our path, but has to my mind transformed the lives of millions and millions of people.
But as they say, work can never been complete. We have miles and miles to go. We have tonnes and tonnes of work still to be done. I invite all of you to participate in this journey, to give us your ideas. Maybe some of you after your education can become a part of the political process also, join politics. I have a boy in my team, who is almost my chief of staff. He is an IIT Chennai graduate, went on to do IIM, joined Mckenzie, left Mckenzie six and a half years ago. He joined me when I was in the opposition. He works with me even now, and truly an asset. And it shows me what strength IITs have in terms of talent, in terms of ability, in terms of ability to give extraordinary performance.
My whole family actually is full of IITians. My father was from IIT BHU. There were no IITs in those good old days, pre-independence, so he is was a part of the old school where he was IIT BHU. It is mechanical and electrical engineering they had a joint degree those days. My brother is a mechanical engineer from IIT Kanpur, my brother-in-law mechanical engineer from IIT Delhi. So, we are a family full of engineers. I chose the path less travelled in my family. I became a chartered accountant, and a law degree.
But I think it helped me a lot to navigate the Ministries that I got an opportunity to work in. And I do have some sense of satisfaction that I was able to contribute to nation building, to leave behind some results in this five-year journey. And I am confident that with your support, with your continued encouragement and the active involvement – I think I mentioned it in the budget speech which I had the opportunity to give this year also.
And I promise you the thank you came from my heart, because I have been a taxpayer now for 35-37 years and I do believe that nobody minds paying taxes. Believe me, nobody minds paying taxes as long as we have the confidence that that money is going to used well. If it’s going to go to light up a poor man’s home with electricity, if it’s going to give a free cooking gas connection to our sisters and brothers, so that they don’t have to take 400 cigarettes’ smoke in their body but then can cook with clean cooking gas, if it’s going to give free healthcare to a poor or a middle class family, if it’s going to give a scholarship to a poor child, honestly, without middlemen.
So it’s not like those old days where a Prime Minister would say that look, I give Rs 100 but only Rs 15 reaches the beneficiary, because I am helpless, there are middlemen and there is corruption on the way. This government didn’t take that route. We ensured that we directly transfer benefits. We ensured that benefit reaches the beneficiary straight gone into his bank account. And we planned all of it in a manner where we provided bank accounts first, promoted Aadhar, so everybody has an Aadhar number and an identity, did the JAM trinity – the Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile trinity, to ensure that money goes from the government straight to beneficiaries, eliminated middlemen and dalals in this system. And then the taxpayer doesn’t mind that if my contribution to the nation helps improve the lives of somebody less privileged, I think then no taxpayer minds it. The governments work on your taxes, so I truly meant that I do.
But I also in my speech spoke about janbhagidaari that government can only be successful when everybody participates. Take our swachha bharat mission, we provided 10 crore toilets. 10 crore toilets, otherwise, it was, and I think it’s a shame that it took us 70 years to understand that our mothers and sisters can’t be left to the mercy of sunrise and sunset as they can’t use the washroom or the toilet post sunrise and had to wait till sunset to go to the toilet, because it’s in the open fields.
To my mind, and very often we do our surveys, swachhata, a clean India has been the most successful programme of this government. More people across the country, particularly in rural India, in the villages, in the slums appreciate that because we provided dignity to our women, to our sisters, to our mothers. And it couldn’t have happened without the collective cooperation and activity that all people of India doing. So janbhagidari and bharat ke man ki baat is a part of that journey.
So, truly a big thank you to all of you who participated in this swachha bharat movement, who participated in this effort to make India an honest country, to move away from the old mindset where we accepted anything and everything that happened in the country to a mindset where we are demanding good governance, where we are demanding performance, where we are demanding if there is a terrorist activity, we will give it back. We won’t sit at home and we will not cry over our inability to strike back. It won’t be like Mumbai had to suffer on 26/11 2008 the ignominy of the three days of terrorist attack, and still nothing, no retaliation. Those days are gone.
It’s a strong India. It’s a powerful India. It’s an India which gets world cooperation. We have also been able to bring international linkages that when we strike back the world is with us in our fight against terrorism. So truly, we have today a great international image. We have great international relationships. And we have the power of 1.3 billion people working to make India a developed India, to make India a superpower, to ensure that every citizen of India gets a better deal, a new deal, a better quality of life, an easier life to live in and equitable growth for all parts of India, so that no child in this country ever has to stay without home, without electricity 24/7, without good water, quality education, quality healthcare, connectivity, internet available in his school, in his college, in his home.
That’s the new India that we are all working for and I invite all of you to be a part of it. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.
Lovely questions. Very-very thought provoking and that’s the power of youth, that’s the power of intelligent youth that one sees and experiences here. But thank you very much for your interest in governance, in public policy. I was asked about sustainable renewable energy, and clearly this government has changed the needle about our climate change goals.
You will appreciate that India earlier had a solar mission which talked of 20,000 MW by 2022. We multiplied it by five times. We are now doing 100,000 MW of solar power by 2022 – five times more. And because we did it at scale, we have already been able to bring down the price which had started at some Rs 17, when we came into government it had fallen to about Rs 7-8, today it’s Rs 2.5-2.75. That’s the fall in solar prices.
Because we did transparent auctions of that. We didn’t do bilateral deals. There is not corruption in that. And everybody had an opportunity to participate in those auctions and provide us the best prices. Similarly, just a few days back we finalized a new hydro policy to promote hydro power. We have recently about couple of months ago also did a Make in India promotion policy to promote solar energy and get more and more people to come and invest in India to do the entire production chain within the country, which will, of course, generate jobs and generate more value add and encourage our engineers to come up with better and better photovoltaic cells, better modules, better technologies on battery.
And all of this ecosystem at some stage will become the primary source of energy in my humble view. And in the railways, I have set a target that in the next 10 years, we have tonnes of tonnes of land all over the country. We are going to use that land to setup solar panels. And my logic, I will explain to you. Railways land often gets encroached and then we can never remove that encroachment. I am thinking a two in one benefit. I will generate solar power on railway line, protect that line from encroachment, and if tomorrow I need that line for expansion, I can always shift that solar panel to some other line. But in the process, I will be able to save public property. It’s your property. It’s your wealth.
And my goal is that in ten years, railway sets up 20,000 MW of solar power, and … battery prices will also fall. So in the interim maybe we can give it to the grid and take power in night from the grid. But my ultimate hope is that with falling battery prices, we want to make Indian railways the first railway in the world, it will be the first railway in the world which will be net zero emission railway – 100% renewable power.
I don’t know if you are aware, we have already started electrifying all the routes. We have gone into a 100% electrification of railway track, and just to give you an idea of the scale at which we are working. 2013-14 – Indian railways had electrified 600 odd kms of railway track. This year, by 31st March, we would be about 6000 kms, in one year alone. And by 2023, Indian railways will be 100% electric, so no more diesel engines spewing out carbon into the atmosphere. It will be history, except maybe the hill railways, because those are heritage railways and I can’t touch their equipment. I can’t convert it. Though I have prepared a plan Kalka to Shimla also, but I need UNESCO approval and stuff like that.
So, the world is moving towards cleaner and sustainable energy. My own sense is 20-25 years later, we will probably have 100% clean and sustainable renewable energy in India. And we will be one of the fastest expansion of renewable energy that you would have seen anywhere in the world. We have always expanded solar power, just for your information, in the last five years 10 times, from what we got in 2014. 10x – that’s the scale.
After all, all that electricity, instead of 60 and 90 watt bulbs, we are now using 7 and 9 watt bulbs, same amount of lumination, in fact, more. If you saw some of the Whatsapp or Twitter messages on our railway stations where we have done bright LED illumination, with less power consumption we make it look like an airport. So the future is clean energy and efficient energy.
Regarding the scientific community, I remember when I had just become a Minister, in one engagement with scientists and research people – Dr Anil Kakodkar was with me in that engagement. A lot of IIT Directors had also come, I don’t know IIT Bombay…. Professor Jhunjhunwla from IIT Chennai was leading the discussion. We were discussing DC line against AC line. Remember, in 2014 when we came in, places like Bihar, more than 50% people didn’t have electricity. I am proud and happy to say that today, there is not a single willing consumer in the whole of Bihar or whole of UP who doesn’t have electricity. Everybody who wants electricity will get electricity in 7 days.
इतना ट्रांसफॉर्म हुआ, पर तभी 2014 में हम alternate ways ढूंढ रहे थे तो DC के ऊपर एक इंगेजमेंट, somebody asked me कि आपका बजट क्या है R&D का? I said मेरा कोई बजट नहीं है, and people were stunned as I hope you are stunned, कि कोई बजट ही नहीं है R&D का यह सरकार कैसी है? बजट तभी होता है जब कोई रेस्ट्रिक्शन लगानी होती है। What is the meaning of budget? It’s a restriction. We have no budget for R&D. It’s an unrestricted amount which country needs to spend on R&D. Whatever money is required, we must give to our engineers, to our scientists.
That is what I believe, what this Modi government believes in. Take ISRO, we have never allowed funds to be a constraint for ISRO. RDSO in the railways, I told them unlimited budget for whatever new you want to bring to railways. Safety in railways – whatever new invention comes in we are willing to use, no budgets – no budget as in no restriction for it, unlimited amounts we are willing to spend. That is the change that we have brought in.
And I don’t know, even that IIT Mumbai I have a programme, the MNRE Ministry which I don’t head anymore. But I remember, we had a programme which we had expanded and continued while I was a Minister. So, believe me for research and – that’s why I mentioned about America earlier on. The strength of America is their innovation, their inventions, their R&D. We have to absorb that, and that is why that centre was setup in IIT Mumbai, even Prime Minister Modi had come in that time?
The idea is you should lead, India has to lead the world in artificial intelligence, in 3D manufacturing, all the new things that are happening around the globe. Can India be the world leader? Should we copy the world or should we lead the world? That’s the changing mindset that I talked about earlier.
You spoke about universal capital. Now for startups, we have 16,000 startups in India today. We have venture capital and all available for startups. We have Startup India, Standup India, all of these schemes. But now, capital can only be given to somebody with an idea, with a proposal. It can’t be just given out, then it would become a dole. What we have given to the farmers is just a support, it’s not a dole. And I will tell you the difference between the two.
If you write off a loan, it’s like a dole. You are writing off loan once, but you are not making him self-sustaining and stand on his own feet. We have large number of farmers, this amount is being given to small and marginal farmers. These small farmers are being given this amount because very often with half acre, one acre, with the division of land over the years, it’s very difficult to sustain agriculture. And, therefore, this amount will help them in the hour of need, three times two-two thousand rupees in a year, so that at that particular juncture, he wants to buy some fertilizer, some seed, pays electricity bill, repair his pump. He is not short of money. And this money will be directly going into his bank account, available for him to use for his farming activity.
And, please go back to a village if you do and see the state of these very small and marginal farmers, very small landholders. It’s a very critical amount, Rs 6000. It’s not a small amount, for them. Probably, for us, we may not realize the importance of this money at that particular juncture. You will find for small amounts people had to actually, they miss out the harvesting season sometimes, or the sowing season. But capital for new ideas is coming in through Startup India, venture capital, and all of those schemes.
The integrated transport Mumbai is actually leading the nation in preparing. So today, we just started the monorail that day, on the 4th. So now we have monorail, we have three or four more modules of network coming up, we have the coastal road which is already at a construction. We have a trans-harbour link which would connect the island city to the mainland. We have a huge expansion project of the railways for almost 75,000 crores, of which 20,000 crores is already being implemented, 34,000 crores the cabinet recently approved so that will now start being implemented, and then the next phase under the 20,000 crores.
So railways is also expanding and just for information, we already have 40 air-conditioned trains for the suburban railway on order. And now the cabinet has approved 191 more. So, Mumbai will have 230 air-conditioned trains, so that these accidents that we see on tracks, on train travel, will be a thing of the past. Doors will close and passengers can have a comfortable journey, even in monsoon and hot weather.
Defence import is a sad part, and in fact, for the first time we have opened up defence sector to foreign direct investment much more liberally. While our scientists are developing newer technologies, but that pace has been very slow. You do some research you will find DRDO and all our institutions are doing some wonderful work, but the speed at which we need to modernize is much more than the work that’s happening. So, we are looking at a twin track, do faster development in-house, but also try to get, source technology from the world so that we can do faster indigenization and manufacturing through the Make in India programme. So, it’s a twin track that we are working on and I am confident that some of you may come up with some good inventions which can help our armed forces to prepare ourselves for better security of our citizens.
The electric vehicles somebody asked me about why no subsidy for private vehicles. My own sense is we should get out of the subsidy mindset. The success of LED programme was because we first removed the subsidy. We are giving the subsidy only for the short term, where we want these public vehicles like buses, three and four wheelers used by taxis. In the short run, we will have faster ramp up of electric vehicles. Now, if you have a limited amount of subsidy, I think 10,000 crores is what we are providing. The bigger bank for the buck is received when you that subsidy going for public transport, because more people will use that transport.
I myself use hybrid car in Delhi and in Mumbai. I have a hybrid vehicle, not in Mumbai, but in Delhi. Now that vehicle got a subsidy earlier on when ….. of Rs 80,000, but frankly, I didn’t deserve that subsidy. I got it because it was a part of the scheme. But as a private consumer or a private vehicle owner, my care uses only a limited amount of petrol, but a taxi or a public vehicle or a bus uses far more petrol and diesel. So you have to get a bigger dime for every buck, more outcome for the money that is spent on taxpayer money. Therefore, we restricted it to public vehicles. My own sense is in a couple of years this industry won’t need subsidizing, battery prices are falling and this will become an economically viable proposition on its own. And again, that’s an industry we want India to lead the world, because we have millions of people who are going to be first time owners of their vehicle. We want all of them to go straight for an electric vehicle. First everybody buys petrol-diesel vehicle and then replaces it with an electric vehicle.
You talked about aerospace. We would love to manufacture aircraft sir, let’s have some IIT engineers come up with good technologies to manufacture aircraft. But in the meantime, we will have to look for importing those technologies. But I think Tejas is an indigenously developed aircraft and we are doing some wonderful work in Tejas. But it cannot be the only kind of aircraft, we need much more sophisticated weaponry. We need missile launchers. We need, I don’t know what all are the add-ons that Rafale has, but we need actually nuclear-loaded aircraft also going forward.
So we are looking at modernizing our air force. In a manner of speaking, it’s a matter of pride that Abhinandan और उसका वास्तव में हम सबको अभिनन्दन करना चाहिए, एक पुराने एयरक्राफ्ट क्योंकि हमने modernize किया ही नहीं है अपनी फ्लीट को इतने सालों से। एक MiG-21 Bison aircraft से उसने F-16 को गिरा दिया, I think it’s a matter of pride for all of us in this country.
Important thing to clarify to Ritesh about the Jio Institute. When that policy was made I was a part of the group of Ministers. Of course, the selection has been done by a totally independent committee, headed by a former Chief Election Commissioner, Mr Gopal Swami, some of you may remember that name. So it’s a completely hands off arms-length relationship between that committee which selected the various institutes and the government. We have not selected a single institute, let me make that clear at the outset. An independent body of eminent people did that. And the reason for, we had in that policy provided both – existing institutes and proposed institutes.
The idea being that why should thousands and lakhs of our children be going to Harvard, be going to MIT, be going to Chicago, wherever else to study. Why don’t we try and invite some institutes from international top notch names to come to India. And if anybody came with good collaborations, and there were proper benchmarks which are in public domain. It’s not as if there is some secret process by which anybody got selected. All the benchmarks were in public domain. Those institutes had to do a very-very elaborate presentation before the committee. The committee evaluated all the proposals, both of existing institutes and potential people who are going to invest large amounts of money, and bring good collaborations, good modern institutes. And basis that, they selected Jio. Now, I have no problem if somebody is collaborating with world-class universities and willing to invest large amounts of money. Because ultimately, government will always have a limitation. How many more IITs and IIMs can government start? How many more medical colleges can government start?
If we had not allowed private sector to set up medical colleges, India would probably have had half the number of doctors that we have today. If engineering colleges having come up across the country and we were only dependent on IIT and BHU and Roorkee and regional engineering colleges, we wouldn’t have the kind of talent that we have both in India and across the world. And our talent across the world is also contributing to India. After all, we get $50-60 billion of remittances, which helps us meet the trade gap for our country. While everybody I would urge you to stay in India and serve your motherland, but if you do choose to go abroad for further studies, try to come back. But even if you don’t come back, you are still serving the motherland in some form or the other.
So, I think we should encourage private sector participation in education. And that committee has chosen some private sector institutes also for Institute of Eminence…… and also some presentation-based, commitment-based investments are being encouraged so that we can get more and more capital flowing into education in the country.
As I said, I have already answered the question about Indian railways on solar power. By the way, the experiment of solar power on the train did not work out, because on top of the train the solar power modules that we put up, the trains are not running all the time the sun is there. So that was not a success. But we don’t mind trying, unless you try you are not going to get new ideas ….. and if you try and fail there’s no harm, you can always get up and do other ideas. So the train top solar panel didn’t work, and it makes it much heavier so the load on the track increases. So we are looking now on the land that the railways owns.
Now for the last question about politics, I have said it on more occasions than one that I want to urge all of you youngsters to please consider politics also as a potential activity that you should all be engaged in. My own story is and I believe in it that I make sure that I work for the first 30 odd years of my life. I did politics on the side, but I was a part-time politician, full time professional. And I built up my capital, I built up my honest tax paid income, basis which today I can sacrifice and work full time for public life. And I went into politics with a clear hope and commitment that I will get an opportunity to impact millions of lives. And I believe politics is that one medium where with one signature, with one stroke of pen, you can actually transform the lives of millions of people.
And if today India is power surplus and we don’t have to have a ……. for power, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Today, when I go to a remote corner of India and I see a child having an LED bulb or a solar lamp made by IIT Bombay technology and your initiative under the million Souls gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Today, when I go to the remote areas and see railway lines being set up at thrice the pace they were earlier, new lines, doubling, tripling, stations being made cleaner, toilets being provided, well lit, illuminated. When I see 800 plus stations getting Wi-Fi already and that figure is going double to 1600 stations by March 31, …. Wi-Fi on the stations. And by Ganesh Chaturthi, 2nd September 2019, 6400 railway stations in India will have Wi-Fi which will be used by millions of young boys and girls, particularly in rural areas, gives me a great deal of satisfaction.
And I think that’s why I went into politics and I urge all of you to consider politics also as a vehicle by which you can serve your motherland. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.
March 9, 2019 Speaking at Indian Chamber of Commerce: Roadmap for 2024, in Mumbai