All the friends who have come from all across the country, I believe you have 40 chapters represented here from the length and breadth of the country, a warm welcome to all of you in Delhi. Of course, I myself am a expat in Delhi, I am not a Delhite. But having taken up residence here I think I can welcome all of you here. Great to see the active participation, also I have fond memories of this programme. I still remember in the same venue, probably, two years ago? Last year, when somebody from that corner asked me about the Tamil Nadu problem. And you guys don’t realize, you almost caused the whole election to revolve around that subject. So I will have to be extra cautious, is there an election coming up soon? Good, you didn’t have it before the Uttar Pradesh election.
But I am delighted at the subject you have chosen – Take Pride. Undoubtedly, each one of us is passionate about the work we do, is passionate about our country, cares for what is happening around us, is looking for a better future for us, our families, our cities, our states, our country. And if one really goes to see the success of any society, the future of any nation is going to be determined by the thinking of the youth, by the confidence that the youth have in their own abilities, in the work that they are doing. And I think nation’s destinies have been decided by what we do during our lifetime and what we leave behind for the next generation. It’s very important that our thinking is one of positivity, is one of self-confidence, is one of confidence and comfort in our own ability to take this country to greater heights.
And there is a large section of society, a large section of people who are the permanent naysayers, everything and anything that’s happening, they are all the time looking for fault, they are all the time looking to deride themselves or their own country or their own organizations. And then there is an even larger section of society that believes in itself, that believes in the work that they do. But, very often, the opinion makers or that section of society which has a reach in media, a reach in, the people who can actually frame the national discourse, the national opinion are the ones who are perpetual critics. In Hindi, they call it the नकारात्मक सोचने वाला | जिन लोगों की सोच में ही एक प्रकार से एक दुखी मन है, एक प्रकार से चिंता में घिरा रहता है, हर चीज़ में उसको कमियाँ महसूस होती हैं, ख़ुशी नहीं हो सकती | और एक बहुत बड़ा वर्ग है समाज का जो छोटे में भी, कम में भी बहुत खुशियाँ पाता है, who is satisfied, who is happy, who is able to enjoy life, live a full life. But his word, his voice doesn’t probably get heard. And we, in this room, when I was asking Raghu, Jacob, I was asking Mr Bhagrodia who came to receive me and bring me here, are we really representing India in this room or are we representing a section of society in this room.
And look within ourselves, let’s have a test check on the person sitting on both your sides. Do we reflect the voice of maybe 350 or 400 million young Indians in the age bracket that probably gets represented in the Summit or are we the voice of a very small section of India, a section which is relatively more privileged, a section which has not to worry about the next square meal later in the evening or tomorrow, a section which has not been deprived of basic amenities like power or clean drinking water, quality health, good education. And you will realize that a lot of the thought that we have and very often that critical approach is shaped because we are already satisfied with what are the basics of life. And, therefore, we have the ability to think negatively. Unless this section of society starts taking pride in its country, starts taking pride in the ability of this country to do more, to do better, we really won’t be able to do better for the rest of society, for the rest of the world, for the rest of the country and take this country to greater heights.
I myself came from a very cocooned section of society, probably, till one visits the villages in Odisha or the villages in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, or the villages around a coal mine, for example. It is very difficult to understand what life is beyond our cities, beyond our own existence. In fact, I am delighted that you are putting together paper from across the country on one platform that itself is another problem that this country is grappling with is the sectorial thinking in terms of our region, our state, our community. We are still to get out of our own and look at the nation as a whole. And, therefore, putting together 110 educational institutions under your banner and reaching out to people from across the country is a great movement that I think the young Indian group of CII has started.
Possibly, you may consider taking this to the next level to involve some more smaller towns, some people from the little more of the interiors of the country to understand and appreciate their point of views. We read in the papers or see on television, for example, about the drive in Uttar Pradesh against these roadside Romeos. Now for many of us in this room, who are very unhappy about discotheques closing down at 1 o’clock in the night and who believe that they should be allowed to run all through the night, our world revolves around the freedom to be able to party all through the night, the freedom to do what we want. But we don’t realize that there is a large section out there for whom that is a pipe dream to be able to party at 1 o’clock in the night, to be able to go to school in the morning or to go to college and not being harassed itself is a luxury.
I had a relative who was staying with me last night, who mentioned that a few months ago she had gone to Vrindavan. And in the course of her driving around in, I don’t know, that auto rickshaw or that larger vehicle that you see in the smaller towns, from a moving vehicle somebody snatched her purse and ran away, got onto a bike and got away. When she went to the police station because her credit cards and everything were there, they said oh, this is quite normal. We can’t do anything about that, forget about it. It took her great pain to get atleast a dairy entry put on the police station, just so that she could atleast make a complaint for her credit cards or maybe travel on her flight back to Pune where she came from, and would have otherwise not had an identity proof for the airline to allow her in.
But the callousness of the policeman at the police station was something we should be very worried about. But there is a large section of society which is completely insulated from this kind of difficulties that a common man has to face in India, in the country as a whole. And, therefore, when we talk of the problems of India, we sometimes get restricted only to our very small thinking or the small world around us without really understanding what the larger section of society has to face. And then within our small world, we are not able to take pride in all the good that is happening in the country and we land up becoming perpetual critics or perpetual dissatisfied lot of young boys and girls.
In fact, we celebrate National Youth Day on Swami Vivekananda’s birthday on 12th January, and Swami Vivekananda was one person who took a lot of pride in his country. He was willing to say that we have a lot of problems, but within those problems, first, I feel very proud that I am an Indian, and second, I feel more committed and empowered as an Indian to do something to resolve the problems that my nation has. But he would not let the problems overcome his pride. And believe you, ladies and gentlemen, I find that in rural areas. I find that sense of pride amongst the lesser privileged sections of society. When I go to a village, I can actually, despite all the problems that they may be facing, see the sense of pride in them for whatever they are doing, even the sputtering of little bit of words of English that that young boy or girl may use to communicate is with a sense of pride ki I have progressed and I have started learning a little bit of English.
So problems come in all our lives, problems come in different dimensions in different people’s lives. It’s our approach to those problems and our approach to the future of the country that really determines whether we will be a society which will be one society, one nation, one society and a society of people who are proud about their nation, who are proud about the achievements that this nation has done. And for the problems we will be a group of people, a group of individuals who will work collectively to find solutions, to look for a better tomorrow for the nation, and not only for ourselves but even for the people who are less privileged, who have been deprived of a good quality of life despite 7 decades of independence.
In fact, Nelson Mandela in prison used to often, I am told, quote from that famous poetry, Invictus, where in the last stanza, ‘it matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’ It’s something we have all heard about all through in our school days I am sure we have all learned this poetry. But somehow over the years, we have become a society dependent on somebody else to help us have a better future for ourselves, to determine our fate.
Today, I was doing a review with the Renewable Energy Ministry and we were looking at ways and means to promote domestic manufacturing. And I was at pains to explain to my officials, can we not work this whole programme in such a way that we are not dependent on the government. Can we not promote domestic manufacturing of renewable energy equipment in such a way that we are not dependent on the government; we are not dependent on any foreign funding. Can we not make a self-reliant programme which can then progress and become a success rather than waiting for interventions from others to make this programme successful. And till we all accept that we are the masters of our fate and we will determine the future of this country, give India a better future, I don’t think this country can really achieve its true potential and I think we will remain an unsatisfied and unhappy lot of individuals.
In fact, all of you have had a good high quality of education and are I believe at the cusp of very successful careers in your life. This is the time one will have to choose that in the course of our work what will be our contribution to nation building? What part of our life will be dedicated to a better future for that section of society which has remained deprived, which has remained underprivileged and how we will be better citizens of this nation. And to my mind, the first and foremost criteria to be good citizens of this nation is to have pride in your nation first, truly imbibe that Indian spirit, that spirit of Indianness.
And I have no doubt in my mind if you have registered to come and be a part of this conference, each one of you is truly believing in your country, in a better future for your country. And while we are working for a better future, I think being an important and integral part of society is as much important as whatever work or profession that each one of you is following, that each one of you is conducting. After all, when we talk of the future of India, we often talk of the demography of India, we often talk of the big demand that India has in terms of economic opportunity, we take pride in our democracy. And, ultimately, this demographic dividend coupled with democracy and the huge demand that we have in India is what will result in the development of India. But whether all of these will be leveraged for a better India or will become a bane for India is something that each one of us is going to determine in the next few years.
Fortunately, India is lucky to have a very strong institutional democratic framework. We have a strong press, a media which keeps all of us on our toes. We have large number of free civil society institutions, which ensure that there is balance in whatever is happening in different elements of the country. And then we have a strong judiciary which is the final arbiter, which ensures that each of the other legs of this democracy be it bureaucracy, be it the political establishment, be it media, everybody else, a free society or a civil society, everybody works in an orderly fashion. In fact, that is what differentiates India from many other countries. And then when you couple this with the rich tradition and heritage and culture that we have inherited over the years that truly defines India.
In fact, the strong value systems, family value systems, that we have is something that is a treasure trove for India. The fact that we can fall back on neighbors, on family, relatives or friends in an hour of need is something very unique to India, you don’t see that in the developed world anymore. It’s a very clinical society in many parts of the world. A lot of wealth, but not necessarily a good element of happiness, in those parts of the world. And, my own sense is that today the youth of India with their entrepreneurial spirit, with the ability to think laterally with their out of the box ideas, are going to enable in the next few years a story where India will lead the world rather than following what happens in the rest of the world. And, to my mind, the India of today is just at the cusp of a revolution in almost every section of society, be it in research and development, be it in Startups and Stand Ups, in new ideas, in innovation, be it in our ability to provide technology, to provide knowledge, to provide skill to the rest of the world and be it in our ability to scale up programmes in the country in such a manner that we can really look at inclusive growth through the length and breadth of the country where even the Eastern part of India, the part which over so many years has remained deprived of development, can also join the national mainstream and look for a better future for its citizens, for its people.
In fact, gradually, I am glad to see that the youth of today are moving away from becoming job-seekers to becoming job-generators. After all, when you read the examples of these young boys and girls starting up an Ola or starting up a new e-commerce venture, you really feel proud; young boys and girls in their 20s with a mission to scale new heights, to come with new innovations, new technologies, is something that makes all of us proud.
In fact, very often when we go to the smaller villages and we see some of the ideas that they give us, it’s truly remarkable. And there are so many ideas which don’t get scale, which don’t get an opportunity to really get an outreach beyond a very small area. Recently, President Pranab Mukherjee, had invited 10 innovators in a programme at Rashtrapati Bhavan. They had come and met me just about 4 or 5 days ago. Some of the innovations that those people had come up with, there was a young 10th standard boy, there was a tribal woman in her 40s. There were some young 20-30 year olds who had come up with innovations related to the power sector. There was somebody who had come up with some very very interesting ideas on cooking stoves. So, a lot of innovation happening in the rest of the country, which very often we are not even aware of. But India is coming to terms with a lot of new ideas, lot of new thoughts and I think that is what will define our future. And that is what, to my mind, is going to take India to the next level of development. And I can give you so many examples where India today is showing the path to the rest of the world.
I don’t know if last time I had shared with you about my LED programme, the programme where we are trying to convert all of India to use LED bulbs and LED tube lights rather than the traditional incandescent bulbs or CFL bulbs that India has been using for many years. But that single programme to convert all the lighting load of this country to LED has a potential to reduce the carbon dioxide emission by 80 million tonnes a year, 80 million tonnes. The power bills that all the citizens of this country pay, that all of you pay in your homes, have a potential reduction of Rs 40,000 crore, annually, when we all convert to LED bulbs, Rs 40,000 crore – $6.5 billion, every year can be saved only by converting all our lighting loads to LED.
Of course, there are many other concomitant advantages in terms of lower peak load that the country will require, reducing investments in more power generation and all of that. Now, that’s a programme that in India was going on at a snail’s pace. Until 2014, a government company which was mandated to promote LEDs was selling 600,000 bulbs every year with a good amount of subsidy and a price which was about 10 times what it costs today. We were able to scale up that programme to make it a national mission. And I am delighted to share with you that the cost of those bulbs has fallen by about 88%, in the last two and a half years, 88% reduction. And, today, the nation is selling more than 1 million bulbs every day, every single day – half of them by this company, this same government company which used to sell 600,000 in a year, is now selling about 150 million in a year and the private sector is selling a similar amount. Nearly 300 million LED bulbs being sold in India every year in a short span of two years. And you will be happy to know that probably, India will be the first large country in the world that by 2019, we will almost be 95% plus LED.
Our approach is that India should stop …. the West and just stop looking at programmes in a very small fashion, but having the self-confidence that we can do better than the rest of the world. And that can only happen when we are confident in our own ability, when we are confident about this nation’s ability to accept new technology, to accept new ideas. For example, this government is seriously working to see can we as a nation become a 100% electric vehicle country using electric vehicles only by 2030. Now there is no country of the size and scale of India in the world that has an ambition anywhere close to that. The current level of innovation in this country on electric vehicles is almost non-existent.
I have a hybrid car which I am using; a hybrid vehicle which works both on petrol and electric battery, but it only reduces the fuel consumption by about 50%. But if we could actually imagine that as a nation we will move to 100% electric vehicles by 2030, we could actually be looking at a saving in our oil imports annually by a $100 billion every year. But you tell anybody that India is planning to be a 100% electric vehicle country by 2030 and we take a vote in this room, I don’t think 10 hands will go up who will say that this is possible. When I first said 100% LEDs by 2019, nobody, absolutely nobody was willing to support me. When we first said India will be a 100 GW solar installation base by 2022, everybody and their uncle and aunt had notes written out why it’s impossible; whether it’s the transmission infrastructure, whether it’s the cost – whatever. But whether we believe in ourselves, whether we believe in the ability of Indians to scale up, to think innovatively, to produce new technologies is for us in this room to decide.
And believe me friends, unless we believe in ourselves, nobody else is going to come and better our life for us. It’s an entrepreneurial spirit that we have that is going to determine what the future of India is going to be like. And it’s only entrepreneurs and thinkers and innovators who can be the harbingers of change in this country. Today, if anybody was to do a study of the United States of America, it’s really a land of innovation. What is distinguishing the US from the rest of the world, in some sense, even from Europe? It’s their ability to innovate, their ability to come up with new and new technologies in almost every field and then make money out of those innovations.
I was the other day looking up and I found that no big significant discovery has happened in our country in several decades. We do not have any patent of significance that we have created in so many years, but then the choice is whether we accept that as going to be the reality always or we start moving the needle to see what we can do. And on this electric vehicle programme, we are looking to engage with our IITs, with our technologists, our technocrats, our scientists to see can India provide technology to the rest of the world. Can we become the leaders and show the path to the rest of the world to go towards electric vehicles, towards better technologies. And then when one starts talking to our engineers and our scientists, I promise you, you get so much enthusiasm which somehow has not got really encouraged over so many years and it only needs that little bit of push and we can do wonders in this country.
So I would really believe it’s our self-belief that is going to determine our nation’s future, our confidence in our abilities, and in our ability to deliver that is going to hopefully give a better quality of life to the less privileged sections of society. And, unless we stretch our mind with new ideas, unless we are willing to think out of the box, unless we are willing to expand our horizons, we will never be able to change the destiny of this country. And, believe me, once you expand your own horizon, then it won’t come back to the original, it will remain expanded. It’s like if you sleep 8 hours a day, your body gets tuned to it and you start sleeping 8 hours, anything less than that is a problem. But if you start working 18 hours a day and sleeping 5 hours or 6 hours a day, then anything more than that and you will fall ill. Then your body gets tuned to a 5 and a half hour sleep cycle and you have expanded your working hours, you have expanded your ability to work.
And, we in India do not have the luxury to run away from challenges. वह है ना कौन सा भाग लो या भागलो – something of that sort? Either you contribute, you participate – भाग लो – or you run away – भागलो – that’s the choice before all of us in this country. Are we going to run away from that stark reality that is India? Or are we going to take pride in our country that this is our country, this is my nation, these are my people and I am going to contribute to making this a better society, to making this a better world to live in. And when we are looking at contributing, when we are looking participating, जब हम तय करते हैं कि हमें भाग लेना है, then we need those Big Hairy Audacious Goals, the BHAG. We have to set goals for ourselves which are really big, bold and beautiful. We have to participate in making this society a better place to live in. We have to be concerned citizens to look for a better life for the people in the villages, for the poor in our cities.
And that’s what will determine the future of this country, and if you see the last three years, we have set very ambitious goals. We have set very ambitious targets in every single one of the programmes that we have embarked upon. Be it a simple thing like the Give it Up programme, where we offered to all of the citizens of India who can afford it not to take the subsidy on their LPG cylinders. And I am delighted that over 1 crore families decided to forego their LPG subsidy. How many of you in this room have foregone your LPG subsidy? So that’s still a far cry from what it should be. I mean look at the people around you. I suspect 90% of this room comes from families which could have easily given up their LPG subsidy. And do you know what happens with that money which you give up? It goes to give a free LPG connection to a poor family, saving the woman of that family, saving the children of that family from inhaling smoke, which I am told is equivalent to 400 cigarettes every day.
And we have embarked on a mission to provide 50 million families – 5 crore families, of which nearly 2 crore have already got a free LPG cylinder. That money came out of the contributions of all those who raised their hand just now and that’s your participation to give a better quality of life to somebody who had, who’s been less privileged, who didn’t have the kind of money to be able to afford that connection. Can I atleast hope that all of you will get back home and ensure that you give up your LPG subsidy so that we can expand this programme anymore. Is that a unanimous yes? Great!
You have embarked on that Organ Donation Programme, if I am not mistaken, right? Have all of you been a part of that Organ Donation Programme? All of you? Because I gave up my organs in 2016, with my family, my whole body; my wife, both my children and I have given our whole body.
So we have the ability to change the world, and if we take on these programmes, we take on these programmes to scale, just like the honorable Prime Minister takes on every programme to scale. He talked about financial inclusion. He made sure in four months, every family in the country had atleast one bank account. Now we are working to see that everybody has a bank account. There was the Unique Identification Number programme, previous government started it. The previous government had a problem that the Finance Minister and the Home Minister kept fighting and could not really convey the message and the advantages of the programme to even us in the Opposition. We also felt that this programme is only full of lacunae.
But when we came into government, we called the same people who had planned it, Nandan Nilekani, who was a candidate of the Opposition party. But we called him to try and explain to us and help us understand what really was behind the programme. And when we realized it was more a political problem, but the idea is good, we didn’t hesitate to adopt it. But then we didn’t adopt it to be a miniscule programme of the government. We didn’t sit on laurels saying that oh, we have launched Aadhar. We have not been able to bring it as a law. We have not been able to really scale it up. We didn’t cry over all of that. We have worked day and night such that today 99% of the adult population of India has a Unique Identification Number, an Aadhar Card.
And we hope soon to take it right down to all the children and make a 100% identification of every citizen of this country. Size and scale matters in a country of our size. When Prime Minister Modi set the audacious goal that every village in this country has to be electrified in a 1000 days, he didn’t ask us or he didn’t tell us that this is how you have to do it or that is how it will be done. And mind you, the villages that were left out, you will appreciate are the most difficult ones. After all, the fact that it took 70 years after independence for us to take power to these 18,452 villages, clearly shows there must be some difficulty why the power hasn’t reached there in so many years. Some are at the top of a mountain, some are in deep dense jungles, some are in areas infested by Maoists, and people where the access is almost impossible. There are villages where people actually take equipment to connect with the people with electricity on boats and on their shoulders up mountains to actually set up poles and set up electricity lines. But whether we should allow it to happen at the pace at which it was happening earlier, or we should aggressively go behind it and do it is a choice that nation had to make.
I remember when I did a study in Uttar Pradesh, for example. Between 2010 to 2014, all of a 100 odd villages were newly electrified in almost 4 years, and with the push that we gave, we were able to do almost 1300 villages in one year. In this country, even today, estimates are that 50 million homes don’t have electricity. Now can you imagine, 50 million is about 20 crore people, maybe 25 crore people were deprived of electricity. Can any of you imagine a life where from morning to night you have no electricity in your home? I suspect none of you has faced that situation in your life. I haven’t. I come from Mumbai where I get 24 hours uninterrupted power. In fact, I jokingly used to say maybe that’s why the Prime Minister chose to make me the Power Minister. He thought if having enjoyed that luxury, I will be able to make sure that the rest of the country can enjoy that. But then he set a deadline. He said by 2022, 15th August, 2022, when the nation turns 75, when we are 75 years into independence, every citizen of this country should have a shelter, should have a roof over his head, he should have electricity in his home, he should have water, he should have good toilet facility, sanitation, a road leading up to his home, his or her home, quality education and healthcare in the vicinity, and with that objective, we are working on creating the framework of development which will reach us to that goal within this defined timeframe. And ladies and gentlemen, I can assure all of you that one mission that will succeed not by 2022, but well before that is to take power to every home in this country so that no child has to study without electricity.
Only this morning, I got a call from the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh who’s got down to his job literally from Day 1, talking to me about my plans to electrify the rest of the villages, what we will do to take electricity to take electricity to all those far off habitations, you know those Majla’s, Tola’s, Dhaani’s, those small set of homes or group of small clusters of villages which don’t come as a revenue villages but are probably far off, and how nearly 1.8 crore families in Uttar Pradesh who still don’t have electricity can get electricity quickly. And you know what Yogi Adityanath told me this morning? He said पियूष जी यह काम मुझे दो वर्ष में करके दो – 2 years. That is the kind of passion that this country needs when we are going down the path of development. The urge and passion to achieve audacious goals will only help us reach there.
I remember when I first talked about a billion tonnes of coal production in India, all the naysayers, including predecessors of my Ministry which I run, ridiculed me saying what a stupid rookie we have as a Minister, he doesn’t even know what he is talking about. I said we will make sure coal is never a problem; it will be a surplus commodity. I am delighted to share with you that today India has surplus coal and surplus power. Whichever state wants whatever amount of coal or power is available in the country. In fact, I have a reverse problem, I could not achieve coal production this year because I have so much stock that I am not able to liquidate that I have actually got to scale down production and I am looking for new avenues to use that coal. Any of you has technologies on coal gasification, coal bed methane, converting coal to more value added products, please contact me immediately.
So there is a lot that can be done, we’ve got to believe in ourselves. We’ve got to set those audacious goals and we have got to have the confidence in our ability to do that. And nothing is impossible my young friends, nothing at all is impossible. We can achieve a better future for our nation, for the people of our nation.
In fact, the Bhagwad Gita, some of you may just think that I am talking only Hindu but I could as well quote from the Bible or from the Quran, everybody talks about positivity. And if I may just quote from the Bhagwad Gita, ‘we are kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a bigger goal. And I think it’s time that we as a nation and we the young people of India start planning for a great nation, for the superpower that India once upon a time was.
I was addressing the Gem and Jewellery Export Promoting Council on Saturday last, or Sunday, last Sunday. And I was sharing with them that until the 18th century, India was the only country which had diamonds. We used to provide the diamonds to the rest of the world, diamond was not discovered anywhere else in the world except in India. वह जो बोलते है ना सोने की चिड़िया, वास्तव में भारत सोने की चिड़िया थी, भारत में जिस प्रकार की समृद्धि थी, the kind of wealth that we enjoyed in India was unparalleled. We have been looted, we have been plundered over several centuries. But, should we cry over that? Or should we empower ourselves to once again establish our rightful place in the comity of nations is a choice before all of us. And you young people are the ones who are destined to be that change. You are going to make a difference to the future of India, because you have opportunity, you have quality education; you have that passion, that fire in your belly to want to do something. I think if you didn’t have that fire in the belly, you wouldn’t have registered to come for this programme. I am quite sure if you have come for this programme, there is something different in you which empowers you to want change, want a better future which is why you are after all here.
And I would urge each one of you to set those audacious goals for your life, to participate in nation building, maybe some of you would participate in politics, after all, it is an integral part of the future of India, we can’t wish away politics. Somebody has to run the nation in an ordinary fashion and if the good people don’t come into politics, well, if there is a vacuum somebody else will fill that vacuum. But as more and more good people come in and stay good while they are in politics. And there are numerous opportunities for good people. There are numerous good people in public life, in all parties. Please don’t at all think that I am suggesting all of you join the Bhartiya Janta Party, or that I am the only good party and everybody else is bad. We can agree to disagree on many things. We can fight politically. We can have different points of view. But, save and except, for a few individuals, there is still a lot of goodness in the country, each one of you can choose your path, your calling in life. Some of you may say no I am not cut out to be a politician, but I would like to associate with an NGO or I would like to associate with tribal affairs, to do something for the tribal parts of India, the poorer people who live in tribal areas. Somebody may want to do something about education, be a part of Akansksha, or any of these organisations. Somebody may want to be a part of skill development, another great area to contribute to the future of our young brothers and sisters in this country.
I would give you a small example how India can, and how we are positioning India when we plan our various programmes. I don’t know if you have seen the BHIM app, the Bharat Interface for Money. The BHIM app that the honorable Prime Minister launched about a couple of months ago, is an app which will enable payments between two people using a mobile phone without the need for any credit or debit card. Now, to my mind, and I was involved in the entire exercise to develop and then promote this, to my mind, that one app has the potential to change the way the world does business, the world transacts money. And I have the confidence that if we are able to develop and further mature these technologies given the large mobile base that we have in India, I visualize the situation where India will lead the world and possibly be the death knell of all the Visa and Mastercard cards and American Expresses of the world, and the world will be using Indian technologies to transact and do business and move money from one to the other. India has that potential.
So it’s a new India we are looking at, an empowered India, an India which believes in itself, an inclusive India where all of us, all of India, works together for a better tomorrow, works together for a better tomorrow for all Indians, not just for one section of society or the privileged section of society. And I have no doubt in my mind that the people power, particularly, the power of the youth, largely represented in this room and across the length and breadth of India, will lead this country to change to a better tomorrow, to a new India which we can all be proud of, a new India which in the years ahead will lead the world, which will show a path not only of prosperity but of happiness to the rest of the world. A new India which will share its traditional family values, its rich heritage and culture and give a path to the rest of the world for a better tomorrow. I wish all of you well in your own endeavours, in your own work and I am sure that as you go back to your respective cities, your respective destinations at the end of this conference, you will go back as citizens with a passion to serve with a compassion for the rest of society, and with a zeal to be citizens who make a difference to your nation, proud Indians of a proud country contributing to make the whole world proud of India.
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much sir for inspiring us once again. We are open now for a few questions, I just thought I will kick-start it with a slightly more political questions so we will try to avoid Tamil Nadu this time.
Q: Sir after the UP elections and the resounding victory for the BJP in the UP elections and the changes correspondingly which will happen in the Rajya Sabha numbers, just wanted to kind of ask you what would be the big ticket changes that we can probably expect to see from the government, that is one part. And given that after the UP results I am sure that the BJP government would be a lot more confident about 2019, so my question is what is the party thinking in order to make sure complacency doesn’t set in. And also, how would you tackle the united opposition, because I think the opposition is also coming to a point where they say the only way is if we could do something like what we did in Bihar. So that was my question sir.
A: As we have Question Hour in parliament, usually one supplementary is allowed, but then being a President of the organisation I think you certainly have more liberty. But yes, UP elections have been a watershed election. It’s an election which reflected two sides of the problem there or of the situation there. One was an anti-incumbency, very clearly the people were tired of goondaism, of corruption, of the poor law and order situation in that state. And people on the other hand had faith and trusted the Bhartiya Janta Party led by Prime Minister Modi to change their lives to give them a better future. They gave us a very very large support, a verdict which is unprecedented and I can assure all of you that right from Day 1, we have been on our feet. In fact, I had also not imagined the UP government to be so quickly off the ground in terms of starting to implement ideas, the young Power Minister who has just taken charge yesterday, Shrikant Sharma, was already on the phone with me day before yesterday, charting out what will be his priorities, what he needs to do to complete rural electrification, how we can ensure 24 hours power supply, what are the constraints, how he will raise funding. It was very impressive to talk to him on the phone and I believe in a day or two he is coming to meet me also.
As regards the Rajya Sabha, it’s a slow process of change, so I don’t suspect that the numbers will change very significantly, very quickly. It’s a House that has one-third of its composition changed every two years. The first impact will be in 2018, then 2020, then 2022. So, really UPs impact will be felt over a period of time, many other states have also changed and, so clearly the BJP and NDA numbers are going to move up gradually. But I would like you to think, in the last three years we have not allowed our smaller number in Rajya Sabha to really cause us not to be able to implement any programme. We have not given ever the excuse of our smaller number in Rajya Sabha. In fact, in the history of India, never have so many game changing laws been passed as we saw in the last two and a half/three years. Very often people ask Finance Minister Mr Jaitley for a big bang budget, to my mind, Finance Minister jaitley has proven to be the best Finance Minister India has ever seen with a kind of improvements he has brought in the system, the strong macro-economic fundamentals, the ability to steer GST, something which India has been yearning for years and years and years to steer it with unanimity across the entire political spectrum, everybody holding different viewpoints, to steer it across India and get it passed in such a short period of time. And I don’t know if you are aware, nearly 7 laws, constitutional laws have been passed in the last two and a half years by this government without a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
So we believe in a consensus approach. We believe in taking everybody together. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, of course is our credo. But even in parliament, more often than not you will see us talking and engaging with all parties. So really, it’s been an approach of taking everybody along and working together and our confidence is that since we are doing good for the nation it’s very difficult for anybody to really oppose it. So when I brought in the auction of coal mines, we had support from across the political spectrum. Of course, three parties opposed it, but then those three were the usual parties who can’t support transparency and all these things. I won’t repeat the names so that we don’t get into another slugfest, but it’s not difficult to imagine which those three parties were whose track record will tell you whether they were transparent and whether they believe in transparency in their own functioning.
As regards our confidence for 2019, let me assure you we go into every election to fight that election to win, no question of complacency. Every election for us is a challenge, we fight that election with the most serious sincerity and then we leave the result to the people of India. After the election gets over, we serve the nation as one. You heard Prime Minister Modi, now that the UP elections is over, we are not going to be a government for those who voted for us or the 325 constituencies where our candidates got elected, now our job is to serve 22 crore Uttar Pradeshiites. This is not a government for the one or the other.
So we are now in the service mode, we will have an election coming up in Delhi where I hope the people give us a chance to serve again. We will have an election in Gujarat. We will soon have an election in Himachal and Karnataka. And almost each one of these I see the BJP surging ahead, but no question of complacency. For that matter, I came back from Uttar Pradesh campaigning on 6th March, and 6th evening we were in meetings in my department to catch up on the backlog of work that I have missed out in the last weeks. Prime Minister has been on the job right through the elections, so he would campaign in the day, work through late hours in the night to make sure the UP election doesn’t mean the rest of the country or its working is stopped. Budgets were made in the midst of UP election. So Finance Minister Mr Jaitley would go, campaign, come back and still work on the budget.
So this is a government that works 24/7. We believe that when we are doing good the people of India are with us and, therefore, there is no question of worrying about a united opposition. If they are united the people will also be united against them. That’s what happened in Uttar Pradesh. After all, if two people who are corrupt or whose ideology doesn’t match at all and who were cursing each other until a few days back are going to start trying to create an alternative and hope to get people’s support, believe me, as they say, ye janta sab jaanti hai!
Q: Sir, this is Anush from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Sir, I have three inputs that are very specific to you or Ministry. The first input is I think this LPG subsidies, I think even to this state more than 80% of the subsidies can be done away with. I think the only guys who need the LPG subsidies are those 50 million homes that do not have electricity because even today electricity cost and with the induction cooking technology, it’s cheaper to cook using electricity even when compared to subsidized cost of LPG, that’s number 1. Number 2, your dream of having, you know, all electric vehicles by 2030, I think we can achieve that far quicker because if we make a policy saying that all two-wheelers are going to be electric and that’s a little over 50% of our fuel consumption and that 50% can be achieved within three years. And the third submission is, I think the local DISCOMs have the highest amount of infrastructure. If you can do something to work out with the state governments to use this infrastructure for internet connectivity I think we can have a really really not only 100 smart cities but a smart India within the next 5 years. Thank you.
A: Thank you, all three are very good suggestions. What do you do gentleman?
Q: I spin yarn.
A: Yeah, Coimbatore is famous for that. But that’s the kind of positivity that this country needs, actually this is truly taking pride in your nation. I think each one of you in this room picks up a thread of ideas like this, imagine how we can transform India in the years to come. And I take your inputs with all humility, thank you very much. I would work on all of them. The internet connectivity idea, in fact, Andhra Pradesh has used to good measure. And, we in the centre are quite open to learning from each other. I remember when I became a Minister, Prime Minister had actually told me, pick up the best ideas from across the country, don’t bother which party rules which state. Pick up the best ideas and share best experiences with each other. So I learnt from Babu’s working where he instead of underground cabling and spending thousands of crores he leveraged on the electricity infrastructure, had overhead cables along with the whole infrastructure that was carrying power. And I am told at 1/10th the cost, he’s been able to reach every home with internet connectivity. So, we really welcome this kind of ideas, your idea about two-wheelers, by the way, I have had meetings with atleast two companies Rajiv Bajaj one of them and TVS, talking to them why don’t you move totally into two-wheelers. And I remember Rajiv Bajaj about a year ago promised me that in six months, I will make sure I have a cost-competitive bike on electricity which I can sell. And we have so much electricity in this country, surplus today, which can be made available at very competitive prices to promote the electric vehicle industry. So if I get five people in this room who have this kind of positivity, we can move the mountains as they say.
Q: Good evening sir, let me first thank you, I think the whole of India and I am very sure has very deep respect for the work you are doing. Sir, I am Aditya Jain from … Hyderabad and we run a steel manufacturing unit which consumes around 10 MW of power. Lately we are seeing prices of renewable energy are touching new lows and also on the open access, we get power at the rate of Rs 2.50 to Rs 3. And in your speech here you said that electricity is surplus in India. So can you throw some light as to why DISCOMs are raising prices every year, and how do you see the prices of electricity in the coming 3-5 years?
A: I am always scared about questions from that corner. Renewable energy is another example of how if you think big, you can do big. Earlier, our whole renewable energy programme centered around those small projects where we used to buy power at very high prices and most often it used to be feed-in tariffs which was prone to corruption, and which was prone to padding and stuff like that. We moved away into transparent auctions and bidding, and to larger scale projects which has helped us drive down prices, as against Rs 7-8 for solar power when I became a Minister per unit, the last auction determined a levelised tariff of Rs 3.30 for solar power. Wind which used to traditionally be above Rs 4.5-5, plus government used to give accelerated depreciation or generation based incentive has come down to Rs 3.46 in my very first auction, without any government incentive, having withdrawn GBI and that 80% accelerated depreciation. So a lot of possibilities are there, we are trying to keep power cost as a whole at affordable levels. DISCOMs have a challenge of a lot of large past losses that they are trying to grapple with on the one hand, inefficient working, large amounts of manpower, lot of linkages, AT&C losses, power theft which we are trying to work with the DISCOMs, both the centre and states, to reduce the losses. And the third and the most important thing is the cross-subsidy, which helps the DISCOMs give farmers and the poor people, sometimes free power, sometimes very concessional power, and which cross-subsidy then is loaded on to open access charges or to the richer high tension consumers or large domestic consumers.
Now that’s a truism, that’s a reality of India. I am sure you will all appreciate that the poorer people or the farmers who still are having a hard time in this country, very often plagued by the vagaries of nature and not able to even get a fair price for their produce, do deserve some affirmative action to support them until they are able to rise in life. So I think that’s a reality that none of us in this room really should grudge. We pay a little more for our power but that, hopefully, in most cases, goes to serve a poorer person, to serve a farmer, produce for us, for our plate. And that truism will take a few more years to go away. My own effort is to keep the costs of power down. I think in the last 2 or 3 years, you will see and any study you can do through CII, the increase in power tariffs has been the smallest in the last three years. In fact, most DISCOMs will tell you their cost of power has come down because of cheaper domestic coal, because of availability of cheaper power on the power exchange. And I can reassure you that we are continuing to make effort to bring down power theft, to reduce AT&C losses, bring more efficiency in the DISCOM working so that just like Maharashtra and Gujarat has been able to reduce power tariffs in the last two years, hopefully, other states also can reduce power tariffs.
Q: Mantriji Namaskar, sir again from Tamil Nadu, on the lighter note, your excess power has been causing a great discomfort to us because governments are run from the prison these days. Like on the other note, you have been talking about electric vehicle, even the last time you were here, you spoke very strongly about electric vehicles. But even the cars you drive, the hybrid cars, you have seen the prices being upside only, we have not seen any subsidizing on any of these electric vehicles. Even the Mahindras have been finding it very difficult to market their cars because of the higher costs. What is the government trying to do to bring down the costs and make it affordable for anybody to buy?
A: First of all gentleman, I had mentioned it last year I can assure you that in the last 12 months we have been working relentlessly on this programme. You will be happy to know, and I am proud to share with you that I have a very distinguished Professor from IIT Chennai, who has taken a sabbatical from his work at IIT Chennai, Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, some of you from Chennai may have heard of him, who has left his work there, is working with me in Delhi now full time to try and promote and scale up the electric vehicle programme at an affordable price. And he is passionate about this programme and wants it to be a part of the Make in India initiative so that we don’t land up only importing cars and supporting foreign job creation, rather to have innovation and technology in India and make a Make in India electric vehicle successful in the country. He is working for that programme, day and night.
Now, as regards the incentives and subsidies, I personally believe subsidies are a detriment to the progress of any industry. It actually is a constraint, when you say you will get a subsidy then the amount of subsidy becomes the constraint for that project. Till LEDs and CFLs bulbs were given a subsidy by the government we could never scale it up. The first action I did was remove the subsidy and scaled up the programme and we could achieve such great success that Rs 310 became now Rs 41 in the last …. They have gone down to as low as Rs 38, but the next tender because of probably some changing dimensions internationally have come to Rs 41. Now this is the kind of game changing benefits India can get that you can reduce 310 to 41 in less than 2 years and scale it up to about a 100X, probably more than a 100, it’s 200X.
Even in electric cars, I am trying to work on a model where subsidies don’t define the scale at which these cars can be brought in. And I think if we can scale up the demand to larger levels without bothering about subsidy, the cost of manufacturing and production will come down, at best we may need to give some small concessions in GST or road taxes for 2 or 3 years. And that will be enough of an impetus to make this programme largely successful, that’s the model we are working on. We want to move out of the subsidy regime to a self-reliant, indigenous technology-driven, large scale of deployment model where economies of scale and technology will drive this programme, not government subsidy and intervention.
Q: My name is Vaibhav and my question is while whatever you have spoken about is about today and, maybe, tomorrow. But really the young Indians means the future and that future is extremely important, so one of the important, you know, things which this government has done is to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement, so that’s directly related to, in some senses, related to your Ministry. So I just wanted to know two specific points on that that by 2030, government of India has to have a 40% power generation or electricity generation through renewable sources or alternative sources. So how are we going to do about it and what is going to be the impact on the life of all the citizens in the country and how it is going to be impacted slowly and slowly.
Number 2 is that the forest cover of India has to grow up by another 5 million hectares by 2030 as per the Paris Climate Agreement, so how can young Indians and young India can play a role in working with the Ministry and the people to take care of that, and it also contradicts with the whole smart city and the new green field city concepts which the country is coming up with. So how are we planning to do and go about it?
A: Look, at the outset I must acknowledge that the interactions that I have had with some of you, I have had the opportunity to meet both the gentlemen on the dais with me on earlier occasion also, I have seen Mr Bhakrodia from close quarters and the kind of passion it brings to the table. And I mentioned it because he and I have had a lot of interaction about climate change on earlier occasions. I think there were one or two programmes in Mumbai which he had organized where he was engaging with the youth of Mumbai to discuss about the Paris Agreement which was a little bit before we went into COP21 negotiations. And I remember the passion he brought to the table to want to be a part of change, to want to do something about India. And that’s what empowers me to think that this group sitting here is going to be led by good Indians, good solid people who believe in India. And to my mind, achieving this 40% of the installed electric capacity, electricity generation base which is what we have committed in Paris is not difficult as long as we have people like all of you in this room.
I can, in fact, tell you going by the prices that we have determined now, this price empowers me to think we could even think of about 60 or 65% of India’s installed capacity base being of renewable energy. And it will need a large amount of storage capacity which we are trying to dovetail with the electric vehicle programme. So electric vehicle programme is not only about converting petrol vehicles to electric and reducing pollution in the cities or wherever these vehicles are used, it dovetails beautifully into our renewable energy programme. And, by the way, renewable energy programme is not only about clean environment, it’s not only about reducing pollution, it’s also about India’s energy security because we will have the assurance and guarantee that that power will be available for India and all Indians to enjoy for years and years to come at affordable prices. So when I sign a power contract for solar power at Rs 3.30 today, I know for 25 years people will enjoy power at that price. It’s not going to escalate with increasing cost of fuel or raw material or anything like that.
So when we plan projects, we plan it with a holistic approach, a 360 degree comprehensive approach. Similarly, the carbon sink, the 2.5 billion tonne carbon sick, the forest cover that you talked about, it’s not only about expanding the forest cover but about new trees being set up. It has as holistic impact on your life. When Nitin Gadkari planned that all the national highways will be greened on the central divider and both sides of the highway, it has a huge dimension to it. It has a dimension of adding to the carbon sink, reducing pollution, absorbing the carbon dioxide emitted from the vehicles, it has the dimension providing shade, therefore, giving you a better efficiency on your vehicles, it has a dimension for beautifying the country, it has a dimension to stopping dust. Dust is a big element in our pollution. Wherever we go we see dust all over our place. But when you go to Singapore or Dubai and Dubai has a lot of desert area also, but you don’t see the dust coming on your face and yes there is a storm, because they been able to pack it up by greening the cities, by greening the entire infrastructure developed areas. So when we plan a programme, it’s not because we have committed it in Paris, it’s because we believe it provides for a better life for the people of India. And each one of our programmes is centered around a positive impact, a fruitful impact to make the lives of every Indian better in the years to come.
I can assure you and I would seek your ideas, your participation. If you want to reach out to me, reach out to me directly, reach out to my through any of these colleagues sitting here, through Mr Bagrodia, through all the others in this room who have had a chance to meet me, I see some familiar faces here. There is enough and more opportunity for all of you to contribute. I have young interns and young professionals working in my office. My OSD is a guy who is an IIT Engineer, studied in IIM, worked in Mckenzie and is working for me in government at 1/20th the salary he was getting before he joined me, and he’s been working for me since I was in opposition. But working with a passion, wanting to give back to society. I have young interns coming in who are working without a salary but say we want to give one year to the nation. They come with great ideas. They come with great passion. They come with an enthusiasm where 2-2, 3-3 nights they don’t get to sleep, they are working on some paper, some presentation, some research for me.
So it’s a time to believe in India. It’s a time to believe in yourself. And I have no doubt, you all are the leaders who will provide the future leadership to this country, who will provide that direction to the way the future of India is going to be defined.
March 19, 2017 Speaking at International Diamond Conference: Mines to Market, Mumbai