Thank you very much. My grateful thanks to the honorable Member of Parliament, Suresh Angadiji, who has given me this opportunity to visit Belagavi, meet all of you, spare some time, learn about what is happening in Belagavi and enjoy this beautiful city. So thank you very much Sureshji for inviting me here.
Thank you, Shri Umesh Sharmaji, President of the Belgaum Chairman of Commerce and Industries for organizing this interaction with industry and professional representatives from different organizations. Shri Sanjay Patilji, honorable MLA from Belagavi, my colleague, Shri AK Gupta, General Manager South-Western Railways, Shri Dilip Tilveji, the Vice-President of BCCI who has presented before me the memorandum of BCCI today, Shri Rohan Juvaliji, the Vice President of BCCI, Shri Sunil Chouguleji, also from the BCCI, friends from different associations, my very own Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, other organizations, the very enlightened citizens of Belgaum, because I have received Citizens Council Charter also today, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you very much for waiting for me. I was thinking, by the time I reach you would have all gone away. Probably, I would have gone if I was in your place. But unfortunately, yesterday, the Rajya Sabha went on till very late in the evening, we had the budget discussion and some of you may have seen that the Rajya Sabha proceedings and the reply of the honourable Finance Minister went on till about 8.30. I was to come last evening to Mumbai and come early morning to Belagavi. But, unfortunately, because the House went on till very late I was not able to come last night and then I had a meeting with the honourable Finance Minister in the night. I could only come in the morning and the Mumbai airport does not allow any flight to take off until a certain time in the morning, which is the peak hours. So I had to fly into Mumbai in the morning, and then wait for my turn to fly to Belagavi.
My sincerest apologies for the time that you had to wait, and I hope some other time Sureshji will remind me after the victory rally of the Karnataka elections to come and maybe enjoy some Mirchi Bhaji or Tunda Nagri, or what is it called? Kunda? That is why it is called Kunda Nagri? Okay! So, they invite me to this Kunda Nagri to enjoy the Kunda or Belagavi dishes in Venugrama, I am told the real name is Venugrama. And I’m delighted when I came to know this because this is the first time in the history of India that the government has passed a law in parliament, which has been passed recently, about a month ago, which has finally allowed and will encourage bamboo cultivation in this country. So, what started in Belagavi is now going to be developed all over India. So I think every citizen of Belagavi can feel proud of that.
You are the original bamboo village, and from here now bamboo is going to become a national mission, for which for the first time the Government of India has provided ₹1290 crore in the budget to promote bamboo cultivation in the whole country. And my very senior colleague and former President of the BJP, now Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways, Water Resources, Ports, Shipping, actually if you ask me, one of the finest performing Ministers of our Government, he has been persevering that bamboo should be opened up for the common man, bamboo cultivation should be encouraged. And I am happy to share with you, on this Diwali he showed me some t-shirts made out of bamboo, they were better than the t-shirts we all wear to go for a morning walk or to the gymnasium. Absolutely wonderful textile fabric, the cloth was so soft. So, it really gives me great privilege to be amongst you in the Belgaum. You are also contributing in a big way to the mill, to sugar production. I am told there are 15 sugar factories here. And why I was very happy when he told me that because look at the track record of the BJP governments, both at the centre and the states. We have been most sensitive to ensure both the sugarcane farmer is taken care of and the sugar industries. And as an example, you will be happy to know, Uttar Pradesh, the people of Uttar Pradesh recently gave us a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh. We won 325 out of 400 seats in Uttar Pradesh. First time in the history of Uttar Pradesh, the people have given such a big victory to a Government.
Chief Minister Maharaj Yogi Adityanathiji, one of the first mission that he took up was the plight of the sugarcane farmers and the sugarcane mills. And I am happy to share with you when he became the Chief Minister and our Government came in, there was nearly ₹12,000 crore of unpaid dues of the sugarcane farmers. It’s not that they didn’t want to pay, both were in trouble. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanathji worked in partnership with the farmers and the sugar mills, and that ₹12,000 crore as recently as in April 2017, has been brought on to only ₹400 crore overdue in this short time.
When industry, farmers and Government work as a team and get the support of the Central Government also whenever they need it or wherever they ask for it, this is the kind of revolutionary performance that you can achieve. And I am happy to share with you, on current dues whatever sugarcane is purchased after our Government came in, the payment is either made on the spot against delivery or maximum within 14 days. So old dues of over ₹12,000 are down to ₹400. And that is the style of working of Prime Minister Modi which he is trying to bring in that culture in Delhi, in the Central Government and in the states controlled by the Bhartiya Janta Party and our partners. Look at what we did in Bengaluru; I became Railway Minister in September. Coincidentally, around the same time or just a few days before that, I was announced as the Co-Prabhari of the Karnataka BJP election campaign. 18 September, I had come to visit Bengaluru for visiting the stations, seeing the facilities, interacting with the railway officials and taking a review of the South Western Railway.
Honorable Minister Shri Anant Kumarji, Member of Parliament from Bengaluru, he accompanied me on the flight and he drove with me to the city. And he told me, look Piyush, you can’t enter this city without spending 2 hours in the car. That’s the pitiable state of affairs. And since 1996, he was fighting for a Bangalore Suburban Railway, 21 years. Even Bhagwan Ram had to do Vanvas only for 14 years, this is 21 years. On 18th September, he highlighted the… of course, the woes of Bangalore citizens we all were aware, but his ideas of Bangalore Suburban Railway.
AK Guptaji will remember that day when in the meeting I said, in 30 days I want a first plan of what can be done in Bengaluru, 30 days is the time I give you. You are all aware that in the past how things used to happen over many years. After all, you all have been waiting for these road over-bridges, for 40-50 years you have been demanding, I think? And see the speed with which now it’s being implemented, one is already done, second will be ready by March, third will be ready by June. Had any of you imagined that in this speed and in such a short span 3 bridges will be ready, which has not happened for 40 years?
But I am delighted that Mr Gupta and his whole team took my challenge to prepare the first report in 30 days. 18th September I gave them that task, by 20th Mr Gupta had drawn up the whole schedule what-what will be required to be done, who will do it and by when it will be done. By 27 September, they appointed RITES to do the study. RITES asked for certain drawings which they didn’t have, they engaged ISRO and from satellite mapping on 2nd October they had given all the drawings to RITES. By 7th or 10th October, RITES gave them the first report. They all sat down together, and on 18th October, in Delhi, I had a report how we can provide a suburban transport system to Bengaluru within 30 days.
And I am delighted that the honourable Prime Minister and the honourable Finance Minister have approved the project to set up a suburban railway in Bengaluru in less than 3 months after that in the budget that has been announced 1st February. That is the speed and the thinking of this Government. It’s an outcome-oriented Government. Where there is an issue, there is a problem, we are not looking at what is the money outlay alone, we are seeing how we can get some outcome and get the maximum benefit for every Rupee that is spent. Because, after all, what we spend is your money. It’s the people’s tax-paid money that is being used to invest and develop the Railways.
But ladies and gentlemen, after all, if the railways are in such a backlog of development, if your citizen’s council has to give me such a large number of things that need to be done in the Railways, if the Belgaum Chamber of Commerce has to give me such a big memorandum, this is not something which has happened in 3-4 years, this is a backlog of decades that has accumulated. And why did it accumulate? Because despite having a Railway Minister from a neighbouring area, what was being invested in the capital expenditure of railways up to 2013-14 was one-third of what we are investing in the railways today in the year 2018-19 – one third!
We have increased the capital expenditure on railways from ₹53,000 crores in 2013-14 to ₹1,48,000 crores in 2018-19. That is the large increase that Prime Minister Modi has allocated to the Railways.
In fact, if I may share with you, just Karnataka alone, for which we have prepared a presentation, the investment on capital expenditure in Karnataka alone in one year in the five years from 2009 to 2014 was about ₹5000 crores – from 2009 to 2014, five years! About ₹5,500 crores! From 2014 to 2019, in five years, we will be spending about ₹10,250 crores, almost double of what was spent. It will be actually ₹11,000 odd crores or so. ₹8000 odd crores have been spent up to 2018, and this year it’s about ₹3,500 crores. So, ₹11,500 crores! Literally, doubling the amount in the state of Karnataka over a 5-year period. Again, if you see what was the average spending in the 2009 to 2014 period and you see current year’s allotment, from ₹1000 crores it has gone up to ₹3,500 crores in 2018-19. That is the speed with which we are hoping to spend money in this state. A lot of projects have been initiated; a lot of projects are making rapid progress.
But I am happy to share a news which so far I don’t think we have given to the press also, so you are going to be the first persons to hear about it. On the 19th of this month, honourable Prime Minister will be visiting Mysore where we have completed a significant electrification project between Bengaluru and Mysore. We will be launching Hamsafar train which will connect 5 states of Western India. It will connect Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan. 5 states will be connected and that same Hamsafar Express from there will then go up to Delhi. So, effectively, 6 states will now be connected with Karnataka, and from Mysuru it will be started on 19th, going through Bengaluru, Tumkur, Chitradurga, Davangere, Hubli Dharwad and then Belgaum, coming to Belgaum. So, almost doing 600 kilometres in Karnataka, then moving on to Miraj, Sangli Satara, Pune, because one of the demands here was to connect Belgaum to Pune. Three demands out of what the representations in three of it demanded and somebody said 4000 people go every day. So Belgaum-Miraj-Sangli Satara, then Pune, then Kalyan, which is a satellite city of Mumbai, so effectively, connecting Mumbai to Belgaum also. From there to Surat, Surat to Anand which is a milk capital of Gujarat, so your milk producers will be connected to the milk producers of Gujarat, from there to Ratlam, onwards to Chittorgarh and Udaipur. And after Udaipur, it will go to Ajmer, or I am probably confused. It’s probably Ajmer-Udaipur, then Chittorgarh, Jaipur and onwards to Delhi. That is the connectivity that Prime Minister is going to launch on 19th February from Mysore.
So, some of your requests are already met between the time you made it and the time I have come and gave you a reply. But our visits to stations or to cities are not tourism visits. Nowadays, some people are going to temples and mutts. Every time there is an election, they start going to temples and mutts and all the religious places. Like that our Ministers won’t go to different places just to give a bhashan or to give a speech. And you were expressing surprise about my coming to see the roadwork, but I am educating myself. I am learning from this and see how we can do it faster. I come from Mumbai. You are aware that I have given work in Mumbai to make foot over-bridges even to the army where I found that there was a pressing urgency, a catastrophe had happened in Mumbai. I didn’t wait for the railway to work in that normal fashion. I brought in the army to do that. And for your information, I am already twice gone for inspection of the work of the army wherever we are making these foot over-bridges.
And I didn’t give it to the army without, senselessly or I didn’t give it to the army because my railway officials can’t do it. I gave it to the army because I thought there was a pressing need, an urgency which was going beyond the normal speed of work. And what did I do? I asked all my zones to send their engineers to see how they are doing this work fast. Because, after all, the army is working on very adverse circumstances on the borders, they have a certain expertise. And I got people from all zones come in to see that work, see and learn how to do it faster. And you will be happy to know, this competitive spirit that this generated has literally speeded up the work of the railway so much that my general managers of western railway and central railway completed some foot over-bridges in less time than the army did in Mumbai.
See, there is a genuine competition how you get a benefit. And they forced the Chief Minister to inaugurate it on 26th January, because they wanted that inauguration to happen even before the army foot over-bridges are done. That is the thinking of this Government, how to bring speed, how to bring scale and how to execute projects skillfully. In fact, one of these suggestions was that Belagavi has a lot of industry, and I am delighted to hear about innovations that all of you have done, the hydraulics, the equipment for faster maintenance, the faster revival of accident… trains. God forbid, there should not be an accident at any time, but should there be one how we can do it faster.
I am delighted to hear about the Make in India stories. And you will be happy to know, a colleague Mansoor Bhai Mandaviya from Gujarat recently had Industry Railway Participation workshop in Rajkot, where also there is a lot of engineering industry. So, I will be happy if you would like to conduct the workshop where RDSO, railway officials and industry can work together to showcase your strengths and we can see how you can bring in more technology to our working and help us in our work. Ultimately, if we have to develop this nation, it can only happen in a public-private partnership, when you and we work together as one. After all, it is not my railway as somebody commented. I am not taking it in the wrong sense; somebody said ‘your railway’. It’s not ‘my railway’. I am only a temporary phenomena over here. It is your railway. It is our railway. And when we work together as one, we can truly transform India.
After all, when Prime Minister talks of Swacchta, he cannot do Swacchta sitting in Delhi. It will have to happen in the regional areas, each one of you have to participate in the smart city project, in the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan. If we don’t throw the garbage on the street, then only India can become clean. We can’t say we will throw garbage, but it’s somebody else’s responsibility to make it clean. That is how the participative government… In Hindi, they say जनभागीदारी से ही परिवर्तन हो सकता है, क्रांति आ सकती है| और मैं समझता हूँ वेनुग्राम से जब क्रांति आयेगी, अलग-अलग दिशा में, तो वास्तव में परिवर्तन देश को भी आगे लेकर जायेगा, देश में सुधार होगा, देश में एक नए काम करने का ढंग पैदा होगा| आपको जानकार ख़ुशी होगी आरडीएसओ, पहले आरडीएसओ में कोई भी अप्रूवल के लिए बहुत समय लगता था, बहुत पेपरवर्क होता था| अभी आरडीएसओ 365 दिन, 24 घंटा हमने open-up कर दिया है कि online you can apply for any registrations, for any product online and in a time bound fashion. Then you have to approve, or if they reject, give reasons in writing. And all of this is through a website, no paperwork, private papers, no going to Lucknow, no private transactions, nothing. Everything on the computer, on the website you can apply, your application will be loaded on the website and all the question-answer responses will be through online means. And in a time-bound manner, we will take a decision.
And I would urge all of you, whoever has given products to offer to the railways, please start supplying to the railways, because now all supplies are going to be purchased against letter-of-head. Now, you won’t have to run behind railways for payments. All those who are suppliers to railways, kindly note, in the next week or so we have to come out with a notification, you can actually ask railways to give you a letter of credit, and against that your bank will lend you money at 9%, 10%.
Some of the other issues that were raised by you, of course, I may have to address some of them like the honourable woman entrepreneur talked about canteens or stalls in the stations. We can have reservation also, but I think our Nari Shakti has so much power in this country that they can do better without reservation. After all, it’s the first time in India’s history that in the Cabinet Committee for Security, there are two lady members – Nirmala Sitharaman, who is your very own MP from Karnataka as the honorable Defence Minister, and Shrimati Sushma Swaraj who has also been very closely associated with Karnataka, in fact, she understands Kannada language. Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman – first time in history, two women in the Cabinet Committee of Security Affairs, and there was no reservation for women in that.
While all the issues that you mentioned about metro railway pushing the Make in India, I am sure you are all aware this is the first time and the first government of India which has said that if any Indian manufacturer makes a product, even if the price of some foreign company will be less, he has an opportunity to match that and he will be given preference in the order. That’s the government of India policy now. So, anybody who makes products which are part of a global tender, but if he makes in India, he will have a right to match the price and provide the product made in India. That policy, Make in India Policy, for the first time has been introduced by our Government. Also, we are saying in reciprocity, if they don’t allow our companies to sell in their country, we will not allow their companies to come and sell here. If you find any product where your competition is unfair, please let us know, we will not allow those companies to participate. If they don’t allow you to sell in their country, their companies will also not be allowed to sell in India. That is the policy of Mr Modi’s Government.
Somebody spoke about animal corridors. I appreciate the point. There are animal corridors all across the country, and wherever there are defined corridors we have speed restrictions. We are also trying to create boundary wall. Even in Belagavi, kindly see which are the critical areas where we have to make boundary walls. You will be happy to know, more than ₹5000 crores we have sanctioned for boundary walls alone all over the country, in the city areas. But sir, please don’t blame suicides on the railway tracks. Somebody wants to commit suicide doesn’t necessarily have to come to the railway track, so boundary wall is not the cause or not the reason how we can save, but I do believe we need to have boundary walls in the city areas. But I think all of you should create some kind of an ecosystem or a support system so that we can stop anybody from committing suicide. It’s a very-very sad thing.
And I think that’s something we people’s movement, we can stop anybody taking that extreme step, somebody takes it only when there is a serious crisis. And, of course, Karnataka has a serious problem of farmer suicides also, and which is why I said for sugarcane industry, for example, we will try and support with the new government is elected, we are going to see that all sugarcane farmers get their payment within 14 days. And if there is any backlog of the past, we will try and ensure that within 4 months all that backlog is cleared like we did in Uttar Pradesh.
But, having said that, the GST paid by you can be taken as a credit immediately. Similarly, if you buy a material on which there is GST paid, you will get the credit. So, it’s not as if pay 18%, and by the way, it looks like 18% today, but it’s not as if it’s a new tax. We have already paid that in the past in the form of excise duty, VAT, entry tax, there were 17 taxes, and 23 cesses which have all been combined for simplification. And, certainly, the initial period where some new item is introduced there is a little time it takes to stabilize it. By the way, the software was prepared by a company in Karnataka and a very illustrious company. I am not giving any name, but any case, the company and the department are working to simplify that. We are also looking at simplification in the returns, to try and make that also simpler. That committee is working to see how to make the whole returns and the tax system simpler, without compromising on the various steps that have been taken to plug the loopholes, so that people don’t take fake bills.
So, it’s something that has work in process. But I am sure you will also appreciate that when any new factory is set up, after all, this is the world’s biggest tax reform. No country the size of India has ever embarked on a tax reform like this, no country. In that, there were bound to be difficulties, teething problems. When you set up your factory, remember those days, I set up my factory in 1981. It still pains me when I remember that I had to go 186 times to the local industrial development corporation office in Mumbai to get a small piece of 2,930 square meter plot allotted for a small scale industry which I started when I was 17 years old. So, I understand what it is to start a small scale industry, the struggles, the problems that he is facing in the corporation. All of these are issues that I personally experienced. So, when you embark on such a massive tax reform, it takes some time to stabilize, but I am grateful to all of you for the support and the cooperation that Indian industry has given. Because this will be the biggest game changer to simplify the way we are doing business, the way we are paying taxes will ensure multiple taxes or cascading effect of taxes is not there. And no rate is a new rate, it’s only a combination of the old rates. And you are all aware, over 400 items rates have been reduced in less than 6 months, more than 400 items. And it’s not as if Mr Modi has decided these rates, all the states put together have decided these rates. Karnataka Finance Minister is a part of the decision, unanimously decided in this case. And wherever we get genuine difficulties, we are certainly resolving them, reducing rates wherever required, simplifying the procedure.
Somebody talked about multiple rates, obviously, there would be multiple rates. India is not like America or France, or Germany where everybody has a reasonably good level of income. After all, a poor man cannot be taxed for the food he eats or with the Hawai chappal he wears. A rubber chappal, footwear cannot be taxed at the same rate as a Mercedes car. Obviously, there will be different rates for luxury goods, sin goods. India has not yet reached the level of income or maturity that everything can be at one tax rate. And I think anybody who doesn’t pay his taxes honestly should remember that maybe the tax that he is cheating or he is not paying would otherwise have gone to light up a poor villager’s small hut and give electricity to that child to study, or maybe it would have gone to help a poor man make a small 300-400 sq. ft. house for his family or to make a toilet for the ladies in the house, or to improve the health facilities.
We must be very conscious that when we pay our taxes it’s for a nobler purpose. What privilege you and I have there are millions of children who have not seen electricity 70 years after independence. It is Prime Minister Modi who has taken it upon mission mode that before 2019, he wants every home to have electricity, every home. It was only Prime Minister Modi who has such an ambition that when we turn 75 in 2022, every person will have a shelter on his head, will have a roof on his head, his own home, with a toilet, with running water, with electricity, good healthcare facilities nearby – for which under Ayushman Bharat, we are planning to cover 50 crore Indian citizens, particularly, the poor and the low middle-class category, economically weaker sections of society. So that up to ₹5 lakh free medical treatment, particularly, in the event of an operation for heart or kidney, or any of the serious illnesses.
This is a Government that is working for 125 crore citizens to give them a better quality of life, and to make up for the huge backlog of development of 70 years. I don’t know if you are aware, 70 years after independence there was still a line, part of the line which was single line, coming from Mumbai to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, which was that section which has now been converted to double line? Passes through Karnataka also? In your state, a railway line as important as connecting Delhi and Mumbai to Bengaluru had a patch which was single, which we have taken up for doubling and to expand the connectivity so that more trains can be provided, more connectivity can be provided.
As the honourable President Sharmaji said, connectivity is the key to development, and this government is committed to road connectivity, to rail connectivity, to air connectivity, to port connectivity, to telecom connectivity. Because we believe as we connect India, as we take forward the mission that Vajpayeeji had started in 1998, which unfortunately did not has the same speed for 10 years under the previous Government, we are committed to provide this connectivity, so that we can connect all the regions of India, connect all the businesses of India, connect all the people of India and truly empower every citizen of this India. ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ is our commitment to this nation. And I would like to assure you, just like the people of Belagavi talk in 6 languages in out of 5, I am told I should have added Konkani in that. So, Hindi, English, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada and Urdu, like you have 6 languages only in one area, like that we want the entire nation and all the languages, all the cultures, all the history of India, all the tradition and rich heritage that you and I have inherited from all our forefathers and from all these past presidents, who have through their sweat and blood and toil – we have one past president sitting with us – they have toiled which has brought industrialization to India. Let us take that to the next level, let us grow this country and let us bring prosperity to 125 crore citizens of India.
I can only assure you that all the suggestions that you have given me today will be taken up in right earnest. Those which I can do from the central government, I will address that. Those which need state government support will happen after 10th May, when hopefully you will select a good Government in this state.
Thank you very much.
February 6, 2018 Speaking at ICAI Annual Function, in New Delhi