Launching a fresh attack at the ruling BJP government, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “killing” the Indian economy by firing the “double tap” of demonetisation and GST into its heart. The leader was speaking at the 112th annual session and PHD Annual Awards for Excellence 2017 in the national capital. He also attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over the condition of the Indian economy, alleging that while businesses were drowning, the minister had “the nerve to go on TV every other day and say that ‘things are just fine'”.
Here’s the full text from Rahul Gandhi’s speech:
I would like to welcome all of you here.
I am honoured to be speaking to the esteemed members of the PHD Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for inviting me here.
A little over three years ago Mr Narendra Modi was given a tremendous honour by our country. Many of our people reposed their faith in him.
Many Indians believed that he had the ability and understanding to develop and implement a vision for the coming decade. They expected an Indian vision. Today it is fair to say that expectation lies shattered.
I remember Mr Narendra Modi’s first speech to Parliament. Even I as a Lok Sabha member was curious – what’s going to say? I wanted to understand what he would lay out as the vision going forward?
And as he wound his way through his long speech, going on and on about Sikkim, about organic farming, and in middle of speech a colleague of mine nudged me and he came and whispered in my ears “there is nothing here”. The speech was full of tag lines like lab to land, real time data, soil health cards.
But as we walked away from there and this was large number of us, there was a sense of disappointment. We had expected a concrete way forward. In fact when we went there, we expected our Prime Minister to give a vision and I came away happy in one way and quite upset in another. I came away happy because I felt that we would have a good shot at challenging the Prime Minister. I felt upset that the India deserved a solid vision and it didn’t get one that day.
But what really disturbed me was the condescending tone that ran through his entire speech like a thread.
And that tone has embedded itself in the psyche of this government and it has become the bedrock of its immense arrogance.
Business thrives with trust. Every single business transaction is based on trust. Trust is what you deal in. From trust emerges a safe and predictable environment.
Business is about bringing people together, about creating harmony, about creating trust and competition.
And the truth is, trust in this government is dead. For some reason the PM and his government are absolutely convinced that every single person in India is a thief.
Trust goes two ways – the government does not believe in its people and now after three years, the people have withdrawn their trust in this government.
How does one develop trust – only by listening. But today there is no one in the government ready to listen to the pain of our people. Globally, India is being asked if it still believes in its values of compassion and non-violence.
People looked up to us for our values and leadership. But today they laugh as we are busy debating whether one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, was actually built by Indians?
In a couple of weeks from now we will observe the death anniversary of the 500 and thousand rupee note. November the 8th is the barsi of ‘notebandi’ – when Shri Narendra Modi personally wiped out 86% of the currency in circulation overnight.
It was a move, taken without thought, without consultation or concern for its consequences.
The Prime Minister failed to grasp a basic concept of the Indian economy – all cash is not black and all black is not cash.
Without understanding this basic concept, the Prime Minister used his vast powers to unleash terror on the citizens of India.
To make millions of Indian citizens stand in queues for over two months, desperately running from one ATM to another, many dying in the process, millions losing jobs and livelihood – to do all that you surely need someone with a big chest, but a very small heart.
Demonetisation crippled SMEs and has destroyed the unorganised sector, forcing workers to leave urban employment and go back to their villages looking for MNREGA work.
And now GST, or Gabbar Singh Tax, is so badly conceptualized, it is only adding to the distrust.
Their GST is wrecked with holes, moth eaten. Flawed in its structure. Punitive in its design. It is forcing businesses to incur massive transaction costs that are destroying them.
It is creating a 21st century computerised and connected License Raj. GST as this government has formulated has already unleashed a tsunami of tax terrorism and it is only going to worst.
Small, micro and medium businesses are screaming in pain, they are drowning and Mr. Arun Jaitley – with his impeccable logic – has the nerve to go on TV every other day and tell people that things are just fine. The government refuses to listen, everybody is shouting, every other day you see, Mr Jaitley saying -everything is ok and he pulls up out a graph and shows us that after 2019 things will become normal again.
The way this regime is working, or not working, shall we say, has lead to a double tap killing of the Indian economy. Commandos in hostage situations fire what is called a double tap, two quick, closely placed shots fired at the chest to ensure that their terrorist target is dead.
Modi and his government have fired a double tap at the heart of our economy, first notebandi and then a badly conceptualised and implemented GST.
And it continues.
The situation of joblessness in the country is extremely worrying. The government is creating a massive army of unemployed youth, which is toxic and dangerous. Instead of admitting they cannot and are not providing jobs they are riling communities against each other in a bloody rage.
As we all know, GDP growth has been slowing.
Private investment has collapsed. Agriculture growth is at its lowest ebb.
Exports have been declining. In 2014, India’s GDP was growing at 6.6% but today according to the old method of measurement it rests at a 4.2% .
Not only are insufficient number of jobs being created, real wages have been stagnant for 3 years. Indian citizens cannot meet their basic expenses, leave alone spend on consumption, that is required to boost the Indian economy.
Bank lending is at its lowest levels in sixty years. Investment at a 15 year low. Power generation at a decade low and unemployment is skyrocketing.
As if that was not enough, recent research by respected economists has shown that inequality in India is now at its highest levels in 100 years.
We are staring at a disaster. I am not talking of technology making jobs redundant as is happening in the west. This is a pure man-made disaster or in Modi ji’s terminology a MMD- ‘Modi Made Disaster.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the current mess in the economy, what I want to say here today is this:
The Indian economy can be revived.
Under the UPA regime, between 2004 and 2011, 140 million people came out of poverty. That is 20 million people every year.
For the first time in our history, India, if it is steered correctly and faithfully, has the opportunity to wipe out poverty.
If India is able to lift another 350 million people out of poverty by 2030, it would be an achievement that the entire human race can be proud of.
Doing this would require us to grow by more than 8 per cent in the next 13 years and this is the challenge.
India has done it before and can do it again.
However, no amount of growth though, is enough for India if it’s not accompanied by the creation of jobs. It doesn’t matter how much you grow, how fast you grow. If you are not creating jobs, you are not solving the problem.
We are a nation of small, micro and medium businesses. Nearly 6 crore of these enterprises are engaged in business in our country.
You are our backbone – but you get very little support.
These businesses are India’s traditional network. These networks have been with us for thousands of years, they represent our nation’s innovative capabilities, our knowledge and our vast understanding.
These networks are situated in thousands of clusters across the country, they are rich with knowledge and skill and make up the heart of our economic legacy. We need targeted cluster development programs at a massive scale across the country.
It is this reservoir of skill and innovation that needs to be unlocked and freed from the oppressive and unpredictable bureaucratic red tape it faces everyday.
Let us start by accepting the simple reality that China out performs us in the creation of jobs. China creates 50,000 jobs every single day. India is creating 450.
Let me be very clear, the only force capable of meeting the Chinese challenge is this network of small, micro and medium businesses. Nobody else, nobody else can do this job. I have no doubt in my mind that you are the only force that has the skills, knowledge and understanding to take on the Chinese and beat them at their own game.
Today the national discussion is only about growth. India can no longer carry on without a clear focus and strategy on the creation of jobs.
We need to link these small, micro and medium businesses to our banking systems.
We need to infuse them with credit and create a completely new deal for these businesses in finance.
Today they receive almost no bank credit even though:
They account for 40% of India’s economic output and half of India’s exports. More importantly, they account for 80% of all non-agriculture employment.
Yet all SMEs combined get as much credit from banks as the ten largest businesses. Even though this money generates 30 times more employment. The truth is even yesterdays bank recapitalisation announcement targets only India’s big corporates while throwing crumbs at MSMEs. Imagine how much employment we could create if we actually made capital available to you in the same way we do for biggest companies in the country.
We urgently need to give these networks access to the political system – the same access that big business already enjoy. They too need to be heard.
They have been blasted by Modiji’s lethal double tap. Why is the government treating their most powerful weapon in the fight against unemployment without dignity?
Why does the government disrespect them and treat them like thieves? They must stop painting you as evil and must seek your cooperation in rebooting the economy.
Startup India is welcome for the economy, but it cannot be accompanied by ‘Shut Up India’ in society. What gives Startup India its strength is freedom of expression, thought and dissent. You choke this and you choke entrepreneurship.
You are the source of this nation’s creative and entrepreneurial energy. It is the imperative of those in government to listen to your voice; whoever they may be.
I am here today to say that we trust you. We understand the terror you feel at the unpredictable nature of this computerised license raj.
Your struggles are the struggles of this nation, your pride is our pride, your growth and well and well being, is the growth and well being of each one of us.
The Congress party will always support you, it will always have the humility to listen to your voices and it will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you build the foundation of a resurgent India.