A day after the GST Council announced several relief measures for small and medium businesses, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said his government’s move to simplify the Goods and Services Tax structure has ushered in an “early Diwali”.
“There is an atmosphere of Diwali around after the GST Council took important decisions yesterday,” Modi said at Dwarka, where he prayed at the famous Dwarkadhish temple before beginning a two-day tour of Gujarat, that goes to polls within the next two months.
“I had said that after the implementation (of the GST), we will study it for three months and will address the areas where there are hurdles, shortcomings, complaints about GST rates or any other practical difficulties experienced by traders. We do not want the trading community to get stuck in red-tapism,” said Modi, addressing a huge gathering.
“I am happy that the changes have been welcomed in one voice in every corner of the country,” he said.
On Friday, the GST Council announced relief for small and medium businesses on filing and payment of taxes. It also eased rules for exporters and cut tax rates on 27 items of common use. “When there is trust in a government and when policies are made with the best intentions, it is natural for people to support us, for the sake of the nation,” Modi said.
In his speech, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told the PM, “Gujarat is a land of traders. I thank you on behalf of all the traders in Gujarat.”
Modi will inaugurate and dedicate projects worth over Rs 10,800 crore in the state during his two-day visit, of which the Okha -Beyt Dwarka bridge, an international airport for Rajkot, highway expansions between Ahmedabad and Rajkot, the Sursagar dairy, a new IIT campus and the Grameen Digital Saksharta Mission were unveiled on Day 1.
On Sunday, Modi will visit Vadnagar, his birthplace, and inaugurate more projects.
Stating that his government was spending almost Rs 6,000 crore on road networks in the state, Modi said, “I remember when Madhavsinhji (Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki) was the CM, photos of him inaugurating a water tank somewhere in Jamnagar district would appear in the front pages of newspapers. That was the imagination of the governments of those times, and look at the imagination of the current government.”
He repeated the theme at his speech in Chotila in Surendranagar district, after laying the foundation stone for a green-field international airport. “You go ask the poorest, the homeless, if he requires a home. For helping him, development is needed. Development used to take place earlier also. But in those times, a leader would install a hand-pump and ask people over the next three elections to help him win saying he had done development. Installing a hand-pump was the definition of development. Today, there is a government which has laid long and giant pipelines and is supplying Narmada water to villages and households,” Modi said.
With the Congress calling the BJP government’s claims of development hollow, and a popular social media campaign, Vikas Gando Chhe, mocking the BJP, Modi addressed the crowd with repeated exhortations: “Had people of Chotila ever imagined that an airport would come here? Did Surendranagar district? The airport will indeed come up. Won’t you like it?.. Can facilities where an airport is built, planes are flying etc, be called development? Can this be called development? Do you like such development? Should such development be facilitated? Is development necessary? Will development change the future of Gujarat? Will development change the future of our children?”
As the crowd replied to every question with a loud “Yes!”, the PM said, “Shabaash!”
He claimed that the airport would help Rajkot and Surendranagar districts progress rapidly, and said he only thought of the masses, unlike others. “There are some who will criticise this too. But ask the same people to take a bus and not the plane. (They will say) ‘No, no I am in a hurry’. You are in a hurry, but don’t want others to travel thus? In old times, only kings and emperors could fly. Wo aaj nahin raha. Isliye meine kaha tha mein desh ke aviation sector ka vikas aisa karna chahta hoon ki hawai chappal pehne huya vyakti bhi hawai jahaz mein yatra karne lage (Those days are gone. This is the reason I said that I want to develop the aviation sector so that a person wearing slippers too can fly),” said Modi.
He claimed that in many states, two-three airstrips were lying idle. One day, he said, each state would have 10 to 15 airports. He praised the Gujarat government for identifying a site for the new airport that covered hardly any agricultural land. “Ninety-six per cent of the land was wasteland,” said Modi.
The PM also talked about the Narmada project, and said Surendranagar would benefit the most from it.
Talking about the Rs 960 crore bridge project connecting Okha to Beyt Dwarka, in his Dwarka speech, the PM said, “This is not a simple bridge… It is a link connecting the age-old history of Beyt Dwarka (surrounding Lord Krishna).”
In Chotila, the PM dedicated to the public a milk-processing and packaging plant of Sursgar Dairy and a project of supplying drinking water to four zones of Surendanagar. He said the Sursagar Dairy would become “sukh sagar (sea of happiness)”.
The PM also announced the country’s first ‘Marine Police Training Institute’ at the newly created Dev Bhoomi Dwarka district. He said the institute would train marine police the way the IAF trains its pilots at Jamnagar.
Interestingly, Modi’s itinerary in Gujarat on Saturday was almost same as that of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who began his recent three-day roadshow after paying homage at the Dwarkadhish temple, travelled across Jamnagar and Morbi districts in a bus and then halted at Chotila town for a darshan of goddess Chamunda.