Vowing to keep inflation under control, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said he has tried to stay away from populism which the past regimes practiced to get recognition while “emptying the exchequer”.
Giving the ‘reform, perform and transform’ slogan in his third Independence Day address, Modi said the government has to be sensitive, responsible, accountable, transparent and efficient to complete the journey from ‘Swarajya’ (self-governance) to ‘Suraj’ (good governance).
“It has been a tradition in this country for governments to make populist announcements and emptying the exchequer to get recognition. I have tried to stay away from resorting to this kind of populism,” he said from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He said he wishes to focus not on the work done by the government, but on its work-culture.
Stating that his government’s moto was transparent and accountable good governance, he said steps are being taken with a view to ‘reform, perform and transform’. He cited online registration in major hospitals, promptness in income tax refunds, speeding up of the process of passport delivery, faster company registrations, and ending interviews for Group C and Group D positions in the government as examples of the change taking place in the country.
Stating that the speed of delivery in vital areas had increased, he said the pace of construction of rural roads has gone up from 70-75 km per day to 100 km a day. There has been quantum jump in construction of renewable energy projects both in wind and solar energy, he said, adding that transmission lines needed to take electricity to consumption centres are being laid at 50,000-km a year speed as against 30,000-35,000 km previously.
Also, cooking gas connections have gone up by 4 crore in 60 months as against 14 crore connections released in 60 years, he said, adding that 21 crore bank accounts have been opened under the Jan Dhan Yojana, 2 crore toilets built in rural areas, and 10,000 electrified villages electrified in a short span of time. Modi said his government has not allowed the rate of price rise to cross 6 per cent as opposed to the double digit inflation during previous government. “We have made a lot of efforts to contain price rise,” he said. “I will do all it takes to ensure that the poor man’s food plate does not become expensive.”
Prime Minister said the just passed legislation on Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will replace a raft of different central and state levies, will strengthen growth efforts and make economy more predictable.
Modi said the government is more attentive to substance, rather than symbolism; integrated development rather than isolated development; and empowerment rather than entitlement.
Spike in prices of pulses was a matter of concern, he said, adding that the area under pulses cultivation has increased 1.5 times. The rise in vegetable prices, he said, was on account of deficient rains earlier.
He elaborated on the integrated approach that the government has taken towards the agriculture sector, which includes focus on soil health cards, irrigation, solar pumps, seeds, fertilisers, and crop insurance.
The Prime Minister said the price of energy-efficient LED bulbs has been brought down to Rs 50 from Rs 350 earlier and the government is working to complete stalled or long pending projects as well as shortening the time required for project approvals in important sectors.
While 118 stalled projects worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore are being revived through monthly monitoring at Prime Minister’s level, another 270 projects costing Rs 10 lakh crore that have been languishing for many years have been identified for re-starting. Modi said stuck projects, delays and wastage of money is criminal negligence.
Giving illustrations of effective delivery, he mentioned clearance of arrears of sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh, new LPG connections, and PSUs such as Air India and BSNL reporting operational profits.
Mentioning the emphasis on transparency, he said subsidies are being better targeted to those that need them. Modi said international rating agencies have acknowledged the progress in key areas of governance.
Stating that various initiatives and programmes are contributing to employment generation, he said, the Model Shop and Establishment Act will facilitate opening of shops on all days. Also, Provident fund (PF) portability has been provided to help utilise the Rs 27,000 crore of retirement benefits lying unused because of workers changing jobs or cities.