Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given an exclusive interview, his first after demonetisation, to India Today magazine. In the interview with Group Editorial Director of the magazine, Raj Chengappa, the prime minister dismissed all criticism and talked about the impact of demonetisation on Indian economy, government’s future action plan and how he sees Opposition’s protest against note ban.
Highlights of the interview
#Black money has all been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to-whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals. Counterfeit notes, which our intelligence agencies had reported to be available in high volumes with our enemies, have been instantly neutralised. The media has extensively reported on districts famous as counterfeiting hubs being badly hit.
#Regarding frequent modifications one must be able to distinguish between Niti and Ran niti. Our ran niti however needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age old saying tu daal daal main paat paat.
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#Regarding Manmohan Singh, it is interesting that the world’s monumental mismanagement comes from a leader who has been at the helm of India economic journey for the past 45 years. His reference to ‘organised loot’ was perhaps a reference to the unending string of scams under his leadership, from the coal scam to the 2G and CWG scam. Demonetisation on the other hand is the unprecedented step to confiscate the loot of the corrupt.
#The govt tried its best to keep the parliament functioning. I was keen to speak in both the houses. Yet, there was was a concerted attempt by the Congress to derail the functioning of the houses, rather than have a proper debate. While Opposition in Parliament is understandable, this is the first time this is being used to protect the dishonest and that to so openly.
#When money returns to the bank, it loses its anonymity. Every rupee leaves a trail. This changes the game as black money that did not have an address till now has been tagged with one. We now know when was it, where and when. Holders of black money may hide behind the bank accounts of others, but unlike cash holdings, they can be traced. In this game of hide and seek they have a few days to hide, but the govt has the mechanism and will to seek them out. More interestingly the existence of such trails, the identification of one culprit invariably leads to the unearthing of even larger sources and schemes of corruption.
#If you act with clarity and with the purest of motives, the results will be there for any to see. Whatever my critics may say, I seek no personal benefit from all this, only the greater good.
# Cash held by terrorists, Maoists and other extremists has also been neutralised. There has been a crippling impact on dangerous and highly damaging illegal activities, such as human trafficking and narcotics.
#I pity a few of our opponents, especially the Congress leadership, for the desperation they have been exhibiting..Congress leaders are entirely pre-occupied with only one thing-elections.
#There is nothing political in the demonetisation decision…it was a tough decision taken to clean up our economy and our society. If I were guided by short-term electoral politics, I would have never done so.
#If one does an unbiased, objective evaluation of my government’s programmes and priorities over the past two and a half years, the one thing that will unambiguously emerge is the centrality of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.
# The multiplier effect of introduction of money, which was till now uselessly hoarded and stocked away as cash, into the active economic system will give the economy further boost. Additional government revenue will be pushed into priority domains such as irrigation and rural housing, empowering the poor and needy.
#We took the demonetisation decision not for some short term windfall gain, but for a long term structural transformation. Our objective was to clean up our economy and society of the menace of black money, purging the distrust, artificial pressures and other ills that came with it. The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.
#Earlier the income tax department used to shoot in the dark. Now, people have voluntarily come forward and deposited money in their banks. The aim is to ensure that the honest tax payer is not harassed of inconvenienced while the dishonest tax evade is efficiently caught and punished. Beyond this any erring officer or banker will be caught and punished. My government has zero tolerance for corruption.
#Digital transaction should not be viewed only as a short-term substitute to help through the period of cash shortage. That is not my objective. Digital transaction deliver multiple benefits. They facilitate proper accounting and sizing of the formal economy. They provide greater ease and security in handling of money, especially for small businesses and ordinary people. They also deliver greater tax compliance ensuring the dishonest do not escape payment of their dues. Therefore, I see digital payment as method of cleaning the economy in the long run.
# It is imperative that we figure out decisive ways of routing out black money from politics. I have been regularly appealing for the same. I have asserted before the last parliament session itself that the need of the hour is to comprehensively relook and reform political funding. I have also repeatedly expressed concern about how our current system of multiple elections not only raises political expenditure, thereby hurting the economy, but also result in the nation perpetually remaining in the election mode, stalling governance.