New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his third Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort today, bringing up a range of subjects.
‘India won’t bow to terror’
Declaring that India will not bow before terrorism, Modi asked the youth who have taken to violence to stop, even as he brought up Pakistani atrocities on people of Balochistan and PoK, saying that they have thanked him for doing so
Modi did not make any reference to Kashmir valley which is witnessing violence after the killing of Hizbul Commander Burhan Wani. However, he accused Pakistan of glorifying terrorists and celebrating killings in India.
In his 93-minute Independence Day address to the nation amidst tight security, Modi said, “From the ramparts of the Red Fort, I want to express my gratitude to some people – the people of Baluchistan, Gilgit and Pak-occupied-Kashmir – for the way they whole-heartedly thanked me, the way they expressed gratitude to me, the way they conveyed their goodwill to me recently.”
This is for the first time the areas in the control of Pakistan have been mentioned by any prime minister during his Independence Day speech. The remarks also come in the backdrop of recent comments by Modi during an all-party meet on Kashmir that the time had come to expose the atrocities committed “by our neighbouring nation” in Baluchistan and the areas of J&K under it.
The prime minister asked the international community to judge the behaviour of India and Pakistan in the context of terror attacks in each other’s country.
“When children were killed in terror attack on a school in Peshawar (about two years back), there were tears in our parliament. Indian children were traumatised. This is the example of our humanity. But look at the other side where terrorism is glorified,” Modi said.
Asserting that India will not yield to terrorism and violence, the prime minister asked youths to return to the mainstream by shunning the path of violence. “I am telling those youths that there is time left, come back and join the mainstream. Realise your parents’ aspirations. Lead a peaceful life. The path of violence has never benefited anyone,” he said.
Modi today backed a new inflation target of 4% as he vowed to keep food inflation under check and ensure that the food plate of the poor does not become expensive.
“In the past government, inflation rate had crossed 10%. We have not allowed inflation rate to cross 6% because of the continued steps taken by us,” he said.
Modi backed the 4% inflation target, within a range of two percentage points either way, set for the next five years under the monetary policy framework agreement with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
“We have entered into an agreement with the Reserve Bank that the RBI will take steps towards controlling inflation in the range of 4%, plus/minus 2%. So that they rise above the debate and work for balancing inflation and growth,” he said.
In accordance with a monetary policy framework agreement it had entered into with RBI in February last year, government earlier this month notified consumer price inflation target of 4 per cent for the next five years, with an upper tolerance level of 6% and lower limit of 2%.
This was seen as the government putting the seal on outgoing RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s inflation-first model of monetary policy.
Consumer prices (CPI inflation) rose 6.07% in July, the fastest pace in nearly two years, and it is expected that the implementation of new Goods and Services Tax (GST) may push up inflation further.
Modi said the country had faced two consecutive years of drought, pushing vegetable prices up. Also, pulse prices were a cause of concern.
Coupled with these factors, if the inflation were to rise at the pace witnessed in past, “I don’t know what would have happened to a poor country like ours,” he said.
“We have made a lot of efforts to contain price rise,” he said, adding he will leave no stone unturned to live up to expectations of people in controlling prices.
Modi said, “I will do all it takes to ensure that the poor man’s food plate does not become expensive.”
On spike in prices of pulses, he said sowing of pulses has risen by 1.5 times this year and with good monsoon and efforts like minimum support price and bonus to farmers as well as increasing availability will make things better.
While monsoon has been good this year, excess rainfall has caused problems at some places, he said, adding that the government is fully committed to helping such states.
Modi said unlike past governments, he has stayed away from populist measures and instead relied on empowerment.
The prime minister said efforts by his government have led to 99.5% of past dues of sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh being cleared and 95% of crop being sold this season being already paid for.
Also, record urea production has meant that blackmarketing of the crop nutrient is a thing of past, he said, adding that farmers are being given crop insurance cover on minimum premium.
Godown capacity of 15 lakh tonnes has been constructed to store crops and emphasis is being laid on all food processing and agro based industries to raise farm incomes.
Hundred per cent FDI has been permitted in food processing. “These steps will help realise the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022,” he said.
End to tax terrorism
Modi also assured tax payers that he will remove the fear of taxman hounding them by ushering in accountability and answerability.
“Middle class, upper middle class used to be hassled with I-T officers, more than police. I have to change this situation, I am working on it and will make the change happen,” Modi said.
The prime minister said that he wishes to focus not only on the work being done by the government, but also on its work-culture.
He added that in the past honest citizens felt harassed while claiming refunds, but now the entire system has become electronic and refunds reach bank accounts within week’s time.
“There was a time when ordinary, honest citizens used to give his or her income tax and used to carefully give two rupees extra so that there is no problem going ahead. But after the money came to the exchequer, then he or she used to have a hard time to get refund, they had to use contacts and it used to take months for the citizens to get their refund from the exchequer,” he said.
“Today we have moved towards online refund. In a week, 2 weeks or 3 weeks refunds have started going. This is a result of measures like accountability and answerability,” he added.
Seeking to eliminate corruption and promote ease of doing business, the income tax department has been taking various tax payer friendly measures, including e-verification of returns, paperless email-based inquiry and e-scrutiny.
During the current fiscal, till August 1, refunds of up to Rs 5,000 have already been issued to over 11.91 lakh assesses involving a total amount of Rs 244 crore.
In order to bring in transparency, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has recently published comprehensive data based on income tax returns filed for assessment year 2012-13.
Cleaning laws that create hurdles
Too many laws create confusion for the government, the judiciary and the common man and is the government is cleaning up the statute book, Modi continued today, and his government has embarked upon the exercise of cleaning up laws that create hurdles.
He said over 1,000 outdated laws have been removed from the statute as the government has identified 1,741 obsolete Acts for repealing.
This is the first time since 2001 that an exercise is undertaken to repeal outdated law which are hindering efficient governance. Between 1950 and 2001, over 100 Acts were repealed.
The full text of the speech can be read here.