Thursday, June 20, 2024

Big fish facing the law today because of govt’s zero-tolerance policy against corruption: PM Modi


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New Delhi, May 27:Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an exclusive conversation with IANS on Monday, spoke on a wide spectrum of issues ranging from the endorsement of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal by Pakistan and also highlighted his government’s zero-tolerance policy on corruption, with big fish in particular, facing the heat.

In the wide-ranging interaction with IANS, PM Modi underlined the need to understand the aspirations of the new generation and also provide them with relevant platforms to help achieve their dream.

Below is the full transcript of PM Modi’s interview:

IANS: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal are getting endorsements from Pakistan, in the middle of elections. After Article 370 abrogation, voices from Pakistan have repeatedly tried to rally behind them. How do you see this?

PM Modi: This is Bharat’s election. India is a mature democracy, which boasts of rich and well-established electoral principles and traditions. India’s voters, too are mature in their thoughts and can’t be influenced by any external factor. I don’t understand why some select group of people, apparently those who harbour animosity against us, get endorsements from Pakistan… why voices of support emanate from there, for certain individuals. This is a grave matter and calls for an investigation. I think I shouldn’t comment on such issues, given the position I hold, but I do understand your concern.

IANS: You have spoken about intensifying the campaign against corruption. What ideas do you have in mind and what steps are you going to take to stamp out corruption from the system? Will your next government devise a special policy or plan to return looted money to the public?

PM Modi: Your questions are very relevant. The people of the country are fed up with corruption. Much like termites, corruption is making the system hollow from the inside and people have also raised their voices and anger against it on multiple occasions. When I raked up rampant corruption and the need to crack down on it during the 2013-2014 poll campaign, many people vented their anger and outrage over it. After coming to power, we made a conscious effort to point out systemic defaults and loopholes and weed them out. If the country is policy-driven and a set of guidelines are laid out clearly with do’s and don’ts, this reduces the scope for corrupt practices. When the policy is laid out in black and white, the grey area is brought down to minimal levels, this reduces the scope for any discrimination. We have focussed on policy-driven governance. Another area of focus was to ensure 100 per cent delivery of schemes to targeted beneficiaries. If people are convinced that they are bound to get benefits sooner or later, this leaves no room for corruption. Some mischievous elements may still try to spoil the system but can’t befool the beneficiaries for long. The saturation of schemes gives a guarantee for corruption-free governance. Saturation gives a guarantee of social security. The third major thrust of our governance was to maximise the use of technology in government schemes as they bring efficiency and transparency to the system. We have transferred about Rs 38 lakh crore into accounts of beneficiaries, so far. If we talk about the time of the Rajiv Gandhi government (when out of Re 1, about 85 paise went into pockets of middlemen), a major chunk of this amount could have gone wasted. In earlier regimes, small players were made to face the law for corruption. Media circles also used to discuss how big fish escaped the clutches of law while the smaller ones were brought to book. Our policy has been zero-tolerance on corruption and action based on facts and evidence and not on perception. Before the 2019 elections, we were questioned over our stand and action on graft and why the government was not quick on punishing the perpetrators. Our outright response was that independent agencies will act against them and it will be done based on facts. Officials worked hard to gather the facts and today, big players are being caught and brought to justice. Today, when the big fish are being caught, questions are being raised by vested interests. It’s difficult to understand what is the motive of the Khan Market Gang and why it is framing such narratives to save the criminals from facing the law. It is the Independent investigative agency which apprehends the accused and it’s the judiciary which decides on conviction or trial. The Prime Minister has no role in this. Another concerning issue is the glorification of corrupt persons. Earlier, people used to stay miles away from the convicted or even those with any corruption taint but today there is a tendency to support and rally behind them. The same people who cried foul over no action on big-ticket players are today protesting against it. Therefore, it becomes crucial for the media to seek public opinion in such times and elicit their views on whether action on big players is justified or not.

IANS: Previous governments including the Jawaharlal Nehru regime talked about Garibi Hatao. But, you gave a new pitch for governance. With schemes like PM Mudra Yojana, PM Vishwakarma Yojana and others, your government has focussed on developing ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. How did you devise this strategy?

PM Modi: The nation has suffered a lot because of motivated narratives by certain sections. Earlier, when the country depended on imports, they claimed that the nation was being sold. Today, when the country is becoming self-sufficient with a focus on indigenous production, they claim that the economy is being closed. I can’t understand how to insulate the countrymen from such misleading and motivated campaigns by such elements. If Americans say ‘we the American buy the American’, all take pride in it but if Narendra Modi pitches for ‘vocal for local’, they see it as a move against globalisation. Such a tendency to mislead the countrymen is dangerous. Bharat has a huge base of manpower and it must be utilised to its full potential. I can’t think of wheat production in the country and then, import bread from the outside. To make Bharat ‘atmanirbhar’, the country’s manpower should be adequately utilised and their potential harnessed to the full extent. My first priority for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is to provide employment and job opportunities to the young talent, keep the country’s wealth localised, and utilise the country’s abundant natural resources while ensuring that farmers produce get value addition for capturing global markets. I have also briefed the Foreign Ministry about measuring their (diplomats) scale of success on three counts. First is how much Indian produce is bought by the country where they reside, second is which modern technology can be brought into India, and third is how many citizens of that country visit India every year for tourism. Nation First is my and my government’s motto and policy.

IANS: What is your mantra for highly diversified policy-making and action plans? On one hand, you meet and hail the efforts of Viswhwakarmas, peasants, and labourers, and on the other, you meet the gaming community, and social media influencers and give tips for amplifying their reach. How do you do it?

PM Modi: India is a land of diversity. No country can grow on one pillar. Bharat is a country with immense potential and each region has its own strength, waiting to be explored. One District One Product (ODOP) is one such scheme to engage and aggregate the strength of different parts of the nation. When I go abroad, I look at the ODOP catalogue and deliberate on which one to take to which continent. We organised G-20 Summits across the length and breadth of the country and not just restricted to Delhi alone. The purpose and thinking behind this was to make the world aware that Delhi alone does not represent the country, the diversity of the country can be best explored by visiting those locations. Taj Mahal alone is not Bharat, there are multiple destinations to explore. We used G-20 Summit to create a new image and brand of Bharat, before the world. We got success too in making global powers curious about India and its diversity. Over 1 lakh policymakers from across the globe participated in more than 200 Summits held under G20, in different parts of the country. They not only explored those locations but also informed their families and acquaintances in their respective countries about the beauty of India. The country has seen a surge in tourism and G20 Summits have effectively contributed to it. I also used to conduct workshops for start-ups. In the first term, workshops were conducted to explore the new universe of the start-up industry. Ranging from the sporting community to the film industry, reach-out programmes were organised for every industry. Our focus has been to promote and sell our products to the global community. Today, the YouTube community, gaming and social media influencers have emerged as a new and promising enterprise. I organised a meeting with them and sought to address their challenges while also exploring the nation’s potential to take the lead position in these sectors. Similarly, the nation’s fundamental issues can’t be ignored. If people in villages and remote locations are facing issues, they call for immediate redressal. They, too, are important constituents of India’s growth story and can’t be looked down upon. Therefore, our government’s approach is comprehensive, integrated and holistic.

IANS: Digital India and Make In India were mocked by the Opposition. But, today they have become a unique identity of your governance. The world is also taking due recognition of it. UPI is an example of this. What do you have to say about this?

PM Modi: When the Digital India movement was started, they (the opposition) alleged that this was being done to benefit the service providers. They failed to recognise and realise its importance. They couldn’t understand the scale and scope of opportunity in this field. The 21st century is a technology-driven century. Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence have the potential to alter the world and can create a new world order. We must not keep ourselves away from the latest technological and futuristic innovations. Can anyone explain to me if there was no UPI, how could we have fought against the Covid-19 pandemic? Many well-off countries couldn’t provide aid to their citizens despite prosperity. The power of technology enabled us to transfer money directly to bank accounts of crores of farmers within 30 seconds. UPI is so user-friendly that anyone can operate it without any hassles. Today, many social media users are sharing how they are managing their lives and enterprises without using cash. UPI has been a revolution in the Fintech world. Today, many countries across the world want to associate with India for UPI-related benefits. Today, India is emerging as a world leader in UPI technology. When I proposed to bring this model, many eminent personalities in Parliament mocked and taunted it. They could neither gauge the prowess of the nation nor assess the ability of technology to bring transformational change in people’s lives.

IANS: What is the reason behind the nation’s first-time voters instant connect with PM Modi?

PM Modi: I understand their aspirations. Today’s youth is very different from the past. They don’t want to conform to previous standards. They want to take big leaps and reach their intended destination, even if it means bypassing some steps. Our responsibility is to provide them with launching pads and give them a platform to fulfil their aspirations. There is a need to understand youth and their thinking pattern. When I do Pariskha Pe Charcha, I get to interact with thousands of students. I come across many students who are thinking decades ahead of their time. If the government and the leadership fail to understand the aspirations of this new generation, a long gap will emerge between the two. During the Covid era, I was worried about the young generation. I was worried about their youthfulness confined in the four walls of the room due to the pandemic and often interacted with them. During video conferencing with them, I tried to energise them with certain tasks and lift their spirits. The internet data cost was drastically cut to enable greater interaction. The purpose was to motivate the youth to take to new digital medium and we succeeded in it. India played a crucial role in turning the Covid crisis into an opportunity. The digital and Fintech revolution in the country owes much to the government’s focus on converting “aapati” (disaster) into “avsar” (opportunity). I understand the prowess of technology and the impactful changes that it can bring for generations and therefore want to harness it to its full potential.



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