Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon chief executive officers (CEOs) and entrepreneurs to identify and develop five items whose imports could be stopped by 2022 so that the country’s needs could be met by domestic production.
He said an atmosphere must be created to take the poor along in every sphere of life.
India continues to have a significant trade deficit in goods even as it has reduced since 2014-15. In 2016-17, merchandise exports stood at $276.28 billion even as imports soared to $384.31 billion.
The $108.03-billion deficit has been explained in terms of skewed trade relations with manufacturing hub China as well as India's dependence on exporting raw materials rather than finished goods.
Addressing 200 top CEOs from across the country as part of the second edition of ‘Champions of Change’ series organised by the NITI Aayog, Modi said that entrepreneurs needed to develop products through which imports of costly medical equipment could be curbed.
“We develop products keeping in mind markets and claim that they are cheaper than others; but have we ever thought of developing products that help in solving our domestic problems,” Modi asked.
“Let's carry India's poor in each of our thoughts and actions,” the Prime Minister said, adding that if the current generation thought of feasible solutions to our unique problems, markets and jobs would automatically be created.
He said among many sectors that had the potential of creating jobs, tourism held great promise but it was not exploited fully due to psychological issues.
“We Indians don't take pride in our rich heritage. If we begin talking about our tourist destinations with pride, the world will be desperate to visit India,” Modi said.
He said that companies, while inviting their foreign partners for business meetings, should also encourage them to visit the many tourist places in India.
He said corruption in this country was transparent as almost everyone knew how the system could be manipulated, but his government had tried to put in place small changes that were fundamentally transforming how things were governed in India.
Giving the example of the Centre’s newly launched e-marketplace for local purchases (Government-e-Market), Modi said even with little reach, procuring goods worth Rs 1,000 crore had been recorded by the GeM and 28,000 suppliers had contributed to the platform.
Referring to the November 8, 2016, decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Prime Minister said he did not believe in piecemeal solutions and looked for end-to-end solutions.
“Digital India, which saw 100 times increase in the Optical Fibre Network, is an example,” Modi said.
He said the government was looking to double farmers’ income by 2022, and this would come from animal husbandry, fisheries, bee keeping, and allowing commercial felling of timber grown on farmlands.
“We need to look for agro products that can capture targeted markets like in the Gulf and then integrate them with food processors, farmers, and companies,” Modi said.
Touching upon the issue of food wastage, he said that the Centre opened up food processing to foreign direct investment and was now looking at private players and investors to build storages which would have multiple applications.
Calling upon the CEOs to make development a mass movement just as Mahatma Gandhi made freedom a mass movement, Modi said that they were his team for the new India and soldiers of a prosperous and developed India.
“If you treat government as a client, you will complain. If you treat government as a partner, you will come up with feasible solutions,” Modi said. He also exhorted the CEOs to go cashless by 2022 both in their own working and also in their dealings with employees.
The CEOs, who were divided into six groups in their presentation made to the Prime Minister and his top cabinet ministers along with bureaucrats, pledged to double their R&D spend to 3 per cent of revenues by 2022, employ at least one-third new hires as women, and also enhance skills through online skill training courses in the next five years.
Among the multiple suggestions and pieces of advice that the CEOs gave, the group on doubling farmers’ income wanted the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act scrapped. Another was creating one million agriprenuers to serve 100 million farmers in India, enabling massive self-employment.
They also wanted public-private partnership in agriculture information centres to deliver demand data and analytics and create brand value of source origin.
The group on world-class infrastructure wanted greater access to electricity to trigger household income growth, a Right to Energy Act along with automatic monthly tariff adjustments, power supplier portability, and creating power retailers.
It also wanted creating tourism circuits through the special purpose vehicle model. The group on developing cities of tomorrow wanted private sector participation in smart meters, ward level waste converters, etc.
The group on financial sector reforms wanted to create 100 more no-frills banks with only the licence for deposit and credit.
They said to build a new India of 2022, the focus should be on jobs, health care, tourism, branded goods and services, and affordable medical access for all.
PM praises Panagariya
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday showered praise on outgoing NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, saying he had quietly done marvels in shaping the new body that replaced the Planning Commission. Panagariya, the first V-C of the NITI Aayog, is scheduled to leave the government think-tank on August 31 and return to Columbia University in the US. “I want to specially thank NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, who is showing how work is done in a mission mode... He has done good work and the country will always remember him and his contribution,” Modi said.