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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said he was willing to pay a “big political price” for ushering in systemic changes in the country. Citing the example of Aadhaar, he said the unique identity number had transformed people’s lives and, in future, it would also work as a “big weapon” in the fight against benami properties. With his government facing criticism from the Opposition for rolling out a “flawed” goods and services tax (GST), the PM said his government would be undaunted in taking “irreversible” decisions. “I am aware of the big political price I will have to pay for the steps I have taken, the path I have chosen, and the destination I want to take the country to. But I am ready for it,” he said. The PM’s comments, at the HT Leadership Summit, come days before the first phase of polling in Gujarat on December 9. Modi also asked the media to follow the advice of former president APJ Abdul Kalam and not be the purveyors of negative news. Kalam, Modi said, had once observed that the Indian media was ashamed of the country’s capabilities and accomplishments. In his ‘Mann ki Baat’ broadcast on Sunday, Modi had asked people to welcome the New Year by posting five positive stories of 2017. The PM criticised the corruption prevalent in the Congress-led UPA government. He listed the achievements of his government, particularly regarding the welfare of the poor. He said his government ensured accident insurance at Rs 1 a month and life insurance at 90 paise a month for the poor. The PM said 15 crore people had taken such insurance, and as much as Rs 1,800 crore had been disbursed in claim money. “Any other government would have been extolled for being a messiah of the poor. Newspaper headlines and round the clock television discussions would have taken place…But I don’t think people have noticed.
But I have done this out of conviction, whether someone notices or not,” he said.Modi said 28 crore LED bulbs had been distributed since the launch of the scheme three years back, and middle-class families had made a saving of Rs 14,000 crore. “If I had implemented some scheme worth Rs 14,000 crore, I would have ensured a vote bank of the middle class for the next 50 years,” he said, adding that the changes brought about by his government were not one time but continuous. “However, some people are finding this difficult to digest,” he added. The PM also defended the goods and services tax (GST) and demonetisation. He said that with black money finding its way into banks after the note ban, the government now had a "treasure trove" of data that would enable it to take action against the errant people. The PM said his government had inherited an economy that was in tatters. But, he said, at that time brevity was the flavour of the season to criticise the UPA government, and the chaos the country faced was euphemistically termed “policy paralysis”. “You and I both know there were reasons why this was so…,” he said. Modi said the India of today brimmed with never-before “positive attitude”. He said people voted in 2014 not just to throw out the incumbent government, but with the hope of irreversible systemic change. He said it was his commitment to end the friction between the people and the system and improve “ease of living”. Modi said India’s international status had seen manifold increase in the past three years. He pointed to the re-election of an Indian judge to the International Court of Justice, but bemoaned that the media did not adequately highlight it.