Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said reducing India’s oil import bill would help strengthen the economy and described the critics of his government’s target of making India a $5-trillion economy in the next five years as “professional pessimists”.
Modi, who was in his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, to launch his party’s membership drive on the occasion of the 118th birth anniversary of party ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee, explained to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers the rationale behind the $5-trillion economy objective and asked them to disseminate the message among people.
“The size of the cake matters. The bigger the cake, the bigger the share of everybody in it," he said, a day after the tabling of the first Budget of his government’s second term in Parliament. “This is the reason for our objective of making India a $5-trillion economy, which would increase the per capita income of people, which in turn would increase their purchasing power, demand and production, and trigger job growth."
The PM said India should use its demographic dividend to join the league of developed countries and shed the vicious cycle of low income and limited expenses. He bemoaned that poverty had become a virtue “in our hearts and minds”.
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He explained at length the commitments made in the Budget, including efforts to make India a hub of manufacturing of solar panels, photo-voltaic cells, and e-vehicles. He said a wider use of e-vehicles and solar panels made in India would reduce India’s oil bill. “We spend Rs 5-6 trillion to import petrol and diesel every year. It will strengthen India’s economy if this expenditure comes down with the use of solar power, wind power,” the PM said.
Modi said the Budget speech consciously did not have data on budgetary allocations. “The details were there in the budgetary documents, but the speech was to tell India the road map to achieve the $5-trillion economy objective," he said.
On some people questioning the need for becoming a $5-trillion economy, Modi said, "They are what I call professional pessimists. They are detached from the common man and if you go to them for a solution, they will put you in crisis. The country needs to be wary of these pessimists."
Referring to the budgetary provisions, Modi said a "new India" was on the threshold of sprinting forward and recited a few couplets in Hindi, which means the challenges before one also offer immense opportunities to surmount them and everyone's contribution in the development of the country will be a true gift for Mother India.
The Budget, he said, provided for boosting farm and fisheries exports, making Rs 100 trillion investment in infrastructure such as roads and ports in the next five years, constructing houses for all, promoting domestic manufacturing, and cutting imports.
While the country is self-sufficient in food grain production, the Budget emphasises on turning farmers into exporters of farm produce and value-added products. The government's effort on cleanliness will boost tourism, which is the cheapest form of creating employment, Modi said.
"The economy will not pick up pace unless infrastructure is good. We are building infrastructure from crop storages in villages to modern facilities in cities. Highways, railways, airways, waterways, i-ways, digital infrastructure, broadband in villages... Rs 100 trillion will be invested in five years,” the prime minister said.
To boost housing, the Budget has given an additional Rs 1.5 lakh income tax exemption on the purchase of affordable houses. Also, the government will build 20 million houses to meet the target of housing for all by 2022, he said.
The Centre will draft a model tenancy law and send it to state governments to boost rental housing, Modi said, adding all these will boost employment, create demand for steel, cement and other goods. Earlier, soon after his arrival at Varanasi on a day-long visit, Modi unveiled a statue of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at the airport.