Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat down for a detailed interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami today. During the 85-minute conversation, the PM spoke about a range of domestic and foreign issues. He showered effusive praise on outgoing Reserve Bank governor Raghuram Rajan. He appealed to the media to not make heroes out of those issuing communally divisive statements. The Prime Minister offered an overview of his economic vision and discussed the work in progress.
Here's the complete transcript of the interview.
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi thank you very much for this interview. Thank you very much.
PM MODI: My greetings to all the people.
ARNAB: This is your first one to one interview to a private news channel since you became Prime Minister. And if I am not mistaken, this is the first ever interview by a sitting Prime Minister of India to a private television news channel in the country. So I would first like to thank you and am very grateful for the opportunity.
PM MODI: The world of the media has grown so big that everybody has to attach themselves with it.
ARNAB: I am very grateful and our viewers will be very grateful also Mr Modi because they want to hear your views on a range of subjects. Mr Prime Minister I would like to start by taking you back to 20th May 2014. The results came on May 16th. Four days later, you gave a historic speech in the Central Hall of Parliament and you were speaking to the members of Parliament. You had said four days after the results that an era of responsibility has begun. And that you said that in 2019 before the elections, I will come back to this Parliament, I will come back to the MPs and I will give my report card. Forty percent into your tenure, how much have you achieved of your own targets?
PM MODI: When I went for the first time as an MP to the Central Hall, and it was the first time I was seeing the Central Hall. I had not been there before. So I had then said that becoming the Prime Minister was not about the designation of the office but it was about the responsibilities and work of being a PM. I had also said that my government would be committed to the poor. I was completely new in the job. Delhi was new for me. The Delhi environment was new to me. The work of the government of India was also new for me. But despite that, in such a short time, the pace at which the country has moved forward, and it's not on one subject. You can pick up any aspect of the government's functioning, and if you make a comparison with the past governments, then you will realize that no issue has been ignored.
If someone would want to know Modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which Modi is the real Modi.
There has been an effort to bring in something new in every area. There is an effort to bring in change in every area. One big challenge was that I was not experienced about this place, I had not even been an MP. The office was new, the questions were also new. But when I look at the second biggest challenge, we should remember those days when the country was engulfed in disappointment. The everyday news was about whether there would be any electricity production after seven days, whether coal would be supplied or not. This was the situation then. The entire system was engulfed in disappointment. The big challenge was to inject new trust into the system and create confidence among the citizens. It is very difficult to evaluate this from the outside but I have gone through it.
But today I can say with a lot of satisfaction that now there is no trace of any disappointment. The intention to do something is visible. And it's not in words but in actual achievement. I had said that within a given timeframe, we will open bank accounts for the poor. For something that had not been done for 60 years, setting a timeframe for it was in itself a risk. But because of that a trust was created in the system that it was something doable. So that's the process I started for awakening the confidence. And today you can see that in every sector, the changed circumstances can be seen. While evaluating the performance of this government, never forget that you will have to make that evaluation in comparison with the 10 years of the previous government. Only then will you know where we were and where we are now. We should not be talking about what we are aiming for. For now you will have to assess the present in comparison with the immediate past and in that you will find a bright future
ARNAB: Mr. Modi, I want to start now on the issue of foreign policy. In the area of foreign policy, you have taken great personal interest. The amount of personal interest you have shown in foreign policy, probably none of the previous Prime Ministers showed the same kind of interest. Your approach is pro active. What I find interesting about your foreign policy is that you have balanced different powers and different interests. On the one side, your relationship with U.S, you made sure that India enters the Missile Control Technology Regime with them. A week before that you also signed the historic Chabahar Port Agreement with Iran. So, you have balanced very diverse forces. My question to you over this is that, is it easy to do that as an Indian Prime Minister? Secondly, on the issue of the NSG, you staked a lot of personal interest, personal push, you lobbied actively. How close are we to getting the NSG seat?
PM MODI: Firstly, about foreign policy, you need to know what has strengthened our foreign policy. For 30 years, in our country, the government was unstable. For 30 years, party with a clear mandate wasn't given the opportunity to form the government. The world measures the government of a nation on the basis of its condition in its own country, on how strong their word is in their own country. I am thankful to the people of this country, that after 30 years, they chose a government with absolute majority and this has had an impact on world politics.
Countries and world leaders have changed their perspective towards India. This is the biggest benefit. Secondly, the world didn't know me. The world wants to know who the head of the state is. If someone would want to know modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which modi is the real Modi. If this happens, the country will be at a loss. Modi's personality shouldn't be a hindrance for the world to have faith in india. But for that unless I meet all those leaders and engage them them one to one, unless I speak to them frankly, they wouldn't know about india's head of state, so it was very important for me as I am not from a political family. I never had the opportunity to meet the world leaders earlier.
ARNAB: You were an unknown entity in foreign policy.
PM MODI: More than foreign policy it was foreign relations. Yes, I was new to it. So for me, being pro active was mandatory. Thirdly, we work as a team. Foreign ministry, Prime Minister's officer, commerce ministry, finance ministry, defense minister, everyone works as a team, not as separate pieces. The impact that is now visible, is not just because of Modi, it is because of the team. All teams work in a particular direction. That is why the impact is seen, earlier these teams were splintered. We have seen instances where the party would give a statement, the prime minister would say something else, party leaders would say something else. This disunity has had a negative impact.
Thirdly, we also need to understand that earlier the world was bi polar. Foreign policy would be centered around two super powers. India was a little late in realizing that this bi polar situation was for namesake. Now the entire world, in changed circumstances, especially in 21st century, it is more interdependent and inter connected, earlier, the foreign policy was possible between governments, but today it is not possible just between governments. Government relations are important but increasing people to people contact is equally important. There's been a shift in paradigm.
Because I do not have any previous baggage, because I've had a clean slate, I write everything from beginning and that has a benefit. Today we are building relations with countries across the world. The amount of respect with which I engage saudi arabia, I engage Iran with the same amount of respect. The amount of respect with which I speak to America, I speak to russia with the same amount of respect. So we need to understand this. We also need to understand that we shouldn't consider smaller countries insignificant. I abide by this principle.
The small countries of the world are as important as the big nations. We had assumed that the relations with smaller nations would develop under the shadow of the bigger nations. I brought about a change in this. You must have seen that I made a forum for the pacific island nations. We have had two meetings. I went there once and they came here once. These are small countries with a population of about 10 lakh or 20 lakh. But these small island nations are most affected by global warming. When india took up the international solar mission and 122 nations joined it, the island nations benefitted the most out of it. They are 50 in number now. A group of 50 nations, feels secured with this vision of India.
If we try to understand this change, then we would realize that in the world, a few days back, I was sitting with the officers of our foreign services, so as we got talking, in a very poetic way I told them that there was a time when we used to sit by the sea and count the waves, but the time has now changed, we are done counting waves, now it's time for us to steer ourselves, ride the waves and decide on our direction, destination and speed.
ARNAB: That is apparent. You have a very aggressive foreign policy. But my second question was, you put so much effort for NSG membership. My question was, how close are we to NSG membership and were you disappointed that we did not make it at the very end because of China's opposition?
PM MODI: Look the first thing is that India has been continuously making these efforts, no matter which government was in office. Be it the membership of the UN Security Council or the SCO membership or MTCR membership or NSG membership. Every government has made an effort. It's not that only this government is trying, it's in continuity. But it's during our tenure that we achieved SCO membership, we also got the MTCR membership.
I have full faith that now we have begun a coordinated effort for the NSG membership too. The process has begun on a positive note. Everything has rules and will work accordingly and move forward.
ARNAB: Is it the problem of mindset with China? There have been 13 engagements at various levels between the Narendra Modi government and the Chinese government. The latest engagement was when you went to Tashkent. You spent some time with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yet it was seen that in the case of Masood Azhar, China blocked India's UN bid to ban him. Now they have stalled India's NSG bid. Why is China repeatedly blocking us Mr Prime MInister despite your personal proactive measures and your government's outreach?
PM MODI: The first thing is that we have an ongoing dialogue with China and it should continue to happen. In foreign policy it's not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation. Even when the views are contradictory, talks are the only way forward and problems should be resolved through dialogue. We don't have one problem with China, we have a whole lot of problems pending with China.
Slowly and steadily, an effort is on to address these issues through talks and make them less cumbersome. I can say that China has been cooperating with India to search for solutions. On some issues, it's a question of principles for them. On some issues, it's a question of principles for us. On some issues they differ with us and there are issues on which we differ with them. There are some basic differences. But the most important thing is that we can speak to China eye-to-eye and put forth India's interests in the most unambiguous manner. We are a government that takes care of India's interests. We don't compromise on this. Three days ago I met the Chinese President. I told him clearly about India's interests. They are a different country, we are a different country.
ARNAB: Do you think you will be able to change their mindset on the issue of NSG membership?
PM MODI: See the foreign policy is not about changing mindsets. Foreign policy is about finding the common meeting points. Where do our interests converge and how much? We have to sit and talk with every country. It's our ongoing effort..
ARNAB: This statement that you just made is also apt in the context of America where you gave a speech in the U.S Congress. By the way Mr Prime Minister it was a fantastic speech.
PM MODI: Thank you.
ARNAB: There was a lot of humour. You were laughing and cracking jokes while you delivered the speech which was very unique. They also appreciated it. Was the speech impromptu?
PM MODI: I have a humorous side but these days humour can be a risky thing.
ARNAB: Why do you say that?
PM MODI: In this era of 24/7 news channels, anybody can lift a small word and make a big issue out of it. But I will tell you the truth, the reason for the absence of humour in public life is this fear. I am myself scared . Earlier when I used to make speeches, I would make it so humorous but there would never be any issues.
ARNAB: Have you become more conscious now?
PM MODI: I am not conscious. I am in fear, there is no humour left in public life because of this fear. Everyone is scared. I am in fear. My speeches used be humourous. I see it in Parliament, that humour is finished there too. It is a matter of concern. I will quote one proverb.
ARNAB: Yes, go ahead.
PM MODI: Even if you mention a proverb, they will connect it with something else and begin a conversation. The one who is saying the proverb does not know for what he is speaking.
ARNAB: But you should not lose your sense of humour Mr Prime Minister.
PM MODI: But it is true that my trip to the United States of America, my speech in their Congress and the respect shown towards India created a lot of hype. Had it not been hyped so much, there would not have been so much criticism on the NSG issue. Government is being criticized not for any mishandling of the NSG issue but because we were so successful over there (in the USA).
ARNAB: Did China become conscious of your growing friendship with US?
PM MODI: I am talking about what's happening here.
ARNAB: But when you delivered that speech in context of America, you used a very interesting phrase. You said 'We have to overcome the hesitations of history'. My Hindi is not that good. Like hesitations of history. But my question to you is Mr Prime Minister, how close can we get to America because many Indians believe that America is still supporting Pakistan, giving them military assistance. How close can we get? At what point do we stop before we are seen like an American ally? What is your own world view on that?
PM MODI: I would especially like to appeal to my country's media that we should stop looking at everything in India from the prism of Pakistan. India is an independent country. It is a country of 125 crore people. Whenever it approaches any country, it will only be concerned about its own interests. It has been our biggest shortcoming and mistake that we have been tagging ourselves with another country and trying to do things.
I am in fear, there is no humour left in public life because of this fear.
We are an independent country, we have our own policies and future. We have to think about the future of our 125 crore people. There should be no compromise on our interests. We have relations with America in the context of these fundamental points.
ARNAB: How close can we get to them?
PM MODI: There has been warmth in our relationship. You must have seen the editorials in American newspapers after my visit to that country. One point mentioned in those editorials was that the success of Obama's foreign policy has been the warm relationship with India. This has been said.
ARNAB: What you are saying Modiji is that we can be close to America but we need not be an ally or seen to be an ally?
PM MODI: The first thing is that we no longer live in a bipolar world. The world is interconnected and interdependent. You will have to connect with everybody at the same time. Even if there are two opposing countries, they will have to be friends. Now the times have changed.
ARNAB: Mr Modi, on 8th May 2014, I had the opportunity to interview you, the interview took place in Ahmedabad, I think one last phase of elections was left. We were discussing the issue of Pakistan. You have had an uncompromising approach towards Pakistan. Two days back, Lashkar E Toiba killed 8 CRPF jawans in an attack. In the 8th May interview, you put forth a very interesting phrase, you said 'Can talks be heard amidst the noise of bombs, guns and pistols?' This is how you had phrased it. Do you believe we have been too generous towards Pakistan? Do you believe we have been too generous towards Pakistan?
PM MODI: There are two things. One - India has always wanted friendly ties with its neighbours, there can be no debate around it. We want to live in harmony and peace. And I have said it repeatedly, that India has to fight poverty, Pakistan too has to fight poverty, why don't we come together to fight poverty? I said this before elections and during election campaigns. Also I had invited leaders of SAARC nations to my swearing in ceremony and they had attended it as well. So there has been no change in our intent, our thoughts and our current behaviour.
I believe Raghuram Rajan's patriotism is no less than any of ours. As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country.
Number two--those who have to work from the table, will work from the table and those who have to work at the border, will work at border with full strength. Each one will fulfill the responsibility entrusted to them. And our jawans are fulfilling their responsibilities. It's true that pressure on terrorists has increased, their schemes are proving unsuccessful. The intent with which they move forward are foiled and they have to face major challenges. It is because of this disappointment that such incidents are taking place and our jawans are risking their lives and protecting the country. We are very proud of our Jawans.
ARNAB: When your foreign policy is studied, observers analyze what's happening and what's not happening. If you give me the opportunity, I want to do a bit of analyses. There was a terrific pace of engagement with Pakistan between October, November and December. On 30th November, you met Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines (of UN Climate Summit in Paris). Both of you were seated on a sofa, talking to each other. A lot of people were speculating the contents of your conversation. This was on the sidelines of Climate Summit. After that, all of a sudden within seven days there were NSA level talks and Ajit Doval spoke to Nasir Janjua in Bangkok. And again after that you went to Russia via Afghanistan, you made an unexpected visit to Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. It was a personal trip but it still had some level of importance. Eight days later, Pakistani terrorists attacked Pathankot. Can you tell our viewers whether Pakistan was proactively responding in the months of October, November and December? Did the Pathankot terror attack change the situation? Is it true that Pakistan was making a lot of movement in those three months?
PM MODI: Look there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the government only engages with a democratically elected system. Our effort for that engagement is continuing. But our supreme objective is peace. Our supreme objective is to protect India's interests. We keep making effort toward that objective and sometimes our efforts are successful.
As far as meetings and talks are concerned, we signalled right from the day I took oath and sent invitations for the oath taking ceremony, that we seek friendly relations but without compromising on our interests. And that is why I have said that my country's soldiers have full freedom to answer back in whatever manner they have to and they will keep doing that.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister what is the 'Lakshman Rekha' that you would draw when it comes to Pakistan. There is some confusion surrounding this subject. I would like you to give an elaborate reply. In 2014, it was believed that if talks are being held, then they should be held between two countries and not with Hurriyat. It should be between the government of India and the government of Pakistan. The other 'Lakshman Rekha' is that you must act on 26/11. There's been no forward movement so far. The third thing is about forward movement on the Pathankot attack case. So what is the 'Lakshman Rekha' now and if Pakistan remains within those bounds, so talks can happen at the political level or at any other level?
PM MODI: The first thing is that with Pakistan, to whom do we talk to decide about the 'Lakshman Rekha'. Will it be with the elected government or with other actors? That is why India will have to be on alert all the time. India will have to be alert every moment. There can never be any laxity in this. But there is an outcome due to my continuous efforts like my visit to Lahore and my invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister to come to India.
Now I don't have to explain to the world about India's position. The world is unanimously appreciating India's position. And the world is seeing that Pakistan is finding it difficult to respond. If we had become an obstacle, then we would have had to explain to the world that we are not that obstacle. Now we don't have to explain to the world. The world knows our intentions. Like on the issue of terrorism, the world never bought India's theory on terrorism. They would sometime dismiss it by saying that it's your law and order problem.
Today the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism. India's dialogue on terrorism, the losses India has suffered due to terrorism, the losses suffered by humanity, the world is now acknowledging that. So I believe we have to take this process forward.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister I now want to move to questions on the economy. In the past two years you have started many schemes. If we look at the theme of Jan Dhan Yojna for financial inclusion, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop insurance, Swach Bharat, Skill India, Make In India. If we see the theme running through these schemes, is your social agenda at the core of your personal economic philosophy, social transformation? Is the social agenda at the core of your economic philosophy as the Prime Minister?
PM MODI: The first point is our philosophy is to reach the last man in the line. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay's philosophy forms the core of our political, economic and social ideology. And even Mahatma Gandhi used to say that what is there for the last man? So my development parameter is very simple. It is about how the poorest of the poor can benefit from development. The poor is the central focus of my economic agenda. The poor should be strengthened in such a way that they get the willingness to defeat poverty. By helping the poor make ends meet while they remain in poverty is also one of the ways. I am not saying right or wrong but it's one of the ways. But today the country's situation is such that we should make the poor strong so that they become partners in defeating poverty.
All these schemes are meant to empower the poor and change the quality of life. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna is not only about opening bank accounts for the poor. Because of this the poor are feeling that they are becoming a part of the country's economic system. The bank that he was seeing from afar, now he is able to enter that bank. This brings about a psychological transformation. Looked at in another way, did you ever imagine that 40 thousand crores could be injected into the banking system by contributions from the poor. The poor who never had bank accounts, have deposited 100 rupees, 50 rupees or 200 rupees. It means that poor man saved 100 rupees and the change began in his life.
We have taken up construction of toilets. I had gone to Chhattisgarh and had the opportunity to get the blessings of one mother. An adivasi mother heard about the scheme for building toilets. She sold her four goats and built a toilet. That 90 old mother uses a walking stick and goes around the cluster of 30 or 40 houses in the tribal village and has been spreading the message to build toilets. This change is becoming the reason for the change in the quality of life. I have begun the cleanliness campaign. It's estimated an individual spends an average of 7000 rupees for treatment of a disease. The main reason for disease is filth. The poor suffer the most from the filth. If a poor man falls sick, he cannot drive his rickshaw for two days and his children go hungry. So how can we help the poor bring about change in their lives?
Now there is a neo-middle class and a middle class in the country. The young have their aspirations. So another aspect of my policies you must have seen are the Start Up India, Stand Up India, Seaport activity, port activity, railways expansion, railway station upgradation. These changes directly appeal to the middle class. The middle class has its aspirations. We have to create jobs? How will job creation happen? Till I invest in the development of infrastructure, there be no job creation. You must have seen that the maximum electricity generation since Independence has occurred this year. The maximum amount of coal mined has been in this year. The maximum length of roads being constructed daily is happening in this year. The fastest loading and unloading of steamers at sea ports is happening now.
All these changes are creating opportunities for employment like in Start up India, Stand Up India. For instance in Stand Up India, I have said that every bank should give an economic opportunity to one woman, one dalit or one tribal person to become entrepreneurs. This will create many job opportunities. So this is the basis of my economic philosophy.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister if I could interrupt you on this. On the one hand is the people's expectations and on the other is your vision. Many programs that you have mentioned, you can't put a calendar date to it but they don't have an immediate impact. They maybe able to show results in 3, 4, 5 maybe beyond 5 years. Now there are challenges in that. Mr Prime Minister, you are aware more than anyone else that people want immediate results. Now you spoke of job creation. The first thing, as an achievement you have managed to grow the economy at 7.5 per cent when the global economic climate is very bleak. You have spoken about it as well. You have met fiscal deficit targets, FDI inflows have increased but people are saying that job opportunities are not increasing. You have spoken about infrastructure but the current rate of unemployment. Mr Prime Minister, the latest Labour Bureau figures, is it a source of concern for you as the Prime Minister?
PM MODI: The first thing is that are 800 million people below the age of 35 in our country. We have to accept that the demand for jobs is very high. But where will they get employment? Investment will come in. It will be used in the infrastructure sector, manufacturing and services sector. Now like the initiative we have taken, we have started the Mudra Yojna. More than three crore people in the country comprise washermen, barbers, milkman, newspaper vendors, cart vendors. We have given them nearly 1.25 lakh crore rupees without any guarantee.
Now why have these people taken the money? To expand their work. When he expands his work, if he is currently employing one person, now he has to employ two people. If there were two employed earlier, now there are three. Now just think, when 3 crore of these small businesses have got access to finance, they must have expanded their work. Now all this is not in the Labour Department's registration. Three crore people have expanded their work. We took another small decision. The big malls in the country run 365 days a year but the smaller shops have to close on holidays.
We announced in the Budget that even a small shopkeeper can operate his shop till late night and that too on all the seven days of the week. If the malls don't have restrictions then why should the small shopkeepers have restrictions. So now if a shopkeeper operates his shop till late and on all seven days, if he earlier employed one person, now he will have to employ two people. So won't the employment increase?
ARNAB: So is your focus on entrepreneurship?
PM MODI: Our focus is on all aspects. Now we are saying that by 2022 we want to ensure that everyone has a house. Housing sector has the maximum potential for creating employment. Houses will be built in such huge numbers, how many people will get employment? You must have seen that last year we brought in a textile policy. Under this textile policy, there will be income tax benefits for those who create employment.
The more employment one creates, the more tax benefits they will get. For the first time, employment generation and tax has been linked. These are the things that boost employment and our central focus is creating employment for the ordinary citizen.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, questions are also being raised on food inflation which has still not decreased. The expectation was that the food inflation would decline. The people had put their hopes on the Prime Minister that you will bring down prices. This not only has a political impact but also has a social impact. Over the past two weeks, there were reports that in some places the price of Arhar dal had touched 150 rupees and 200 rupees for other pulses. The price of tomatoes was also rising. Is this only seasonal because the food inflation is increasing at 7.5 per cent year on year. Global oil prices have fallen. Do you think this creates perception issues for your government?
PM MODI: You can't view inflation as a perception issue. Price rise should be seen as a reality. What is available for a consumer should be seen for what it is. There should never be an attempt to view price rise as a perception issue as a means of escaping the reality of price rise. We will have to accept reality. You see the fast pace at which prices were rising under the previous government, today that speed has decelerated a lot. You can see the statistics, you will find it there. Second, the country has gone through two consecutive years of severe drought.
Drought has a direct impact on the price of vegetables, food and pulses because all these things are produced from the soil. Now when there is such a big drought, it's not in anybody's hands. The second option in such a situation is imports. The Indian government has imported pulses in huge quantities. Third, it is the joint responsibility of the state and Central governments. It is not exclusively the state's responsibility. It is not exclusively the Centre's responsibility. It is the joint responsibility of both the state and Central governments. This should not be an issue of blame game that the state government did not do certain things and that the Centre did not do certain things. But it will have to be agreed that it is the joint responsibility of both. That is why the Centre has given rights to the states to make stringent laws. How much stocks to keep or not to keep are decisions which the states can take.
I am an apolitical Prime Minister. Apart from elections, I don't get involved into politics ever.
All these rights have been given to the states. Some states have performed well, some states are trying. But the Centre and state governments are trying to work together on this. I believe that we have been successful to the extent that the speed with which prices were rising (under UPA), what would have happened if the prices were to rise at that speed. We have been successful in stopping that speedy rise of prices. But as far as pulses are concerned, production in India has been very low. Many farmers who were earlier sowing pulses have started cultivating sugar. That is also an area of concern. We gave special incentives for pulses. We have tried to set up a different MSP for pulses.
We have taken steps to procure pulses from farmers with bonus. Our focus is on increasing the production of pulses. We are also focusing on building stocks of pulses by importing from abroad. An all out effort is being made and I believe that nobody doubts the sincerity of this government.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister what is your view about the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan as the RBI Governor? A lot has been spoken about this. There was commentary that it may effect India's image, perception as a global economy. What's your own view of the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan?
PM MODI: When my Government was formed in May 2014, you take newspapers from May, June, July 2014 and check television debates during that period. The topic of the television debates would be - Will the new govt let Raghuram Rajan continue? Or Will the new Government oust Raghuram Rajan?
And there was more or less consensus that he was appointed by the previous govt and so Modi won't let him complete his tenure and will remove him. You have seen, that he worked his entire tenure. For the time he was appointed by the previous government, he completing his entire term. So all the misconceptions have been dispelled. Secondly, according to my 2 year experience in Govt, those who are creating controversies, are being unjust to Raghuram Rajan.
ARNAB: Why so?
PM MODI: I will tell you. Those who say...I believe Raghuram Rajan's patriotism is no less than any of ours. It will be doing injustice to him if one says that he will serve the country only if he is at a particular post. As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country. He is someone who loves his country.
Therefore, it's not like the nation won't get Raghuram Rajan's services, Raghuram Rajan is not that kind of a person. He is a person who loves the country. Those who speak such language are doing great injustice to him. My experience with him has been good.I appreciate the work he has done. And my good wishes will always be with him.
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, there's a question related to this. During your speech at the Executive you used seven words begining with letter 'S'-- 'Sevabhaav' (service), 'Santulan' (balance), 'Sanyam' (restraint), 'Samvaad' (dialogue), 'Samanvay' (coordination), 'Sakaratmak' (positivity) and 'Samvedna' (sensitivity). I will ask the question in context with Raghuram Rajan because you used these words in the speech at National Executive Meet speech on June 14 in Allahabad. You said, 'Our party leaders and party workers should use these qualities in their daily dealings and behaviour.' Prime Minister, in Raghuram Rajan's context, your Rajya Sabha MP has made many comments. Later he made critical remarks against senior bureaucrats. My question is, do you think it is right? When we talk about 'Sanyam' (restraint) and 'Santulan' (balance), is it correct?
PM MODI: Whether it is someone from my party or not, I believe that such things are inappropriate. The nation won't benefit from such publicity stunts. One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong.
ARNAB: That's a very clear message.
PM MODI: I have a very clear message. I have no two minds about it.
ARNAB: And Mr Prime Minister, if I may say so, between May 8 and now, you are speaking as straight as you did before you took over as Prime Minister. I think that answer takes me to the next subject. Mr Prime Minister, the issue is that of Black Money. In a very interesting way you said, prices should not be looked at from the point of percepetion, equally, Mr Prime Minister it can be said said that an issue like Black Money should not be looked at in terms of perception, but it is perception forming. There are political debates on this. Experts say that the Black Money economy has shrunk, 10-15% economy has shrunk through land dealings and other things. You have passed the Black Money Bill, you have made taxation more transparent, you have started information sharing with other countries, you have taken steps, but Prime Minister Modi, people still expect that a Rs 25 lakh crores will be brought back and put into their bank accounts. How will you address that expectation? The hope that people have taking Black Money, how will you address it?
PM MODI: How did the black money issue arise and how did it become such a serious issue? We have to look at the background. It is an established fact in the minds of the common man those who steal money park their money overseas. It's a common perception. Even if I look at it from the common man's perspective, I also wonder where does this money go? This issue was always stalled in the Parliament.
When the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ordered Special Investigation Team to look into it, even then the previous government stalled it for three years, from 2011-2014. It's after this that political parties, the media and the common man started believing that there's something wrong. Then the issue of Black Money became an agenda. Even today I can say...that yes, when there is money stashed in foreign accounts, there are some norms of engagement with foreign countries on the issue. But between 2011-2014, these people were given the opportunity to launder money here and there.
ARNAB: And you also said on 17 February 2015 on this issue, that the then Law Minister is only offering lip service.
PM MODI: The result was that people got several chances to launder money. Secondly, after our Government was formed, the first decision taken by our Cabinet was to form a Special Investigation Team to bring back Black Money which was pending despite Supreme Court's 2011 order. This shows our sincerity. From then on, you can't imagine how stringent the laws have been made to bring back Black Money and whoever comes in its fold will know how strict the law is. Thirdly, I attended the G20 Summit. Never was Black Money issue discussed in the G20 forum. It was my first G20 summit, for the first time I met the world leaders. And for the first time in the G20 Summit, one paragraph was on unaccounted money, on black money and 20 countries said that the world should cooperateBlack.
The dirty money, black money was also linked to terrorism, an environment of global census was created. We have been signing agreements one after the other with different countries that there will be real time, automatic exchange of information with India. I recently visited Switzerland and there was minimal discussion on the issue. But after I returned, a big delegation from Switzerland visited India, and they held meeting with the Indian Government and we discussed...for several years, we believed that Switzerland is the place where black money is stashed, that country is holding discussions to come to a consensus on Automatic Information Exchange and if we reach consensus it will be a great achievement.
Thirdly you must've seen that Mauritius route came up in almost everything. It was said that money goes out of India and returns through the Mauritius route. This was discussed. Everyone thought that nothing can be done about the Mauritius route.But our Government held a dialogue with the Mauritius Government, made changes to the old treaty. And we successfully made a new treaty to block the money which comes through the Mauritius route and very soon it will be phased out and completed. All these decisions are taken to fight the Black Money menace. This is not a one sided fight. Secondly, the govt is working in a direction to make sure that Black Money isn't generated in India and black Money doesn't go out of India, you can see the results of all this.
ARNAB: When the opposition raises the Rs 15 lakh issue.
PM MODI: That is something the opposition raises during elections. Let them have some issue to talk about
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, there has been no major financial corruption or scam in your tenure in the last two years. Perception is again, what people say is because you keep a very tight control on the reins of Government but the question is there are people, who are wilful defaulters, the economic offenders who take a lot of money from the country or commit economic offences in the country, go overseas and use rules and use lawyers, and they don't come back to India. And people are asking now, is the Narendra Modi Govt determined to take these cases of wilful defaulters and economic offenders to their logical conclusion.
PM MODI: Firstly, this question is not in the minds of people. The people of India have confidence that if there's someone who can do this, it is Narendra Modi and he will do it. Citizens of the country have full faith.
ARNAB: Does it worry you, that people have misused the law?
PM MODI: I take this as an opportunity and I will show them what the law is.
ARNAB: Mr. Modi, there have been several corruption cases about the previous government, which have now come out. There is AgustaWestland, many defense scams and defense transactions are now being analyzed seriously. The cases which were quoted in the CAG reports but were ignored are now coming in the forefront. This question is important because this isn't just about financial corruption but these questions have direct implications on the national security of the country. Do you think, when they say that this is a political witch hunt by Narendra Modi Sarkar, do you think all of these cases would have been possible without political patronage?
PM MODI: There are many things which are not visible. One can't imagine the difficulty I am experiencing in taking out things from dirt. One who is working there knows the amount of dirt that exists and how certain things have been caught in a web. There are certain powers behind it. The case about Agusta helicopters. I can't deny it and I believe that we have the right to doubt that people behind this are very experienced.
They have perfectly practiced the art of doing wrong deeds. They are very experienced and knowledgeable. And one can also smell the fact that such a thing wouldn't have been done without a shield. Now, agencies are probing. Let's see how far the probe goes. But the investigation shouldn't go ahead while people are being targeted, neither does my government target anyone. The sin has been committed, but how much is done, How was it done, who did it, probe agencies will find out in a professional way. Whatever comes out, will be put out.
ARNAB: Prime Minister, talking about your speech in the US Congress, and the humour that you displayed. I felt some of it was impromptu. But the Americans were able to relate to what you said, I don't remember the exact words, you said, I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. And then there was a pause and people were laughing. Then you said, 'I am told' - You emphasized and said 'I am told that you are well known for your bipartisanship.' Then the applause was more. And then you said, 'You are not alone. Time and again I have witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament.' You spoke about a serious topic in a interesting manner. You referred to the Upper House. There was a lot of response on that too. Your humour was really appreciated and I think it was a wonderful moment when you were speaking. But, Mr. Prime Minister, when you look back at the parliament, this question comes to many people's minds, has Prime Minister Narendra Modi being held back from achieving his own objectives because of the non-stop parliamentary logjam. How much has this affected his moving towards his own targets? If you critically analyze this situation, do you feel your government could have been more consultative or do you feel the blame is entirely with the Opposition?
PM MODI: I look at it differently. I believe there have been a lot of problems. Whether the fault is ours or their's, I 'll leave it to the people. People will decide. But because of discussions in Parliament - we may not come to a decision, the decision could be opposing our view, nothing wrong in that. But at least there should be a discussion. The sad part is, if somebody is running away from debate or don't let discussions happen, then it is a cause of worry in a democracy. Whether the government's work is accomplished or not, I don't see it as a cause of worry. If not today, it will happen tomorrow. There are certain things which will happen at an administrative level.
The big thing is, Parliament is for discussion. Parliament is to show dissent. Parliament is to give an argument for one's opposition, to present an argument when they support.To uphold this basic spirit of Parliament, is the responsibility of every person who values democracy. It is the responsibility of those present in the Parliament and those outside. It is the responsibility of those in power and those not in power. This is a matter of spirit and it should be followed. As far as the government is concerned, on every issue and at every forum, we have tried to hold discussions. I myself have met the opposition leaders and spoken to them. Key members of the government are also in touch. And you must have seen that many issues have been resolved. In the last session, we have passed 12 bills in Rajya Sabha, we passed 10 bills in the Lok Sabha. So the pace has picked up. When people say 'Opposition', it is unfair to the opposition.
There are some parties in the Parliament which are not with the BJP or NDA, but are with the government on key decisions. So, to defame the Opposition by saying that all opposition parties are against us -- when some people do this, it is wrong. There is one party which has problems. And the whole world knows that party. Secondly, to say that 'When you were is Opposition, you did it this way' There is a difference between every Opposition party. 'We have run the government for 60 years and now we are in the Opposition, so we know the nitty-gritties of the government, we know the responsibilities. We can't behave in the way, a new Opposition party behaves.' A party which hasn't been in power or hasn't seen anything, could behave in this way. For example, we are in power now, and consider in 2040 we become the Opposition party. So, in 2040 we can't have the same conduct as the one we had in 2009 or 2010.
ARNAB: Congress is a very experienced and old party.
PM MODI: That's why I say that, those who have been in power for so many years, shouldn't be doing this. If there is a new party in the Opposition, they have a small demand for their state or if an MP has a demand for his/her constituency and does something like this, then we can understand. Ones who have been in power for very long, shouldn't be doing such things.
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, do you think the GST bill which has been stuck for over one and half years, it is a path-breaking economic reform. It unifies the country. Recently you met Ms Jayalalitha after she was sworn in as the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has extended her support for GST and Congress allies at the state level are supporting the GST bill. Do you feel optimistic that GST bill will be passed in the next session of the Parliament?
PM MODI: First we need to understand, that we look at GST only within the purview of an economic reform because of which the right information doesn't come out. Not having GST straight away means loss for the poor of Uttar Pradesh. Absence of GST straight away means loss for the poor people of Bihar. Not passing the GST would mean loss for the poor people of poor states like Bengal, Orissa and Assam. People who sit in the Rajya Sabha must understand this. GST is beneficial for the poor people of the states represented by them, because those states will economically benefit the most from GST. The money will be used for the welfare of the poor people of those states.
I am not from a political family. I never had the opportunity to meet the world leaders earlier.
This is why be it Mamata Banerjee, be it Nitish Kumar, be it Akhilesh Yadav or Naveen Patnaik, all these states want the GST bill to be passed at the earliest. There is just one group which has made it the issue of prestige. Now the kind of arithmetic which is working out, I hope that this decision is passed in favour of the poor. You will be surprised to what extent has the opposition reached to the level of distortion. In the previous session we introduced an act. Indian government has Rs 40,000 crore rupees from the CAMPA Fund. Rs 40,000 crore. we wanted to give that money to the states. States have to use that money for forestry, for greenery, for planting trees and plants.
The bill is meant for that. Had this Rs 40,000 crore reached the states before the monsoons, it would have been used for the forests. A lot of people would have got employment, people who plant trees would have been employed. There would be plantation and due to the rains the plants would start growing within a year. But just because of obstructionism, states have been deprived of the benefit of Rs 40,000 crore. The money was meant for the forests and for the tribals. They blocked it. There was no argument on it.
ARNAB: The reason...you had tried?
PM MODI: Made all efforts.
ARNAB: You had invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi here at the Race Course Road.
PM MODI: We held talks at every level.
ARNAB: Still? The word you used 'ego issue', why has it become an ego issue? And people would want to know why is the Prime Minister unable to end this?
PM MODI: The Prime Minister cannot answer this question. Those creating obstructions can only answer this question. But despite this, I will keep trying. I am ready to convince them in which ever way possible. If I have to convoke someone over a cup of tea at their house, I am even ready for that. I have no problem. My only aim is the welfare of the poor of my country and the poor of states like Uttar Pradesh.
ARNAB: You spoke of Uttar Pradesh. Mr Prime Minister, elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh in 6,7,8 months. The focus of entire nation will be on it. You are the MP from Varanasi. But some comments are made by BJP, some say Sangh Parivar, some independent groups, communal colour is added to it and not just from one party but from other parties as well. Mr Prime Minister are you going to be able to keep development as the sole agenda? The main issue in the Uttar Pradesh polls should be that of development, it shouldn't get capsized, the focus shouldn't be elsewhere. Are you confident that communal agenda will not overpower development?
PM MODI: It's my conviction, it's my commitment. You must have seen during the 2014 elections that I fought elections on the issue of development. The new generation of the country only believes in development. I believe that solution to all problems is in development. Development is also the solution to the tension that people talk about.
If we provide employment to people, if we ensure there's food on their plates, if we provide them with facilities and give them education, all the tension will end. And this is why, all those who want good for the nation, I request them to compete towards development and for development. This atmosphere should be created in the country and I think such an environment is being created nowadays.
ARNAB: So the hot heads who make extreme comments, is there a necessity to control them? So that there is no politics in the name of religion.
PM MODI: Firstly, I am of the firm belief that the nation should progress on the issue of development. And it is necessary that the country moves forward on the issue of development. I would like to tell the media not to make heroes out of those people who make such comments.
ARNAB: But they keep making such comments.
PM MODI: Don't make them heroes, they will stop.
ARNAB: We don't make them heroes, we make them villains.
PM MODI: But why do you make them so big? I see such statements by people on TV, whose faces I haven't even seen and they end up becoming spokesmen on TV.
ARNAB: Self styled spokesmen.
PM MODI: I don't know why such people are encouraged.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, let's talk in 2016 of the 2017 elections. After Delhi, then Bihar, then Assam, West Bengal. After that we will talk about Punjab. Before we finish talking about Punjab, we will talk about Uttar Pradesh. Then there is the Gujarat state election. Don't you think that this country is permanently stuck in an electoral cycle? The focus constantly and I want you to reflect on this issue, the focus is on party politics, polarising issues, not on governance. We are a country, if we say, we are constantly in a political campaign mode. Is this a good thing? Should we break away from it? And what is your view on it?
PM MODI: See this is not an issue about Narendra Modi or the Prime Minister. And also it is not an issue about a particular party or a particular Government.
But before the last Parliament session, the Speaker had called all the parties for a meal. After the agenda meeting everyone was sitting to eat. I had also reached at the same time. While talking casually over food, almost people from all parties said that the central and state elections must be held together. Everyone said it. After that during the farewell function of the Rajya Sabha MPs, people from different parties were talking with each other. One of the leaders said, Modiji do anything but get us out of this cycle of elections.
ARNAB: Was that leader from your party?
PM MODI: No, he was not from my party. So I said that discussion should happen. What is wrong in that? Then one day I said that this was being talked about. This issue has also been discussed in a Parliamentary committee. This work has also been started by the Election Commission and I think they have also writen a letter on it. Like in the fight against black money, this issue of elections also gets connected to black money. Electoral reforms are necessary if the country has to be rid of black money. It is one of the areas for electoral reforms. I believe that the Prime Minister cannot take a decision on this and nor should he do that. Neither the government can do this.
There should be a broad discussion on this and we should not run away from the debate on this continious cycle of elections. The Indian voter today is very mature. He votes in one fashion in the Lok Sabha elections, he votes in a different manner in the State Assembly elections. We have seen this. In 2014, the General Elections conincided with the Odisha Assembly elections. The same electorate gave one judgement for Odisha and another judgement for Delhi. So this country's voter is very mature and we should trust his maturity. There should be a debate on how costs can be reduced by holding simultaneous elections, how the influence of black money can be curbed, how the five years can be spent in taking the country forward. Today due to the model code of conduct, there is a loss even in those areas where the code is not applicable.
When I was in Gujarat, I found that at least 80 to 90 officers were spending two to three months on election duties in other states. This could be happening in every state. So this is an area of concern and some time or the other this question will have to be thought of. I would want the Election Commission to take this debate forward. They should invite all political parties and hold discussions with everybody and whatever comes out of it.
ARNAB: Can there be a timebound resolution in this?
PM MODI: The Election Commission will have to invite all political parties to discuss this. The process will get derailed if one party were to initiate this.
ARNAB: Are you willing to take the lead in building that consensus?
PM MODI: Despite being the Prime Minister, I still belong to a political party. The better thing would be for the Election Commission to initiate this. Today the Election Commission is a very prestigious institution in our country. Every political party believes in the Election Commission and it will further empower this institution and that will be better.
ARNAB: I think it is an interesting idea of simultaneous elections. Though state parties, regional parties may feel that it will effect them badly. That the national parties like the BJP will gain.
PM MODI: Odisha is the best example. Odisha is the best example. In 2014, the BJP had no advantage in the state but the BJP won on the Lok Sabha seats. This shows the difference.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister how are you keeping your schedule nowadays? I mean you keep a terrifying pace. The number of meetings you hold, people say your officers find it hard to keep up.
PM MODI: It is not so, it has been 2 years now and everyone is used to the work. I believe that it is such a big country that one must do as much work as possible. So I keep doing that.
ARNAB: Before I come to my last question Mr Prime Minister, one issue that I want to come to is the farmers' crisis. As you are well aware, there has been a crisis in this country, you referred to it. In that speech to your MPs, about which I asked you earlier as well, on 20th May in the Central Hall of Parliament you said that 'this government is not for myself, this government is for the poor, we must do something for them.' The farmers' crisis Mr Prime Minster is a reality. I am glad that in this interview you have not avoided the reality, you've faced it, you've talked about it. We have linked our entire future to the monsoons. How do we overcome this from becoming an annual crisis in this country?
PM MODI: We will have to put stress on water management here. You must have seen that under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, we have put stress on water issues. During these drought days, I met leaders from 11 states separately and sat with them for about 2-3 hours each. The country would have believed that their Prime Minister is working even if I had held a meeting with 11 of them together for around 10 minutes. But I didn't do that. I sat with leaders from different states separately to understand specific problems and what we could do for water in those states. I am happy, whichever party the state government affiliated to, all the governments focused a lot on water issues this summer.
We will reap its benefits this monsoon. Using scientific methods for water accumulation and irrigation, collecting water and directing them towards the fields, everyone did that. Micro irrigation is stressed upon. Even for sugarcane farming, farmers are slowly moving towards micro irrigation which earlier happened through flood irrigation. Paddy crops for which large amount of water is used. Today, farmers have started using drip irrigation for it. If we do well in water facilities, then one of the problems is solved. After independence, for the first time, we have brought in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana which can cover maximum number of farmers. The farmer will have to pay only 2%, only 2%, the government will take care of the rest. The farmers will get an assurance. For instance, in Maharashtra, the monsoons are expected in the month of June, the farmers have prepared for everything but haven't started with the sowing process. Now if there are no rains till August, so practically his crops have not been damaged, because he did not sow the seeds.
But the Pradhan Mantri fasal Beema Yojana even takes this into consideration and benefits the farmer. Another important aspect, once the crops are harvested, they're cut and kept in the field, assuming it has been a good year for crop growth, with 100% crop production, but it hasn't been loaded on trucks and sent to the market yet. And if it rains, even after 15 days of harvesting, if there is loss, it is covered under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana. Second layer of protection, minimum premium with maximum cover. After independence, for the first time, we have brought in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana. Thirdly, first time we have brought in E-Mandi concept. Farmer in the village, can sell the crops to the best markets in the country through his mobile phone. Farmer would set the price at which the crop would be sold. Earlier, farmers used to take the produce on carts or tractors, used to go to a mandi 20-25kms away, then due to storage issues, even if they had to sell for Rs 10 less than the price, they used to sell it. Now, sitting at home the farmer would know what price to sell the crops at. Next point is about, food processing, value addition. We opened up 100% foreign direct investment in food processing.
For example, if a farmer is selling tomatoes and i