Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the focus of the government is only development and not divisive politics.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, the Prime Minister spoke to Rahul Joshi, group editor of Network18 on how the country needs development for poverty alleviation. He also referred to the sporadic anti-Dalit violence happening in different parts of the country and said that these need to be condemned. Edited excerpts:
Mr Prime Minister, let us move away from the economy and talk a little about politics. Many states go to polls next year. Social discrimination and fundamentalism is raising its ugly head again. Dalits and members of backward classes have in fact started saying that the BJP and Sangh are anti dalits. How will you assure the people that your agenda is development and development alone?
The country has full faith. That our agenda is only development. There is no confusion in the minds of country folk. But all those people who never wanted that a government like this come to power.. those who never wanted the previous regime to go.. they are the ones who have trouble. So, development is our only issue and it will remain so. And this is not a political issue. This is my conviction. If we want to free this country of poverty then we need development. We will need to empower the poor. As far as some incidents are concerned, they need to be condemned. It has no place in any civilised society. But we must not forget that law and order is a state subject. Some are selectively picking issues and blaming Modi for it. I don't know what purpose does it serve for those who are doing this. But this is surely hurting the interest of the country. such incidents must not happen.
From a statistical point of view.. whether it is communal violence...quomi hullad... atrocities against dalits, atrocities against tribals... data shows that such incidents have gone down in number as opposed to the previous government. But the issue is not of what happened in their government and our government. The issue is that this is not befitting our society. We have a culture dating back thousands of years.. we have seen some imbalance in our society... we have to intelligently take our society out of this imbalance. This is a social problem. It is deeply rooted. Politics on social imbalances is disservice to society.. to all those who have faced injustice for generations. this is why, whenever any incident happens anywhere... today, in this country...dalit MPs and dalit MLAS.. tribal MPs and tribal MLAs.. the BJP has a sizable presence...and ever since I celebrated the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar.. when UNO also celebrated Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar's anniversary... 102 country's observed the 125th anniversary... Parliament for two days discussed the life and works of Babasaheb Ambedkar...many people thought that Modi is a devotee of Babasaheb Ambedkar...they started having problems. When we identified five sacred places associated with Babasaheb Ambedkar, whether it was Mau.. the birthplace of Babasaheb Ambedkar...Nagpur, Mumbai.. where we set up his memorial on Indu Mill...memorials at two places in Delhi.. converting the place where he stayed in London as a memorial...in a way we set up five pilgrimage spots.. and we did it. All those who were self appointed guardians were trying to create tension in the country did not like this. That Modi is with the Dalits. That Modi devotes himself to tribals. I am. I am devoted to the development of all the dalit, oppressed, underpriviledged and deprived. Those who see this as an obstruction to their politics are the ones creating trouble. And this is why they are levelling baseless allegations. All those who have fed this country the poison of caste divide have destroyed this country. They must stop giving political tones to social problems. We must go forward with a purpose. And I want to ask the society also...are these incidents befitting of a civilised society? I spoke from the ramparts of the Red Fort.. on the incidents of rape...I said that parents must ask their sons also. Where they are going, what they are doing? We ask our daughters this.
And I want to tell the politicians also.. I will ask my party leaders also.. You are answerable to the nation... and that is why, all those living in public life.. whether political or social workers.. even if we are representing a particular community... for the benefit of the country's unity, society's unity... for the sake of bonhomie.. we must be extra vigilant.. whenever we are wounded, even the slightest touch of a paper also causes pain. thousands of years of injustice have kept these wounds open. The slightest of damage will cause a lot of pain. This is why, it does not matter whether the incident is big or small, what matters is that the incident must not happen in the first place. Which govt had more incidents and which didn't is not the point. We all have to work collectively to give strength to the country's unity.
Mr Modi how important is social harmony for economic progress?
Economic progress alone is not the solution. Peace, unity and harmony is essential for society. Even in a family, no matter how well off you may be...even if you are sitting over a heap of rupees... the family's unity is important. This is true for the society also. We don't need unity to fight poverty alone. We need to be united and harmonious for whatever it takes. We need to be committed to social justice. And that is why, unity for economic progress alone is not important. Peace, unity and harmony are useful in family, life, society and for the nation. And to all those who believe in vasudhaye kutumbakam ...the whole world is one.
All political parties Mr Modi talk about removing poverty. But poverty is an issue of grave concern in our country. Job creation is a major challenge for you and you have kept this in mind too. What will be your strategy on both these counts.
You are right. Poverty alleviation has been a political slogan also. A lot of politics has also happened on poverty. And a lot of programmes for poverty alleviation have also been started keeping elections in mind. I do not want to get in a controversy on whether it was good or bad. But my path is a little different. We have to empower the poor to end poverty. If the poor is empowered, then he has enough power to alleviate poverty. Politics can be done by keeping the poor poor. But freedom from poverty can only come by empowerment. The biggest tool for empowerment is education. The next point is employment. if we get economic empowerment, then it can serve as a tool to change things on its own. All the initiatives that we have taken over the past few years, like the Mudra scheme - at least 3.5 crore people have taken the benefits of the Mudra scheme and they got about Rs 1.25 lakh crore through this scheme. Many of them are those who have got money from the bank for the first time. These people will do something or the other. They will get sewing machines, stitch clothes. They will do something. It is possible that they might employ a few. This empowerment will give these people a lot of power. To educate their children. Suppose a person buys a taxi. Then they would feel they must educate their children. They will move forward.
One of the things that we have done is called Stand Up India. I have told banks that every branch must give financial aid to a dalit, a tribal and a woman. They must make them an entrepreneur. The country has 1.25 lakh branches of banks. If they empower even three people each, they will benefit 4-5 lakh families. People who did not have this sort of financial empowerment, will feel empowered. They will be an economic strength. This is the Stand Up programme. Start Up... To give employment to the young, I have started this scheme. These are small decisions. I have also sent an advisory to the states. That they must move forward in this direction. We have big malls in our country. Lakhs and crores of rupees are spent in constructing them. There is no time restriction for them. They can run toll 10 pm, 12 pm, 4am...but there will be a government representative with a stick in his hand and ask a small shopkeeper to shut his shop... that it's evening now.. why? We have said that these small traders who have small enterprises.. they are free to be open 365 days, 24/7..so that they can go about doing their business and also employ a few. And these are the people who drive the economy in our country.
This is where we are working to empower. We have laid a lot of stress on skill development. Skill development is the need of the hour. We have changed systems. Skilled development is a ministry. it has a different budget. And work is being done at a huge scale. Skill development by government, skill development through public private partnership, skilled development through skilled universities, collaborating with other countries who have done good work in developing skills. the country has 80 crore youth. they are below 30 years of age. if the youth has the skill, they can change the fortunes of this country. And we are laying stress on this. the country's youth & employment are at the centre of all the economic activity. in the agriculture sector also, if you move towards value addition, it will create more opportunities to generate employment. A youth from the village who has had to go to big towns under pressure, if he is given value addition and agriculture-centric rural development, if we empower him, then employment opportunities shall be created. We are laying stress on this. And we can see some good results.