New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday promised steps to provide funds for start-ups, electricity in 18,500 villages in 1,000 days and a refashioned Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare to reflect the spirit of the intention.
Addressing the nation on its 69th Independence Day, Modi also listed key initiatives of his 15-month government in the area of curbing black money, financial inclusion, fighting graft and inducing transparency, and said true economic progress must touch the bottom of the pyramid.
He said the country's youth be given opportunities and support to become entrepreneurs in their own right, notably the deprived. "In the coming days, start-ups will be promoted in every corner of the country. Start up India, Stand up India," the prime minister said.
"All banks in our country must contribute to a start-up revolution. Each of the 125,000 bank branches must assist one Dalit or one Adivasi entrepreneur and one woman entrepreneur. They must also become entrepreneurs in the future."
The prime minister said a lot had been done in the area of financial inclusion in the past year, and gave the example of his Jan Dhan Yojana, under which some 17 crore people have got bank accounts. Also, 10 crore people enrolled social security schemes in 100 days.
He said people thought that these zero-balance accounts will serve little purpose, but to everyone's pleasant surprise some Rs.20,000 crore have been depsited into them. "If this richness of the poor was not there, such a feat would no have been possible."
He said the doors of banking system were closed for the poor. "But this has to change. We wanted to strengthen financial inclusion," he said. "Bank accounts are essential for integrating the poor into the financial system. That's what we have done."
The prime minister also said no person wants to remain poor and those who live in poverty want to move away to achieved a better quality of life. "That is why, all our programmes must be for the poor." He also said inflation was controlled despite poor rains.
Modi also said that not a single charge of graft against his government had come to light in the past 15 months and promised a corruption-free India. "Corruption is like termites. It is every where. I will deliver on my promise of a corruption-free India."
The prime minister said a host of steps had also been taken by his government to tackle the menace of black money -- from the appointment of a special probe team to enacting a strict law to prevent such practices and punish its perpetrators.
Giving an example, he said, against 800 cases of black money being probes by the Central Bureau of Investigation when he took over in May last year, 1,800 fresh cases had been added.
"Many people did not like this," he said, adding this had to be done and already Rs.6,500 crore had been collected from people who had begun to declare their ill-gotten assets.
Modi said the day after he took over the country's reins, a Special Investigation Team, as directed by the Supreme Court, was formed to probe cases of black money. Within a year, a stringent legislation to deal with this issue was also enacted.
"Even at the G20 meeting, I raised the issue and we have been promised cooperation."
The prime minister said every action that was taken by the government in the award of licences and contracts was done in a transparent manner, be it in the auction of coal blocks, telecom spectrum or FM licences.
While the previous government was faulted for causing a loss of Rs.176,000 crore by giving away coal blocks, his government conducted auctions in a transparent and time-bound manner and raised Rs.300,000 crore, Modi said. "Ask yourself. Has corruption gone or not?"
He said he had also faced a lot of pressure against the transparent processes such as on the e-auction of private FM Radio channels. But he did not yield.
"People said radio concerns the common man. I was pressured," he said, alluding to calls for giving away the licences cheap. But the transparent process evoked a lot of interest and the 85 channels that were on the block fetched Rs.1,000 crore to the exchequer.
He said the new Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare will address the needs of the farmers in a much more focused way. While calling for a restructured agriculture practices, Modi expressed worry over shrinking farmland and paucity of power and water there.
He said the twin-motto must be: "Save Water, Save Fertilizer" and "Per Drop More Crop".
Using the term "Team India" a number of times to indicate a united nation, Modi said people were also willing to contribute in their own way. As an example, he said, some 20 lakh people had given up their cooking gas subsidy on mere asking.