Yangon: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday justified demonetisation which has come in for criticism, asserting that his government was not afraid of taking “big” and “tough” decisions in the interest of the country.
Addressing the Indian diaspora at Yangon in Myanmar, he said his government could take such decisions because it considers the country above politics.
Along with demonetisation announced on November 8, 2016, he named the surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016 and the GST which was rolled out on July 1 as the “big” and “tough” decisions taken by his government.
“In the national interest, we are not afraid of taking big and tough decisions because for us, the country is above politics. Whether it be the surgical strikes, demonetisation or GST, all decisions were taken without any fear or hesitation,” Modi told the gathering.
Referring to the noteban, the Prime Minister said the step was taken to curb black money and that it had helped identify lakhs of people who had crores of rupees in bank accounts but never paid income tax.
He also said registration of over two lakh companies had been cancelled in last three months as those had been found to be indulging in laundering of black money.
“To deal with corruption, we banned currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination. A handful of corrupt people were making 125 crore people pay for their misdeeds. This was not acceptable to us,” Modi said in 35-minute address.
“There used to be no clue as to from where black money was coming and where it was going,” he said.
His justification of demonetisation came against the backdrop of criticism of the decision by the Opposition.
The Congress has dubbed the noteban as a “disaster” and said it had “utterly failed” while the “corrupt made windfall gains”.
The Prime Minister also talked about GST, saying an “atmosphere of doing business with honesty” had been created in the country within a span of two months after its launch.
Modi said over the last three years, his government had initiated massive changes and rules were being eased to unshackle the potential of the country.
“Now, the people of the country have begun believing that India can move forward. The shackles can be broken,” he said.
“We are not merely reforming India but transforming India. We are not changing India, but we are building a new India,” he said, adding 2022 was the target year to achieve this as it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence.
In the context of building a new India, he talked about the pledge to rid the country of problems like terrorism, communalism and corruption.
The Prime Minister also said that India believes in sharing the benefits of its development with its neighbours and also help them in the times of need.
He referred to the launch of South Asian satellite a few months back and said its benefits were being availed of by all the neighbouring countries which had joined it.
Pakistan had refused to associate with the project announced by Modi soon after he became the PM in 2014.
Talking about helping the neighbours, he said India was the “first responder” in the times of need and in this context, mentioned earthquake in Nepal, water crisis in Maldives and cyclone in Myanmar.
“We fulfilled the responsibility of a good neighbour,” he said.
He also mentioned the evacuation undertaken by India in West Asian nations, including those of other countries, and said, “while doing so, we do not check the colour of their passports.”
Underlining the need for enhanced cooperation with Myanmar and other East Asian nations, Modi, who is on a three-day visit here, said the Kaladan multi-modal transport project should become a “development corridor”.
He told the gathering that the Indian government had already taken decisions to merge Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) cards and do away with police reporting for those having long-term visas among various measures for their benefit.
He also showered praise on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, saying she was always there, ready to help any Indian in trouble anywhere in the world.
“People facing problems anywhere in the world contact Sushmaji through tweets without any hesitation… I do not think there will be any foreign minister like Sushmaji anywhere in the world who actively helps the countrymen in trouble just on the basis of a tweet,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister, who is on his first bilateral visit Yangon, talked about the historical importance of Myanmar in the context of India’s freedom struggle.
Naming Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore and Bahadur Shah Zafar, he said Myanmar had become the “second home” for those who had to leave their own homes during the freedom struggle.
He said communication infrastructure between India and Myanmar was being upgraded to facilitate increased trade and people-to-people contacts.
He said a road between Imphal and Moreh, the border point with Myanmar, is being upgraded at a cost of Rs 1600 crore, as part of enabling greater trade and travel between the two countries.