Narendra Modi, Prime minister of India | Though almost all of India’s Prime Ministers have come from the nearly 80% of the population that is Hindu, only Modi has governed as if no one else matters,” writes Karl Vick, Time editor. (Image: Reuters)
While the previous governments hesitated to touch the country's taxation system, the current BJP-led dispensation was making it more citizen-centric, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday, urging people to pay their dues for the development of India.
Speaking at the Times Now Summit here, he said the Union budget will help achieve the target of a USD 5 trillion economy.
"The aim to become a USD 5 trillion economy is not easy, but it is not unachievable. India took 70 years to reach the USD 3 trillion mark but no one asked any questions about it. It is better to set difficult goals and work hard to achieve those than remain directionless," the prime minister said.
Stating that a "century of decisions" had been made by his government in just eight months, Modi listed the key steps such as regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, banning triple talaq, reducing corporate tax, forming a Ram temple trust and amending the citizenship law to drive home the point that India was moving forward at a fast pace.
"But this is just a sample, the actual action begins here," he said.
"Amid these steps, it is also true that an emerging economy like India faces a lot of challenges. It is the first time that a government has focussed on economic growth in small cities and towns. It is the first time that any government has valued the dreams of small towns and cities," Modi said.
India will not waste time now, it will surge ahead with speed and confidence, he added.
In his address, Modi also expressed concern that some people always found ways to evade taxes and the honest got penalised.
"All governments hesitated to touch the tax system. We are making it citizen-centric.... India has become one of the very few countries to have a transparent taxpayers' charter that will clearly define the rights of taxpayers. I want to assure you that tax harassment will be a thing of the past in our country," he said.
Until now, a process-centric tax system was predominant in India, but now it was being made public-centric, the prime minister added.
The income tax slabs saw a major reform in the budget, he said.
However, Modi lamented that when a number of people did not pay tax and found ways to evade it, "the burden falls on those who honestly pay their dues".
He said it was unbelievable but true that only 2,200 people in the country had declared earnings of Rs one crore per annum.
"In the last five years, more than 1.5 crore cars have been sold in the country. Over three crore Indians went abroad for work or travel. But the situation is that only one-and-a-half crore people in our country of more than 130 crore pay income tax," Modi said.
He said a faceless tax assessment system was being introduced, which meant that those assessing tax would not know whose tax was being computed and the ones whose tax was being assessed would not get to know which official was doing it.
"So all scopes for any 'game' will be done away with," he added.
"I urge all the countrymen to take a pledge, remembering those who dedicated their lives to the country, that they will pay their taxes honestly," the prime minister said.
All citizens who could afford to pay taxes should pay them honestly for the welfare of those who had made them capable of it, he added.
"It should be done with a sense of duty and pride.... As citizens, when the duties that the country expects us to perform are fulfilled, the country also gets new strength and energy," Modi said.
This new energy would take India to new heights in this decade, he added.
The tax that the government received was used for public welfare schemes and improving the infrastructure in the country, he said.
The prime minister also called on the media to play its role in the creation of a New India and said on the lines of the awareness drive launched by the media on Swachh Bharat and single-use plastic, it should continuously run campaigns about the challenges and needs of the country.
"If you want to criticise the government, point out mistakes in our schemes, do it openly, it is a very important feedback for me personally, but also keep the people of the country constantly aware.
"This decade is going to be of the startups of India. This decade is going to be of the global leaders of India...this decade is going to be of a water efficient and water sufficient India. This decade is going to be of the small cities of India, it is going to be of our villages, this decade is going to be of the dreams and aspirations of 130 crore Indians," Modi said.