Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on February 10 that the private sector is as important as the public sector for development, in one of the most forceful endorsements by a senior policymaker of the role that businesses can play to distribute wealth and create jobs.
“Take any sector—telecom, pharma—we see the role of the private sector. If India is able to serve humanity, it is also due to the role of the private sector,” Modi said, while replying to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address in the Lok Sabha.
Modi’s statement is a marked departure from previous governments that were reluctant to associate, let alone endorse, with private enterprises due to the dominance of a socialist agenda in policymaking. The remarks, coming soon after the unveiling of the budget in which the finance minister laid bare a clear intent to chase growth and reduce involvement in the public sector, signals that the reform agenda of the government should be in full swing.
Modi said it was not right to malign wealth creators as they were important for generating employment in the country. “Wealth creators are required in the country. How else can wealth be distributed, who will create employment,” the PM asked.
Successive governments have been keen to distance themselves from the private sector for fear of inviting criticism that they would be seen pro-elite and anti-poor. Indeed, the Modi government itself has often had to backpedal on reforms. Even as recent as the farmer protests against new agricultural laws, the government faced backlash for its pro-business outlook.
On Wednesday, Modi signalled that it would no longer fret over such attacks. The PM said that to use improper words against the private sector may have got votes to a few people in the past but those times are gone. “The culture of abusing the private sector is not acceptable any longer. We cannot keep insulting our youth like this," he said.
Modi also unleashed a broadside against India’s overweening bureaucracy, which has long been accused of stalling growth.
“Babus (IAS officers) cannot do everything. An IAS cannot run a fertiliser factory, a chemical factory or fly a plane. What do we want to achieve by giving the country in the hands of babus (IAS officers).”
Initiatives of the Modi government, much like its predecessors, too have faced delays due die to India’s statist bureaucracy. Red tape is often blamed for the difficulties in implementing welfare measures and doing business.
“Babus are as much ours as are our youth. The more we give chance to our youth, the better it is,” Modi said.
'Should differentiate between andolankaris and andolanjeevis'
PM Modi said he considered the Kisan Andolan (Farmers’ Protest) pious, but expressed concern over ‘andolanjeevis’, people who survive on protests, hijacking it.
“When Andolanjeevis hijack protest, showcase photos of those jailed for serious offences, does it serve any purpose? Not allowing toll plazas to work, destroying telecom towers-does it serve pious protests, he said asserting that the protestors (andolankaris) should be differentiated from ‘andolanjeevis'."
The PM launched an attack on the Opposition and said those who disrupted the House proceedings were doing so as per a well-planned strategy. On the farm laws, he said his government respected farmers, but they needed to come up with specific demands which could be changed in the law.
“After the Laws relating to agriculture were passed by Parliament – no mandi has been shut. Likewise, MSP has remained. Procurement on MSP has remained. These facts can’t be ignored,” he said.
'Congress a confused party'
"The Congress party is divided and confused. Neither it can work for its own good nor it can think about solving the issues of the country. What can be more unfortunate than this," he asked.
Earlier, Opposition MPs created an uproar in the Lok Sabha as Prime Minister started speaking. Congress and TMC MPs staged walkout during his speech.
“I am surprised for the first time a new argument has come that we did not ask, so why did you give. Be it dowry or triple talaq, no one had demanded a law for this, but due to being necessary for progressive society, the law was made,” he said.
Enacted in September 2020, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector. But, thousands of protesting farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi border points for over two months, demanding the repeal of the laws, and a legal guarantee on minimum support prices (MSP) for their crops.