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Modi govt’s interim budget of 2024-25 is much more dynamic and inclusive as compared to Dr Manmohan Singh’s fragile interim budget of 2014-15: Vaishnaw

In an exclusive interview with Dr Jagdeesh Chandra, Union Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw opens up about the recently announced budget and how PM Narendra Modi is laying the foundation of ‘New India’. Vaishnaw also revealed how the budget allocation to railways has increased manifold under the Modi government, how PM Modi is practical, rooted in the grassroots and someone who thinks of the future along with a deep understanding of issues. Excerpts...

  • What is your take on the budget?
    Ashwini Vaishnaw:
    The budget is historic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of inclusive growth is clearly visible in the budget. It shows how PM Modi has taken all classes of people and all regions of the nation along and included them in the budget, making a new dimension of growth. So today’s budget is for inclusive growth.
  • The UPA-2 government had brought the interim budget in 2014 and an interim budget was given recently. What, according to you, is different in Narendra Modi government’s interim budget?
    There are massive differences. At that time, India was considered to be among the fragile 5 economies in 2014 and today India is considered to be among the top 5 economies of the world. This is a journey of coming into the top five economies from the fragile 5 economies of the world.
  • No populist schemes were announced in this budget. This means that the government and the PM are confident. What is your take on it?
    PM Modi always works on strengthening the foundation of the nation. Look at all of his schemes. When Ujjawala Yojana was announced, was it a time of election? No, but since it was of need to the poor people, hence the scheme was started. Was it around election time when the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ campaign was started? No, but this resolution in itself is a ‘Bhagirathi Sankalp’ and Modiji took that resolution and started work on it. The foundation that PM Modi is laying to make India a developed nation, the PM has never taken any shortcut or short-term measure regarding it. PM Modi always thinks about the nation’s future.
  • Do you see a vision of the basic concept of Prime Minister for new India in this budget?
    Definitely, there is something special for each category. Especially the 4 major pillars of our society, which Modiji has always laid stress on i.e. women, youth, farmers and poor have been looked after in the budget. For example, the resolution to make three crore ‘Lakhpati Didi’ is a major undertaking and it will bring a major change in the nation. For the youth, the PLI scheme, manufacturing-related new announcements, startups etc have been focused on. Then, lowering the risk factor on farmers and providing income support is also a major decision. Also, for the poor, how can the poor families get a better life, be it through new homes as announced by the two crore new pucca houses, or through tap water to every home or Ujjawala scheme, in every way Modiji has given preference to the deprived section of the society.
  • I have observed that in most of the financial policies of the nation, PM Modi has his direct imprint. How do you see Narendra Modi as an economist?
    He is extremely practical, rooted in the grassroots and someone who thinks of the future along with a deep understanding of issues.
  • So do you think that Narendra Modi is in a new avatar, especially after the consecration of Ram Lalla at Ayodhya?
    There is something in Modiji that the entire nation has trust in him. The works that he has done so far and his conduct, how every citizen has a feeling of faith in PM Modi is beyond comprehension. That trust is so strong that even if you go to any tribal area and interact with the masses there, you will be surprised to see their response. People say that till today they were seen as a vote bank, but today Modiji has given us proper roads, electricity, tap water connections, houses to reside in, even gas connections, which many people used to think only influential families could afford and many other things. This trust is a huge strength.
  • Defence and Railways have been given the largest budget allocation. What is your take on it?
    Modiji has put immense focus on railways. If you take a look at the railways budget from ten years back, the allocation for railways would be Rs 14,000 or Rs 15,000 crore, but today that allocation has been Rs 2.52 lakh crore. The biggest need for railways was to increase the capacity. Today, railways serve 700 crore people annually, and we want to take this number to 1,000 crore. Railway transports 1,500 million tonnes of cargo and we want to take that number up to 3,000 million tonnes. Pollution in India has to be stopped and 90% of the pollution can be stopped by railways. Moreover, this mode of transport is for the poor, deprived and middle-class travellers, hence PM Modi has put immense focus on the development of railways. Over the past ten years, over 26,000 kilometres of new tracks have been laid and only last year, over 5,200 kilometres of tracks have been laid and this year 5,500 kilometres of tracks will be laid. The entire train network of Switzerland is 5,000 kilometres, which means that last year and this year too we will add Switzerland worth of train network to the nation and Modiji has approved 3 new corridors in which 40,000 kilometres worth of tracks would be laid which is equal to the train network in Germany.
  • So is there a plan to convert all railways to the status and quality of Vande Bharat?
    There will be many formats that will be revealed in the future. A sleeper format of Vande Bharat will be launched, then there will be a metro variant of Vande Bharat will also be launched in a few months. Then there is a new Amrit Bharat train that will come in the near future. There is a Namo Bharat train that is in the pipeline. So it will be for each category and address every need. In transport economics, distances matter and thus there is one type of format for distances lower than two hundred kilometres, another format for distances up to five hundred kilometres and yet another for over five hundred kilometres. So that is kept in mind to address the issues.
  • Rs 1 lakh crore has been allocated to IT...
    Modiji has taken a huge step. India is a talented nation. There is so much talent in this nation that we develop the most complex of products. So Modiji has made this talent a medium to make new products and for new innovations and for this a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore has been made and through this corpus, new products could be developed. Through this, bullet trains can be developed, jet engines for airplanes can be developed, and entire technology for electric vehicles can be developed. So in a way, a structure has been created through which India will come forth as a productrich nation.
  • And what new development has been brought in UPI and digital transformation?
    Several new things are being added to it. Various financial services like insurance, mutual funds, and digital credit have been added. Just imagine, that all banks run behind an established businessman. Modi has created such a structure through UPI and digital public infrastructure, that banks now run behind individuals who need a small loan of Rs 20,000 or Rs 40,000. This was launched a few months back and the response has been extremely good with about 60,000 people having drawn benefit from it and when the structure is fully established, it will be scaled at an advanced pace.
  • What is your take on RBI’s ban on PayTM?
    RBI is a powerful institution related to financial regulations in India and has its own regulations and wherever needed, the RBI puts restrictions based on the regulations.
  • Major investment has been made in railways’ safety...
    Yes, a huge investment has been made. See, the technology of automatic train protection was installed in railways across the globe in the 1990s. Was it not the responsibility of the then governments to get it installed here too? They did not do so. In 2016, Modiji approved ‘Kavach’ and it takes three years for certification since it is an extremely complex certification system. We received that certification in 2019 but 2020 and 2021 were the covid phase, but we initiated work on it in 2021 itself and today, optical fibre cable has been laid across 3,000 kilometres, 269 Kavach towers have been erected, the Kavach data centre has been established at 186 stations, safety equipment has been installed on 827 kilometres of track along with 170 locomotives. Overall the progress has been very good. Several new technologies are being installed including CCTVs and driver alert systems in every coach, bridges are being constructed in places where there were level crossings and only last year, one thousand bridges were created. So overall Modiji has focused so much on railway’s safety that there has been around 60% decline in unfortunate accidents.
  • You have said that 3,000 new trains will be started in 5 years. How will you manage to achieve such a major feat?
    It is possible because Modiji has sanctioned 40,000 kilometres worth of new tracks. If there will are tracks, then new trains will ply on them as a result of which the issue of the waiting list will be resolved. This is a wellthought-out process undertaken by PM Modi.
  • So where does Rajasthan stand in it? What are you doing for Rajasthan?
    There are several things in the pipeline for Rajasthan. UPA government had met the stepson treatment to Rajasthan. This is a border state with a huge land size and Rajasthan has given a huge number of soldiers to the nation. UPA government gave Rs 682 crore to the state from 2009-2014 and as a result, the works would be to that extent only. Today, Modiji has given Rs 9,782 crore to Rajasthan which is 1,400% more than UPA. This is Modiji’s love for Rajasthan. Now you have double engine government and thus work will pick up speed! You must have seen the work done in Udaipur and Jaipur.
  • Then why are you heading to Cuttack? Contest election from Jaipur?
    I am a disciplined worker of the party. Wherever the party sends me, I reach there. All decision relating to my public life is taken by the party.

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