"No one can accuse my government of corruption," PM Narendra Modi declared on Sunday while addressing a gathering of 34,000 Indians in Oman's capital, Muscat, the last stop in a tour that has taken him to Jordan, Palestine and the UAE.
PM Modi visited Muscat on the third leg of his West Asia tour.
From the opulent opera house and glitzy World Government Summit in Dubai to the massive Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made three speeches with pronounced pro-poor, pro-middle class tones, saying that the honest, hard-earned money of the country has been saved by the government through the use of technology and proactive decision making.
Speaking at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex from a royal box that is used by the sultan — becoming the first foreign dignitary to do so — Modi said he has ensured that the trust people have reposed in him was not bruised, remarks which are significant amid Congress's relentless bid to intensify attacks on the PM and his government over the Rafale deal.
Modi said that while preceding regimes had to explain embezzlement of taxpayer money under their watch, his government is being asked how much money has flowed into the exchequer.
At a rally marked by full-throated cries of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram', the PM said his government had so far saved Rs 1,40,000 crore through various policies.
“With clear intent and transparent policy of the government, we have been able to save money…we have also needed technical help,” he told an enthusiastic gathering in an hour-long speech.
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Through Direct Benefit Transfers, the government had saved about Rs 57,000 crore, Modi said. “We have saved the money meant for the poor… earlier, they say, Aadhaar saved Rs 56,000 crore were being sent to middlemen, to fake accounts. We have ended this game… actually, we are saving the money of the middle class,” he said to applause from the audience. He then cited LED electrification of households, which he said had contributed to savings of Rs 60,000 crore, and said Rs 12,000 crore each had been saved on account of fertilisers through policy intervention and renegotiating old loss-making oil pacts with countries like Qatar and Australia.
“You tell me,” Modi asked the audience, “wasn’t that money for the poor? Should it not be their right?” to which the crowd responded enthusiastically in the affirmative. He was fighting corruption, Modi said, and people with black money were facing the law. “I can tell you… a lot of big fish are under investigation. In the last one year alone, lakhs of fake companies have been de-registered,” he said. To the cheering crowd of mostly blue-collar Indian workers, he spoke directly, “The remittances you send, that money should be well spent… that’s your hard-earned, honest money, and should be honestly spent by the government.”
The Prime Minister also mentioned the newly-announced insurance scheme for the poor, which he said the Indian media, has named “Modicare”. Mocking the Opposition for questioning its feasibility, he said, “When the country has decided to implement it, it will be done.”
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Underlining his record of fighting corruption, he said, “Nobody says, Modi kitna le gaya… (How much money has Modi made) I can say with humility to those who have put me in this position, that I will not let them down.”
The Opposition, he said, was asking, “Modiji, kitna aaya? (how much has come back)”, referring to the return of black money to banks. But, earlier, he said, people would ask, “kitna gaya? (how much is gone)”, referring to the siphoning of funds in corruption scandals.
Before he flew on to Muscat, the PM, wrapping up a state visit to the UAE, reiterated strong cooperation on combating terrorism and a defence partnership that will see the Indian Navy conducting an exercise in the Gulf waters.
Addressing the World Government Summit in Dubai, Modi highlighted the importance of assimilating technology with governance to ensure equitable growth, a key message relating to his government's programmes promoting inclusive growth through banking and DBT. He also met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.
A joint statement issued at the end of Modi's visit focused substantially on a joint approach to tackling terrorism and radicalisation. Indian institutions will cooperate with Sawab and Hedayah of the UAE, two entities that are actively addressing radical thoughts and actions at the level of religious places, schools and among the youth.
With defence and security moving up in importance, the joint statement said, "Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC)" formed under the existing defence cooperation agreement has been meeting regularly. The two leaders welcomed the decision taken during the latest round of JDCC held in New Delhi in December 2017 to conduct the first bilateral naval exercise during 2018."
This is the first time Indian Navy will be exercising in the Gulf, going beyond the Arabian Sea. Modi told his audience that India aspired to assume leadership position in Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, cyber security and cloud computing. Modi also launched a project for construction of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, describing the holy place as a "catalytic agent" of humanity and harmony that will become a medium of India's identity.
He laid the foundation stone for the Swaminarayan temple, to be built on 55,000 sqm of land on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway, keeping local religious sentiments in mind while making it a place of worship for all manner of Hindus, whatever their chosen deity.
"I would like to request all those associated with the construction of the temple that the rulers here have shown so much respect for India. They have been proud of India's cultural history. Now, it's our responsibility that there is no mistake on our part," he told the gathering. Modi asked people associated with construction of the temple and also worshippers not to cause any harm to others. "This is my expectation from you," he added.
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The Prime Minister acknowledged difficulties arising out of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the demonetisation exercise but likened them to teething troubles faced when moving to a new home. He stressed the pivotal role that technology plays in the growth of an economy, adding that the GST structure has been made possible only because of the use of technology.
The change in the governance was his theme in speeches made in both countries. In the morning, he told the Indian community in Dubai, “Desh badal raha hai (the country is changing)”. In the evening, he said, “Badlav mahsoos ho raha hai. (You can feel the change).” India was the Guest Country at the sixth edition of the Dubai-based World Government Summit, which is being attended by more than 4,000 participants from 140 countries.