Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 29
Three days after completing his first year in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a no-holds-barred interview to The Tribune today, said his government was committed to One Rank One Pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen and that no one should have any doubts about its implementation.
The PM said the Congress was politicizing OROP. "The previous governments don't have the right to speak about it because they did nothing when they were in power."
In a 45-minute interview to Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune Group of Newspapers, the PM answered a host of questions ranging from politics to foreign policy, and also about the need for a dedicated Central cadre of officers for the Union Government to ensure continuity and homogeneity in service. The PM responded to questions on opposition Congress' "Achhe din" and "suit boot ki sarkat" jibes besides rejecting the opposition charge that the Land Acquisition Bill was anti-farmer.
Read full interview: 'Call for achhe din was to get rid of the bad, we have achieved that'
On OROP, the PM said the government was "in constant discussions with the armed forces personnel to arrive at a please-all definition of OROP of which there are varied versions."
"No one should have any doubts about OROP's implementation. I want everyone to know that through The Tribune. But there are varied versions about what the definition of OROP should be. Would it be proper for me to take a decision without keeping the armed forces personnel in the loop? So we are trying to arrive at a please-all decision," the PM said.
In an evident dig at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi who recently threatened an agitation if OROP was not implemented soon, the PM said, "OROP for me is not a political programme. For 57 years the jawans have been demanding OROP, but the past governments did nothing. Those who were part of then governments must realize they don't have the right to speak on this issue. They should be told this in their face."
Asked if the Government would expedite OROP, the PM said the Government was committed to it. "The government has been formed for five years."
On the contentious Land Acquisition Bill, strongly opposed by the Congress-led parties in Parliament, Modi said: "Not even one decision taken about the Bill is anti-farmer". He attacked the Congress for terming the Bill as anti farmer, asking, "what about the law which has been in existence since 1893 and which the Congress used to acquire land for 60 years? How can those who used an archaic, bad law for 60 years, talk about another law being anti-farmer? Those who used the old law and forced three lakh farmers to commit suicides don't have even one per cent moral right to talk about farmers."
Asked if the government was confident about the Bill's passage after it was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee in the recently concluded Budget session, the PM said: "This is not for me a question of life and death, nor was it the agenda of my party or my government.
State chief ministers insisted for a change saying the old Bill would not help them. I, as the head of the federal government, thought of addressing their anxieties…Not one decision taken in respect of the law is anti-farmer."
The PM also gave it back to the Congress for constantly mocking his "achhe din" slogan. Saying that the Opposition has been targeting him for promising "achhe din" from day one, Modi, subtly attacked the Gandhi family. "They have the right to ridicule us, but it would have been good to ask the Congress which has been talking about 'garibi hatao' since 1970 as to what happened to that promise. They had 440 people in Parliament. Four people from one family ran this country for all these years. So what happened?"
Asked what his definition of good days is, the PM said: "The promise of good days is always in relation to the previously existing bad days …bad days of corruption, of scams, of policy paralysis, of coal and spectrum have ended. These were the issues bothering the country."
The PM also reacted to Rahul Gandhi's "suit boot ki sarkar" jibe describing the remark as a reflection of opposition's bankruptcy of ideas. "Look at the opposition bankruptcy. They could not find one concrete issue to criticize the government in this one year. This is our most important success. All they can accuse us of is - the PMO has gained strength. The second charge is that Modi is arrogant; the third is about the clothes he wears," said the PM, recalling a familiar Congress accusation from his days as the Gujarat CM.
Adding that the BJP government has moved forward in ensuring good days by ending the previously existing bad days of corruption, the PM said: "There is now no question of corruption."
Citing the example of coal block auctions, the PM made an oblique reference to his predecessor Manmohan Singh who continues to be questioned for his silence through coal and spectrum scams. "To end corruption you have to exhibit zero tolerance to it. It is not enough for me alone to be honest. I must display zero tolerance to corruption every moment through my tone, tenor, policy, practice…I can't run the country satisfied that I am myself non-corrupt." Former PM Manmohan Singh recently said he never used his office to enrich himself or his family.
Assuring strict implementation of anti-black money laws, the PM slammed the Congress for repeatedly questioning his government's intention. "No one who has ever been in power at the Centre has the right to question our government on black money because black money was generated during their terms and they are responsible for not checking its generation. Secondly, they didn't constitute the SIT (Special Investigation Team) even three years after the Supreme Court asked them to. They gave an escape route to black money holders. Had they acted on Supreme Court orders, the treasury would have been richer by trillions."
Names of black money holders could not be disclosed except to the SC due to international legal obligations, the PM said. "The government will not spare anyone holding black money."
Asked what the thrust of his foreign policy was considering he had travelled several nations in his first year in power, Modi first sought to set the record straight on his much talked about foreign trips. "All PMs in this country have travelled as much as I have. Facts must be placed before the people about how much past PMs travelled, how many cities they toured and how many meetings they held.
On his foreign policy thrust, PM Modi said he saw India as a "global player and not a balancing power". "I am clear in my mind. We are no more a balancing power. India is a global player. We will engage on an equal footing with China and America," he said.
On foreign policy in respect of the neighbours, the PM said he would keep humanism at the core of his relations with the neighbouring countries as displayed in respect of the Nepal disaster, the Yemen evacuation, the successful negotiation to save five Indian fishermen on death row in Sri Lanka and the supply of drinking water to the Maldives.
On land Bill
}We intend to amend only those provisions that militate against the process of growth and are against the interests of farmers. For 60 years, previous governments have gone with the old laws. Those who have forced 3 lakh farmers to commit suicide have no moral authority to complain
Corruption, black money
There has to be zero tolerance to corruption at the top. My being honest is not enough. For this, a policy has to be laid down in black and white. On black money, despite directions from the Supreme Court, the previous government did not form an SIT for three years. The first decision our Cabinet took was to create an SIT.
One rank, one pension
We are in consultation with defence personnel on its definition. We are committed to it. We are looking for a way where all stakeholders agree. This should not be politicised.
My definition of ‘ache din’ is in the context of everyday life and the bad days that prevailed — corruption, scams, policy paralysis, black money — the country was fed up of all this.
We are no more a balancing power but a global player. We approach the world with greater self-assurance. On Pakistan, all I can say is that bombs do not help. We can only progress in an atmosphere free of terror.