Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said Diwali had come early because of the relaxation in Goods and Services Tax rules that brought some relief to small and medium businesses. Modi, who arrived here on a two-day visit, sounded the poll bugle for the assembly elections to be conducted later this year in Gujarat.
Addressing a gathering in the temple town of Dwarka after laying the foundation stone for a four-lane signature bridge costing Rs 900 crore linking Dwarka with the island religious tourist centre of Bet Dwarka, Modi said that Friday’s changes in the GST regime giving relief to small and medium businesses have been hailed across the country as they kindled the festive mood of Diwali a fortnight before it is celebrated.
In his poll-bound home state Gujarat for a third time in less than a month, Modi launched and inaugurated a plethora of projects, and slammed the Congress party for questioning the state's development model.
He also made a strong pitch for bridging the digital divide, calling digital literacy an important element in good governance and transparency. "Today, I have seen newspapers from across the country. They carry headlines that Diwali has come 15 days earlier. You all must be busy preparing for Diwali, and in Gujarat, Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm, especially among businessmen."
Modi said the government had earlier stated that it will study the GST for three months following its implementation and then fix the problems. "(We had said)...Wherever there are problems in these three months, as in the areas of management, shortage of technology, problems related to rules, complaints regarding rates, trouble in practical experience of business class, we will address it."
Maintaining that he does not want the business class to get caught in red tape, the prime minister said based on the information the government had, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley convinced everyone at the GST Council meet yesterday about the need for altering some of its provisions.
"I am happy that it has been welcomed in one voice across the country," Modi said.
When there is trust in the government and honesty is seen behind decisions the country joins in despite difficulties, the Prime Minister said.
"I can experience this and I am thankful to the people of the country for the way they have welcomed our effort to make simple tax simpler," Modi said.
Three months after the roll-out of the new indirect tax regime, the Goods and Services Tax Council yesterday made sweeping changes to give relief to small and medium businesses on filing and payment of taxes, eased rules for exporters and cut tax rates on more than two dozen items.
Under attack over the Gujarat model of development, Modi took a swipe at the Congress over economic progress under its governments, saying for them it meant installing a hand pump and asking for votes in return.
"The definition of development has changed. Earlier, leaders used to install a hand pump and ask for vote in its name for three elections," Modi said without naming the Congress.
He was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone for a greenfield airport at Hirasar near temple town of Chotila in Surendranagar district. "There is no substitute for development. Everybody, even a very poor person, wants development. If you ask any poor person if he wants a house, he would say yes. You cannot give houses to the poor without development."
Earlier, addressing the Dwarka gathering, Modi said, said, "When Madhavsinh Solankiji was (Gujarat) CM, I recall front page advertisements -- 'CM coming to Jamnagar to inaugurate a water tank'. This is how narrow their concept of development was."
"We have come a long way since then and we are looking at more all-round and extensive progress," Modi said.
Addressing a gathering of IIT students in Gandhinagar, the Prime Minister called for steps to bridge the digital divide, while emphasising on innovation.
Modi said his government has launched a programme under which one member of each of the 6 crore families living in villages would be made digitally empowered. "In this day and age, we cannot afford to have a digital divide. If some are empowered in technology and some not, this digital divide can create a big problem for social harmony," he said, adding digital literacy was an important element in ensuring good governance and transparency.
The Prime Minister said his government has blended JAM-- Jandhan account, Aadhaar and mobile phone--to ensure people become digitally literate.
Advising the IITs to create a culture of innovation which is need based and not knowledge based, Modi said if innovations are made keeping in mind the needs of people, companies would show interest in buying them.
While opening his speech, Modi remembered his childhood days when he sold tea at the railway station in his hometown Vadnagar. "You all are IITians. But I am the one who is just a 'teaian', a chaiwala" Modi said, evoking laughter from the audience.
- It was like Diwali yesterday when we made some important changes in the Goods and Services Tax: PM in Dwarka
- Marine policing is a sector we are looking at very closely. We are modernising marine security apparatus.
- To make life of our fishermen better we have to empower them, government will give them loans on less interest so they can buy bigger boats.
- Building of infrastructure should enhance economic activities and add to the atmosphere of development.
- Common citizen of India wants fruits of development to reach him/her. None wants their children to live in poverty. We want to help our people.
- Had already stated earlier that we would look into GST for 3 months and make changes, mend loopholes as per the experience.
- Will build the first marine institute in Dwarka.
- Japan will aid India to develop our infrastructure.
- Previous governments did nothing to develop Dwarka.
- Will boost tourism by developing Dwarka.
- Working hard to fulfil aspirations of people.