February 20, 2020
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Press Conference

'There Is No Question Of Retirement...'

'...till I finish the job that has been entrusted to me,' says the Prime Minister.

'There Is No Question Of Retirement...'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Summarised excerpts of answers to some of the questions the prime minister was asked at the press conference.

Postscript: For the full text of the PM's press conference please see the link at the bottom of this page.

On economy and price rise
It would not be correct to say that our economy is not in good condition. Throughout, in September, October 2008, when financial crisis hit the world, many economies collapsed, and the growth rates contracted. It also affected the Indian economy a bit, but we have been able to keep it protected. Our growth rate was 6.7 per cent in 2008-09, but recovered to 7.2 per cent in 2009-10. This year, I am fully confident that it would be 8.5 per cent in this financial year. 

It is true that inflation is a problem. My opening statement concedes that it affects our people. But it's only for the last two years. And for this (high inflation), international financial crisis and high prices of petroleum prices in global markets are to blame. Besides, droughts and floods in some parts of the country last year also affected our economy as a whole. We are confident of bringing inflation down to 5-6 per cent by December.

On Pakistan
Pakistan is our neighbour. It is my belief that India cannot realise its full development potential unless we have the best possible relations with our neighbours and Pakistan happens to be the largest neighbour of ours [Er, he forgot China...among those we share our borders with, or Indonesia, if ] 

There have been problems. I don't have to go into them and it has been my effort to try and reduce the gaps between the two countries without surrendering or without affecting our vital national interest. It is my conviction that the major problem between there is a lack of trust between the two countries. The trust deficit is the biggest problem and unless we tackle the trust deficit, we cannot move to substantive negotiations and, at Thimpu, Prime Minister Gilani and I have agreed that trust deficit is a major problem blocking progress in the direction of moving forward and that it should be our common endeavour to bridge or to reduce this trust deficit. That is why we have agreed that the Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Secretaries would meet.
It is our obligation to make every effort for normalising relations with Pakistan. We will make every effort that is essential to realise this. We are willing to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan. But it should ensure that its soil is not used for terrorism against India

On implementing the nuke deal
We need a nuclear liability bill in place and the one in Parliament will take care of the issue and am confident it will be passed in due course. I believe that all political parties interested in India's development will support the nuclear liability bill.

Naxalism
I have been saying for the last three years that Naxalism remains the biggest internal security challenge facing our country. We haven't underestimated it. To exploit full benefit of economic reforms, we need to control Naxalism and terrorist elements. If we don't, it can affect our growth.

On Muslims being the most backward group in terms of education and how satisfied he is with the level of implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations
I have no hesitation in saying that in terms of education, the Muslims have not been equal participants. Sachar Committee emphasised this and the Prime Minister's 15 Point Programme also gave a lot of stress on it. In the last two years, a lot of work has been done and a whole lot more needs to be done. We need to go forward on this with honesty.

On home minister's "limited mandate"
Naxalism has emerged as the biggest single internal security issue. This I have been saying for the last three years. The home minister has already explained what he meant by having a limited mandate. It is a strategy issue and strategy issues will be debated within the cabinet. But while law and order is a state issue, I believe the centre must help the states in every possible way and can work with the states in dealing with this problem.

On Maoist funding and whether his government is planning to impose restrictions on the human rights activists who propagate the agenda of the Naxals 
India is a democratic country and in democracy everyone has the right to express his views before the people. If the views don't propagate violence, there can't be any restriction on that.

"Hindu" Terrorism
Terrorism is a major national security issue. It has no religion. If it is being sponsored by particular religious elements, it has to be dealt with effectively and purposefully. And, therefore, our government's policy is that whatever be the source or terror, whether it is Muslim involvement or Hindu involvement, regardless of religion, I think we must tackle that problem effectively.

On his coming visit to J&K
I have said more than once that we are willing to discuss with Pakistan all outstanding issues and the only condition is that Pakistan's territory should not be utilised for spreading terror in India, against India. As far as my visit to Kashmir is concerned, it is a visit to one of the states of the union. There I would like to review the development programme. As far as the political situation in J&K is concerned, we have a democratic government, and I would like to discuss with the government of J&K what more can be done to accelerate the pace of development. I would like to appeal to all elements in J&K that our government is ready for a dialogue provided all these groups which are outside the political mainstream shed the path of violence. [He did not answer the specific question posed to him about whether or not he is close to a deal with Pakistan or whether back-channel talks have been revived]

On affirmative action and inclusive growth
For affirmative action, we need to prepare an atmosphere in which people from the fields of business, industry and trade can help us. We are working to take this forward and I also believe that we need to take it forward faster.

On Naxalism: Is it a state government subject?
I have spoken to state governments many times on the Naxal issue. The Chief Ministers understand that it is imperative to control Naxalism for the country's growth and I do not think they or the central government cannot work together.

Will the approaching state elections and the question of seat adjustments impact his government?
We are too far away from the elections. Right now I am focussed largely on economic, political and social issues of inclusive growth. When the time comes, we will take appropriate decisions  in all these matters.

How do you rate your government?
I don't think it is for me to rate the government. I am the first person to admit that we could have done more. One should not be satisfied with what we have achieved. There is always room for improvement and for better outcome. But I do believe that the record of our first year is a record of reasonable achievement

And caste census?
We shall take into account the views expressed by various sections and will ask the cabinet to consider it and that process is on.

What expectations to reduce the trust deficit with Pakistan?
I am hopeful that this process can move forward and that's the message I got after talking to the Pakistan PM. We are going to make a beginning. The composite dialogue was suspended after the Mumbai terror attack. This will be the first major effort to build adequate amount of trust between the two countries

On the ministry of defence refusing to give permission for prosecution of Rashtriya Rifle men indicted by CBI for murder of five innocent Kashmiri villages at Panchalthan when he had announced zero tolerance for any human rights violation
Our government has zero tolerance towards violation of human rights of citizens. Am not  familiar with the details of this incident and will look into it.

On why he has rejected various ministers' resignations for lapses in Dantwada and Mangalore? Who's accountable for such incidents if not the minister concerned?
As PM of the country, I am accountable to Parliament and the people at large. These issues have to be tackled. We have to go into the causes of all these tragedies and what caused them and what can be done to put in place systems and procedures in place so that as far as humanly possible, these incidents and these tragedies are not repeated again and again.

Forign journalists facing a lot of problem in getting a PIB card...
Will certainly ask the relevant ministry

On David Headley
I have been assured by the highest (authorities) in the US Administration that we will get access to David Headley

Corruption -- particularly in the telecom ministry. Do you think the telecom minister, A. Raja, is completely clean? Look at the amounts raised in 2G auction and 3G auction...
It is certainly true if you compare figures what was collected by 2G process as against 3G process there is a huge gap. I think one has to look at the whole problem in proper perspective. This matter has been discussed in Parliament... I have also discussed this issue with (Communications Minister) Mr Raja. Day before yesterday he also gave a detailed interview to the Hindu and he has told me that he only implemented the policy in place. There was a particular policy which was in place since 2003 before our government came in power.... Raja's point was that it would amount to discrimination against new players if a different policy were adopted. That he has the recommendation of TRAI and of the telecom commission supporting the course of action.

Yes, some complaints were received by the CVC. The CVC has asked the CBI to look into this and that process is on and pending that investigation, it is not proper for me to express any definite opinion. I would like to say that our government has been very clear that right from the beginning that corruption is a problem and if I come to know if there is any involvement at any level in corruption, action will be taken.

Has Congress benefited from coalition politics and will there be UPA III?
We are in the sixth years. We have a government that delivers. I have every reason to believe that we will complete our term and we are too far awa

Do you support the creation of new states?
There is no agreement as of now on creation of new states. There was a proposal for a Telengana state, that matter has been referred to a committee

On Rahul Gandhi: When is he expected to join the Cabinet as he is being projected as the future Prime Minister of the country?
Rahul Gandhi is doing a good job in reviving Congress party. Rahul is very qualified to hold a Cabinet post. I have discussed with him on a number of ocassions though I don't remember exactly the date when I discussed with him last. He (Rahul) has always been reluctant to give a postive answer (on joining the cabinet) by telling me that he has due things to strengthen the Congress party. As and when Rahul decides to join the Cabinet he would be given an appropriate role.

Would he make way for Rahul during his current tenure?

Let me say say that I sometimes feel that younger people should take over as when the Congress party makes that judgement and I will very happy to make place for anybody the Congress party decides

Satisfied with his role as PM?
Honest answer is that I could do better than what I have done. I am reasonably satisfied with the pace of work but overall I am satisfied.

Is the government heading towards minority? The government started with 316 MPs but now seems to be less than 272?
We will try to ensure that we retain our coalition allies and ensure a comfortable majority.

On Water problem in the country
Within the four corners of the law, all efforts will be made to find a solution to the problem

Does he miss the structured support of the Left as in the UPA I?
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I would like all like-minded parties who are for inclusive growth and well-being of the people to support the government.

On his various squabbling ministers -- from Mr Ramesh to Mamta Banerjee
This is a matter between me and my colleagues in the cabinet. Would not like to discuss these issues in broad public daylight.

Of the two women who guide him, whose advice does he values more? 
I go with the advice of both of them - their areas do not overlap!

On Misusing CBI: Lalu and Maya cases
CBI is an autonomous organisation. Our government does not interfere in its working. Only CVC supervises the CBI and it is not correct to say that there is any misuse.

On leakages
Yes, there are eakages in programmes and schemes related to development and welfare. Efforts are on to check the problem.

On whether he wants to take Mulayam Singh into the cabinet -- to take care of the problem caused by Mamta's erratic behaviour?
Can't announce such things in such press conferences. You will come to know as and when the cabinet is expanded or not.

How many times has he thought of retirement in the last six months?
There is no question of retirement till I finish the job that has been entrusted to me

On IPL
Finance Ministry is investigating the IPL issue. If something comes out of it, we will take effective action

On Afzal Guru execution
The law will take its course. There is a law of the land, legal processes of the country. I think they should be allowed to have their course

Differences between the party and the government on issues like amendments to RTI Bill and on Sharm-el-Sheikh accord with Pakistan?
There is no basis to believe that there is no effective mechanism to deal with issues between Congress and the government. There is no basis or belief that there is no coordination between the government and the Congress

Relationship with the Congress President -- differences?
No question of any distrust or mistrust. Not an iota of truth that there is any mistrust or distrust between me and Sonia Gandhi. Invariably we (Sonia Gandhi and I) meet every week to discuss major issues. No question of gap in thinking between me and Congress president. She is the Congress president and I am a Congressman

Will NAC be a super cabinet?
National Advisory Council is not a super-cabinet. It is an advisory body. It was very useful the last time around in proposing inclusive-growth schemes and I hope it will complement the goverment similarly this time around as well.

Mayawati and Mulayam: Was there a deal to get their support for the cut-motion?
I assure you there was no deal. Please remove this misconception from your mind.

Last time around you were called a weak prime minister. Has the party weakened you this time around? w.r.t Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor and others who seem  to suffer from the foot-in-mouth disease.
I don't think so. I feel that it is a healthy development that the ministers give their opinion freely. Of course if any subject is before the cabinet, they should express it there. It is not good that ministers express their views in public

What is the most important legacy issues for him?
I am not much bothered by such legacy issues. I have a job to accomplish.

On David Headley
I have been assured by the highest (authorities) in the US Administration that we will get access to David Headley

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