From ‘Fragile Five’ to ‘Bright Spot’, Smriti Irani hails India’s journey in decade under PM Modi

Mumbai, March 15 : From ‘Fragile Five’ to a ‘Bright Spot’, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the fastest-growing major economy in the last 10 years, Union Minister Smriti Irani said here on Friday.

The country’s factory activity expanded at its fastest pace in four months in January on robust demand, while the rupee remains the best performer against other global market currencies, said Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs, at the Viksit Bharat Ambassadors programme in Mumbai on Friday.

To recall, India and Indonesia were once famously clubbed together as part of Morgan Stanley’s ‘Fragile Five’.

‘’Is the one decade enough? We are ambitious, innovative, humble, and yet aspirational. We were the only country that did not choke our supply chains for geopolitical leverage. When the world was hit by the Covid pandemic, we put humanity first without putting our economy at risk,’’ she said.

In an appeal to the youth in particular, she said, “The year 2047 deserves men and women like you to be the champions of change. That is why I am here today. This is not about a single election. This is about a country that is waiting to take the pole position in the world.’’

‘’I have witnessed change and development,’’ the minister said, as she asked the participants whether they would remain just witnesses or become the ambassadors that India deserves.

‘’Become Viksit Bharat Ambassadors, India needs you,’’ she urged the gathering.

The minister also took the audience through a series of decisions taken by the Narendra Modi government about the different sectors, including finance, infrastructure, health, education, women and child welfare, space, sports, and cultural development, saying that “2014-24 is India’s decade, this is India’s time”.

“India is now ‘Sashakt Bharat’ with reductions in violence associated with Left Wing Extremism by 76 per cent, 70 per cent decline in terrorism-related incidents since the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, 81 per cent reduction in civilian deaths, and 48 per cent decline in casualties among security forces,” she said, adding that 6,800 km roads were built in the border areas during 2014-22, with the defence expenditure doubling from Rs 3.17 lakh crore in 2014-15 to Rs 6.23 lakh crore in 2023-24.

“We look at the pursuit of excellence in the fields of sports, space, science, and startups, which laid the foundation for an ambition called ‘Viksit Bharat’. In 2003-04, the Economic Survey depicted numbers that were celebrated under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with the economy growing at 8.5 per cent, the services sector growing by 7 per cent, and agriculture growing at a rate of 9 per cent.

“In 2004 came an amalgamation of political interests which put personal ambitions ahead of national interests, and that is why India was part of a Fragile Five, and not many were shocked,” the minister said.

“A white paper recognises that during the Vajpayee era, the gross advances by PSU banks were Rs 6.6 lakh crore, but in the UPA regime, the advances stood at Rs 39 lakh crore,’’ she said.

‘’In a decade that was lost due to lack of development, Rs 3.8 lakh crore worth loans were not recognised as problem assets. Across 14 major social sectors, government funds of over Rs 94,000 crore remained unspent. If you look at the health of the economy and the out-of-pocket expenditure vis-a-vis health and the individual citizen, they took a hit close to 64.2 per cent,” she added.

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