Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked Indians in Manila to work hard to ensure that the 21st Century belongs to India and said his government was making every effort to transform the country and take it to new heights.
Addressing the Indian diaspora in the Philippines capital, Modi said difficulties might be there but once it's crossed no one can stop India from achieving new heights.
"Our efforts are aimed at transforming India and ensuring everything in our nation matches global standards," Modi said in his nearly 35-minute speech.
Noting that 21st Century is described as Asia's Century, Modi told the cheering audience that it was duty of every Indian to work hard to make it a century of India.
"I say it is possible," Modi asserted.
The PM said India has always contributed to the world peace and more than 1.25 lakh Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives just for peace during the two world wars.
"Our contingent in the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces is among the biggest. India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, peace is integral to our culture," he said, highlighting India's contribution to the world peace.
Modi also lauded his government's initiatives such as 'Swachh Bharat', 'Jan Dhan Yojna' and 'Ujjwala Yojana'.
"Which Indian doesn't want cleanliness? We have started from where Mahatma Gandhi left and till now over 2.25 lakh villages in India have become open defecation free," he said.
Stating that getting a LPG connection once used to be a big achievement, Modi said his government has provided free LPG connections to more than 3.5 crore families in over three years.
Talking potshots at the Congress for making 'gas cylinders' their poll plank during the 2014 polls and said the party's vision was limited to cylinders but his government allotted free LPG connections to three crore families since coming to power.
Modi said there was a time when families would celebrate getting gas connections as if they have got home a Mercedes.
"Members of Parliament used to get coupons for 25 LPG gas connections annually to oblige people of their constituency... Imagine, gas connections!" he said.
Recalling the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi said the Bharatiya Janata Party made him the prime ministerial candidate and people were waiting for the Congress to decide on its candidate.
"The Congress party held a meeting and later told a press conference that they have decided that if they retain power they will increase the number of LPG gas cylinders to consumers from nine to 12 per year," he said.
"That (number of cylinders) was going to be their poll issue. That was the expanse of their thought and even the people would be amused by such announcements...Such narrow vision at times leads to major crisis," he said, referring to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's ouster from power after a decade.
Modi said that during his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort he had requested the well-off citizens to give up LPG subsidy which led 1.5 crore consumers giving up the benefits that were passed on to the poor in form of free connections.
"There are 25 crore families in the country. Three crore families have been given gas connections and our target is to provide it to five crore families," he said, highlighting the harms of fuel-wood on women and children.
"When my party came to power, we linked LPG connections with Aadhaar. It was revealed that earlier subsidies were also given to people who did not even exist! Subsidy should be given to deserving people. We are saving Rs 57,000 crore annually by linking LPG connections with Aadhaar," he said.
Modi said the people who earlier wrongly benefited will always opposing him and vowed that he will leave no stone unturned in fulfilling the mission for which he was elected.
He also took a jibe at the UPA government referring to its scam-mired tenure, saying that before 2014 people would ask how much money lost due to corruption but now they ask how much money has comeback.
He said 30 crore families, which were out of the banking system for 70 years, have got their zero minimum balance accounts during the National Democratic Alliance regime and their total savings amounted to Rs 67,000 crore.
"This is not a small change. Those (the poor) who were out of the banking system have now become the focal point of it," he remarked.
Modi arrived in Manila on Sunday on a three-day visit to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-India and the East Asia summits.
In an address at an ASEAN business forum, Modi said the demonetisation of high value currency notes along with a series of other reform measures have resulted in formalising a large part of the Indian economy.
He also highlighted rolling out of the goods and services tax as well as measures for bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, besides the linking of Aadhaar database with financial transactions as part of broader policy initiatives to bring transparency in the financial sector.
"We are using our Unique ID system in financial transactions and taxation for this purpose and the results are already visible. These steps, coupled with demonetisation of high value notes, has resulted in formalising a large part of our economy," Modi said.
The prime minister's comments on demonetisation assume significance as all major opposition parties have attacked the move, alleging that it had severely damaged the Indian economy.
Modi also talked about repealing of 1,200 outdated laws in the last three years and simplification of procedure for investors to do business in India.
He said the 'Act East' policy of his government puts the ASEAN region at the centre of India's engagement.
"We have exceptionally good political and people-to-people relations with each and every country in the ASEAN region. We wish to bring our economic and business relations up to the same level," he said.
Photograph: Courtesy @MEAIndia/Twitter