Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asserted that India could not lag behind in the 'digital currency era', as he took a dig at 'stalwarts' who had mocked his government's push for digital transactions.
"Now an era of digital currency has started, and India should not lag behind," Modi said at a rally in Ujire, about 50km from Mangaluru in the coastal district of Dakshina Kannada.
He said digitisation was aimed at bringing in accountability and added that more cash would bring with it social evils.
The prime minister also hit out at people who saw themselves as 'Tees Maar Khan' -- a colloquial phrase used for those who pretend to be smart or heroic -- and had been sceptical of digital transactions.
"Last November, December and January, stalwarts made speeches in the Parliament. If you haven't heard them, hear them. These stalwarts who see themselves as 'Tees Maar Khan', those who think themselves as the epitome of knowledge, used to say that in India there is poverty, lack of education, how can digital transaction work," Modi said.
They also wondered how people could go cashless, he said.
"They spared no effort to speak ill about digital transactions," he said at a rally of the Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project, where he symbolically presented a beneficiary with a RuPay card, an Indian version of a credit or debit card.
Under the project, run by the organisation managed by the Dharmadhikari (hereditary administrator) of Dharmastala, Veerendra Heggade, about 12 lakh Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana account holders would benefit from the RuPay card.
"Our mothers and sisters who live in villages, whether they are educated or not, have taken a pledge. Twelve lakh people have taken a pledge that they will transact their self-help group related business cashless; they will go with digital transaction, with RuPay card," Modi said.
Complimenting Heggade for his efforts, Modi said he worked towards ensuring digital India.
Noting that the times had changed, Modi said currencies had been changing with time, too.
"At one point of time it used to be stone. Then came leather, then gold and silver, ornaments, paper and plastic. It has been changing from time to time. Now an era of digital currency has started and India should not lag behind," he said.
The Prime Minister also spoke of the government's efforts at ensuring that every rupee from the Centre was used for the welfare of Indians and that it reached the intended beneficiary without any scope for leakage.
"One of our former Prime Ministers had said if one rupee goes from Delhi, by the time it reaches a village it will become 15 paise. Who are these people who do this," he asked.
Highlighting the direct benefit transfer scheme, Modi said because of the government's efforts, Rs 57,000 crore 'going into someone's hand illegally' had been stopped and the money was now reaching the right beneficiary.
"Now tell me, those people whose pocket the Rs 57,000 crore used to go to, will they like Modi? Will they not get angry with Modi?... Difficulties will come, but standing at this holy place I'm saying whether we are there or not, we will not let this country be destroyed," he said.
Speaking on skill development, Modi said, "In this 21st century, developed counties of the world are also discussing skill development. It is regarded as a prime sector."
Pointing out that India took pride for its demographic dividend of having 800 million people, or 65 per cent of its population, below the age of 35, he said skill development should not only be used for meeting basic needs such as food but also for ensuring that the dreams of the country were fulfilled.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting at Ujire in Karnataka on Sunday. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India