Narendra Modi slams UPA's gold policy at bullion summit

Mumbai, Oct 5: BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Saturday addressed the India International Summit here via video-conferencing from Gandhinagar. The summit was held to commemorate the 65th Foundation Day of Bombay Bullion Association Limited.

Modi started his speech by saying that while India looks at a golden future, those related to gold do not seem to be in a happy state of mind.

"It is surprising for me that this is the first time such a summit is being held. And that too you people had to come together in the face of an impending danger," he said.

Speaking on the importance of gold

Stressing that although he had little connection with the subject (gold) on which he had been invited to speak, Modi said gold has always been closely connected with human civilisations in the world.

"We have not seen gold just as money, it is related with all aspects of our social life. We have always attached the term 'gold' with anything good in our life," he said, adding that it was used even in Ayurvedic medicines since ages.

"In our society, gold is connected with security, respect and a friend in need during hours of crisis. It is also related to the well-being of our daughters through exchange of the matter during marriage times," he said.

"After a doctor, the goldsmith is the most trusted man in the family."

Taking a dig at the central govt

Modi said whenever a national government formulates a policy, it should keep in mind the basics about the importance of gold no matter how much crisis is there.

He mocked the current UPA government, saying it is difficult to understand its functioning. "A few days ago, it decided to shut down petrol-pumps in night to resolve import problem to revive the falling rupee. I don't understand how it is possible?"

He said central ministers gave bizarre reasons while explaining the price rise. "Some said people have changed their food habits, while the southern people are consuming more wheat, the northern people are having more rice, hence causing the price rise. Do they don't want to know the actual reasons?," he asked.

Modi takes on the Congress

He said the problem with the Congress is that it never acknowledges its faults and tries to do something new after decades, only to aggravate the problem. He criticised the Congress leaderships' admiring the western ideals and over-dependence on centralisation. "It went on for four decades till PV Narasimha Rao saw that the country went in some other direction," he said.

Gold Control Act

Modi said it is debatable how much successful the act was to preserve gold, but it seriously hit two generations of goldsmiths. "They shifted to some other profession and the skill which was honed over ages was lost," he said, adding that the country suffered a huge loss.

"Rise of gold-smuggling"

The gold-smuggling activity increased during the time of the Gold Control Act. "These gangs became rich and they started to put their money in other professions. Our film industry is an example. A class of rich goons was established and they posed serious threat to the ordinary people's lives," he said. "Could anyone imagine how the gold act put the social life under threat?." he asked.

"You must have noticed how people have been caught at airports while carrying golds in recent times. It means again the gold-smuggling activity is increasing," he said.

"If narcotics, arms, fake currency and easily marketable gold are being smuggled into the country, then we can understand the danger the country is facing," Modi said.

The Gujarat chief minister also said that we must remain cautious to see that the situation of the 1970s and 1980s did not return to the country and threaten the economy.

"Rupee must be powerful"

Modi said the rupee must be powerful. "We must reduce import for foreign exchange is going out. But is it only because of gold that foreign exchange is going out," he asked, adding that projecting gold as villain makes one believe that the decision-makers have been detached from the ground.

"We have imported coal, iron ore in huge quantity but since the coal files have gone missing, the country which could have turned coal into gold, is busy transforming gold into coal," he said.

"We are importing every small thing from abroad. No FDI is coming, manufacturing sector is struggling and the GDP is getting affected. Can't our young workforce manufacture goods in our own country. Is the central government worried about such huge import? No, it is only targetting the gold as a villain," he said.

"India must increase its export and reduce import. The government should identify the important areas," Modi said.

"Our hand-made jewellery should be promoted in world market"

"Just like machine-made goods, hand-made jewellery also has a big demand in the world market. We have the skills. But does the government think about this?", Modi asked, even taking a slight dig at the industry heads present on the occasion saying they never back such man-made jewellery.

If such jewellery is marketed in the world market, then all gold kept at home will find an automatic route to the world market. If the Indian government promotes special jewellery, the gold will see a value addition and also the rupee will get stronger.

"Buying gold is matter concerning the mind and not just the buying-capacity, a Reserve Bank report has said, someone told me," Modi said. He said the thought that the buyers of gold will decrease if gold gets expensive is not right. "We must ensure that the gold's value is enhanced before it goes to the world market. It will also get us foreign currency and our rupee will get stronger," he said.

"People need security and value addition and hence buy gold. Because of lack of penetration of banks, rural people buy gold to invest. They don't have to undergo long procedures at banks or real estates. The unstable share market also discourages them to invest and hence the gold is the only choice for them. The Indian government needs to assure the common people," he said.

"States should make their export promotion policy"

Modi said the states should not depend on the Centre and formulate their own export policies, depending on their own assets. "The Centre should give special incentive grant to those states that perform better. This will encourage the states also," he said. "If the states are encouraged, then they can work to improve jewellery designing and export them, helping our own cause," he said.

"Stress on agro-forestry"

Modi said people import timber from other abroad but we can supply those timber by stressing on agro-forestry and not by cutting down trees. "We can use the dividing line between agricultural plots to grow trees to meet the demand for timber," he said. Indigenous timber can save our foreign exchange reserves.

"These are small things but important. We have landed in problem because we do not address these issues," he said.

Modi invites the bullion market to provide skill development training to the goldsmiths' children

"The bullion market should provide skill-development opportunity to the children of the goldsmiths. We have family business training centres nowadays. Why can't we have a similar arrangement to preserve the goldsmiths' family traditions," he asked.

"Instead of thinking on how to bring in more gold, we must emphasise on how to add value to the gold and send them abroad," said Modi.

Modi asks the bullion market to raise these issues. He concludes his speech by taking a light dig at the government, saying the organisers could be under the scanner for inviting him.

"We will make India the same sone ki chidiya (golden bird) as it was known."

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