Modi rolls out vision for agriculture, renewable energy

India needs to harness its ‘demographic dividend’, preparing a generation of teachers to educate not just in India but also abroad if it is to move ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, in a significant speech on his priorities in tackling the economy.

Mr. Modi, who spoke extempore in Hindi at the launch of a book by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled Getting India Back on Track, was hosting the first such public function since he moved into the PM’s official residence at 7 Racecourse Road here.

Mr. Modi also fleshed out his campaign theme of what he calls a “tricolour revolution,” referring to a second green revolution focusing on growing protein-rich pulses, of a white revolution focusing on the care of cattle and livestock, a saffron ‘energy’ revolution looking at solar energy, and a blue revolution on clean water, and the welfare of fishermen. Blue is the colour of the Ashok Chakra.

In a lighthearted jibe at the pace at which the bureaucracy works,the Prime Minister said “files in government move so slow, I wonder what fuel they run on. Often the files move in reverse gear.” The only member of Mr. Modi’s Cabinet present was Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, but the audience comprised several senior officials, including the Foreign Secretary, the secretaries for Mines, Commerce & Industry, and Civil Aviation, as well as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Jaitley’s caution

At the function to launch a compilation of essays edited by former US diplomat Ashley Tellis and economist Bibek Debroy on various aspects of reviving the economy, Mr. Jaitley warned that the government would require “credibility” to carry out the reforms advised. Striking a cautionary note ahead of the Budget to be presented in this Parliament session, Mr. Jaitley said it would be better if India didn’t adopt a course of “transient and temporary populism” and pay for it later in the government’s tenure.

Speaking to journalists after the function, Mr. Modi also listed foreign policy objectives of the government, emphasising that relations with India’s neighbours would always be his first priority, as those closest to India “affect us the most”.

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