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Text of the Vice-President’s Inaugural Address of ‘PRANEETI’ at National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur (Excerpts)

Nagpur :- Young Minds have proven their ability by competing in the toughest examination on the planet. When I was addressing on Civil Services Day, I reflected that the Indian growth story is being shaped by the vision of the PM and his team. But it is being executed by the intellect, dedication and directional approach of the civil services. You therefore are to be complimented for historic achievements and accomplishments that our nation has registered so far. You’ll be happy to note that an initiative has been taken in recent years to ensure that your decision-making process is as per your intellectual judgment and that was by introduction of a provision in Prevention of Corruption Act, a provision that influences you from vulnerability.

I can tell you, each one of you had an option to be in the public sector, private sector. Each one of you could have taken service in the country or outside for a larger fiscal packet. But the opportunity that you get here to serve your nation, you make a difference in the lives of billion plus people, is not available elsewhere. In a sense your being in this position is indicative and reflective of your sacrifice. But let me tell you whatever package you might have got, the feeling of pride, satisfaction, respect which your parents had, which your friends had when you were selected in the civil services, is difficult to match.

My congratulations to you and I will tell you that you are in Amrit Kaal. You will shape the destiny of this country- what shape this country will take in 2047 when we celebrate the centenary of our independence. At the outset, I have indicated to you, your sacrifice, challenges and contributions. Let me congratulate all the Officer Trainees of 76th Batch of IRS for completing your first Module of Induction training.

This training is not easy training. It prepares you to face the world and your department is one of the leading departments that is not only contributing to the big change but has changed itself. CBDT Chairman was right and I am witness to it; that never ever my Chartered Accountant was at ease as he was this time. I still carry the burden of being a senior advocate and payments keep on coming delayed. I told him to give me a checklist of the information I have to give you. I am happy to tell you that he said you have to do nothing. All Information has been assimilated and this is how in the largest democracy is enforcement of transparency and accountability. These words are easy when you say them and difficult when you practice them. Your department has practiced it and I’m sure each one of you will work in a manner to inspire confidence in ordinary men. There was a time when a notice from the IT department used to create panic. But now things are different. You have taken your taxpayer as a participant in the growth history of this country and that is on the account of the contribution your seniors have made and you will be making. I have had a very brief glimpse of this Institute. और कहते है ना की एक चावल देख लेते है तो उससे पता चल जाता है उसी तरह से You are in a wonderful environment that will allow you to unleash your energy fully. You can exploit your talent and potential under the guidance and mentorship of the director and her team. I will make one appeal to you and this is the mantra I am giving to you that will make your life relevant. Always be in contact with your batchmates. This connectivity will give you more nectar. Once you are in your 40s and 50s, you will realize the importance of it. And that will make you functional all over the country. This batchmate concept is enormously innovative and fructifying, so believe in it.

I will not be reflecting on what is expected of you, but there can be no honesty in business functioning, in personal transactions, in personal fiscal behavior without you being proactive and in this process, you will have to take the stress of making every tax payer a partner in growth.

Our tax basket has to grow because everything you collect goes for nation building. But more important is that every tax which you collect and get a new person in your tax net, that person gets on incremental trajectory. I tell you have some coercive mechanism also. And when you use that coercive process, the growth of that particular business house has been on incremental trajectory. The growth has not been geometric but much more than that. This is because no one by nature wants to make a mistake.

One of the greatest problems that we have in our country is that we don’t believe in systemic working. Some of the most developed countries as they are known in the world, they have mediocre mind set. The genius of Indian mind is unrivaled, unprecedented. The whole world is getting benefit of it. But where we lose, we lose because we are not systematic in our working. I’ll make a simple illustration that no Indian on a visit abroad has ever thrown out of a car a banana skin; but the moment he lands in our country thinks it’s his right. But a great step was taken by the Prime Minister in the form of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. People initially thought what is is? But now we see the difference. This is totally a different kind of mindset. I look forward to a day when we Indians will focus on discipline on roads. Once we do it, the success will be remarkable.

Mr Nitin Gadkari as the Minister of highways has put our country virtually in a top spot. We are now having world class Expressways. But we have to learn to be disciplined. Once we inculcate the habit of being disciplined things will be very different. The progress of our country at the moment is at a level that no large economy can match us. And I am sure that you will make the difference.

Interaction with the young mind always generates energy for us, because fresh ideas emanate from young minds. They are fearless and have the ability, inclination and aptitude to try something new and I am sure each one of you has the potential to change the lifestyle of others.

People look at you as a role model. You can look at yourself immediately as an achiever. The moment they come to know about your service and about your decision they conclude, yes, the person is gifted with the intellect, competitive approach, right attitude and is a foot soldier of the growth history of this country.

Friends, while you are taking care of the fiscal health of the country, there was a time when physical health was determined by X ray, then it improved slightly by CT scan. It went to a higher level, MRI. The group is so balanced, that 25 of you are girls. I have a daughter, so I am here for your support.

Your Chairman has been brought to the department alone by number of statistics, and all because your colleagues in the department have made that contribution. Each of you is part of a Department that upholds the motto coined by Kautilya, which says, “Kosha Moolo Dandah” which means, “Treasury is the root of administration”. If a nation is developed it has more in its treasury, if a nation is weak its treasury is sinking.

I had a painful experience when I was elected to Parliament in 1989. Our foreign reserves dipped to 1 billion US dollars. In physical form, to sustain our credibility with global financial institutions, gold had to be sent outside. And now the other day I noticed that our foreign exchange reserves are $596 billion. That is happening only because we are now on a path of keeping our nation first. The revenue that accrues to the country vide your dedication, commitment and hard work led to positive impact on governance and citizen centric policies.

Friends, today I have been requested to share my insights about ‘Essence and necessity of Change in Governance’. And fortunately in our country in the last 9-10 years, there has been a paradigm shift in policy making and policymaking has taken a shape- Less Government, More Governance.

When I was Governor of West Bengal, I was made a Chairman of a group of 10 Governors and all my fellow colleagues in my team were more experienced than I was, so to give a really positive report I requested Hon’ble Prime Minister to make available Niti Aayog. I can discuss in detail with my colleagues, very senior governors. We took assistance from Niti Aayog and we came to the formula that in our country we have unnecessary steps in anything that has to be done. A file requires 10 signatures. I have put it on record both as Governor and in Rajya Sabha that a file will be signed by three or not more than four people. A file goes from one place to another for nothing, just consuming time. When change comes; it comes with some problems as well, you have to counsel and handhold and change the mindset of your colleagues because they may not be used to that change. People of my age will not be so receptive about technological developments. So you will have to get into that shape. The change in governance has to be in affirmative mode and for the welfare of the people. As the old adage goes, “Change is the only constant”. एक ज़माना था जब शादी के लिए V.C.R की आवश्यकता पढ़ती थी पर अब रद्दी वाला भी नहीं लेता उसको. By the end of the 90s the country had a great evolution, that was the telephone booth. But they don’t exist anymore. Change! I belong to an era where there was no social media, television, no internet, no computer, there was a manual typewriter. Change! We have to adapt to change and the good thing is in this change our Bharat is taking a leap and others are following us. 130 cr से ज़ादा जन संख्या वाले भारत के अंदर जब direct transfer होता है तो कहते है हमारे देश में कैसे हो सकता है. आज के दिन जो देश में हो रहा है, उसकी जानकारी यदि अगर आम नागरिक को होती है, तो सीना फूल जाएगा। आप अंदाजा लगा सकते हो, की 1 अप्रैल 2020 से आज तक 80 करोड़ से ज्यादा लोगो को सरकार की तरफ से भोजन दिया जा रहा है। Rice, cereal, and pulses of high quality are being serviced by the FCI.

पहले हम क्या सोचते थे? गांव में अगर 1000 घर हैं, 2 घर भी electrify हो गए, तो गांव electrify हो गया। अब ऐसा नहीं है। अब है क्या गांव के 100% घर electrify हो गए?

My satisfaction level was, when the Secretary, Jal Jeevan Mission came to Upa-Rashtrapati Bhawan and said that, हमारा उद्देश्य है कि हर घर में नल, उस नल में जल, वो pure हो, regular ho, और quality भी हो. So I requested the Secretary to tell me about the situation in my village? One officer got up and asked me about my district, block and village, and he immediately shared that 70% of houses had नल and जल।

हिंदुस्तान बदल रहा है। आप अपने गांव में जाकर देखेंगे, आज के दिन जो ecosystem बदला उसका अंदाजा नहीं है। किसी को ट्रेन की टिकट चाहिए, पासपोर्ट एप्लीकेशन करना है, हो जायेगा, पहले बिजली का बिल जमा करवाने के लिए छुट्टी लेनी पड़ती थी, क्योंकि लाइन होती थी। अब ऐसा नही है।

Service delivery has become absolutely amazing with speed. एक नया कानून राज्य सभा ने तैयार किया है, राष्ट्रपति जी के दस्तखत होने के बाद, कितनी सहूलियत हो जायेगी, जो mediation bill hai, मैंने बहुत गहरा अध्यन किया है। It is a platform to give assistance, to a person who is otherwise helpless, this will impact a major segment of society which is vulnerable. पहले अधिकांश अपराधियों के बारे में जो छोटे अपराध थे, लेट फाइल कर दिया, या गलत declaration हो गया, सज़ा थी जेल. 40 से ज्यादा act में बदलाव कर दिया गया है, और जेल का प्रोविजन हटा दिया गया है। यह जो बदलाव आ रहा है, that will take our nation forward. This should have been done long back, but now we are on the right track.

Crisis is always an opportunity, challenge is always an opportunity, if you show weakness and do not show the right kind of attitude, challenge becomes worrisome. But when you decide to take the challenge head on, it becomes an opportunity. The challenge came in 1991 and we had liberalization, progress was slow, but then after 2014 it is galloping. I am not a stakeholder in politics. I am not concerned about what political parties do, it is their business. But I am a stakeholder in the good governance of the country. I am a stakeholder with you, but your stake is more than mine, because I have lived my prime, but you have to live your prime. To live your prime you have to be more functional. So why did the big change come? For 30 years the country was witnessing the uncertainties and perils of Coalition Governance. In 2014, the country got a single party government, reinforced in 2019. Some people may rise and not appreciate my statement in the right perspective, that I am saying something political. But, I am before brilliant minds, all I am telling you is that you are the most important stakeholder in Governance. You will have to ensure that the rise of our country can be on stability, the results of which we have seen on the ground were not dreamt of.

Few days back the G-20 Convention Center was inaugurated, it was executed in record time like the new building of the Parliament, which came into being in 30 months, not just the buildings, but so much has been done inside which you can’t imagine, so our capacity to execute with visionary leadership is unparalleled.

India’s economy is on the rise, we are the fifth largest economy now on the way to becoming the third largest economy. Economic growth is fundamental but it gets cutting edge and relevant when it changes the lives of ordinary people. I firmly believe, and it is a fundamental principle of economies that you can help a man with food, you can help a man with money, you can give all kind of assistance, but the greatest help is to empower the person to help himself and to see that the funds of the government by and large go for the capital account, not for the kind of things that do not last long. We must in the country get a habit of development, the shelf life of which is much longer.

Our regulatory regime is getting on fast track, and I am happy to indicate that under the Chairman, CBDT Has performed remarkably. This department concerns the lives of all taxpayers. So a big change has been made. You will be doing a great service, and you will not be Indian Revenue Service but you will be an Incredible Revenue Service if you bring more and more people in the tax net, you will be helping them. They will be happy to say that we pay tax. The moment they say this, their mind will get agitated, where is my money being used? That will make them partners in the working of the nation.

In Rajya Sabha e-office is being made functional, by a member of your service. Now, If you see the functioning of Chairman, Rajya Sabha, I am totally digital. A man at my age has been forced to be digital, that speaks to the strength of your service.

The most revolutionary and radical transformational change that is turning out to be a game changer is the adoption of Technology. The adoption of Technology has another important angle, those who seek to make shortcuts, those who seek to make big purchases and hide, their game is over. The moment they do it, the department knows that they are doing it. Because you have evolved a module and a mechanism, which is very successful. I will not focus on the great technological applications which the department has got in use seamlessly for the taxpayers’ concern.

More than 6.77 crore income tax returns for A.Y. 2023-24 were filed till 31st July, 2023. A 16% rise over the returns filed last year. An achievement for which Mr Gupta and his team can take pride in. But what his team has done, makes us proud and we can tell the world our capacity of handling. On 31st July 2023, 64 lakh ITRs and more were filed in a single day, that speaks strength of the technological application, its efficiency and its robust nature.

Friends, civil servants must commit to serve the nation with PRIDE which is

P: Public service without personal biases, which is very important, prejudice, favoritism, patronage corrupt the system. It is human nature to yield to such temptations. I am happy to tell you that your department has created a mechanism where personal biases are technologically erased.

R: Rule of law implemented at grassroot levels.

I: Integrity in dealing with the public.

D: Devotion to duty

E: Efficiency in achieving policy targets.

Let me tell you that your efforts are indispensable for the nation. If you walk away from your obligations, the nation will suffer. Friends, I wish a great future to all of you. I wish you good health. I am sure you are foot soldiers and warriors of Bharat at 2047. You will work fearlessly, tirelessly, without tension, without stress to make a difference in the lives of the people. The moment you will take recourse in that direction, your life will automatically be changed.

I particularly greet two of our friends from Bhutan, all of you are requested to be in contact with them. I had the good fortune of meeting the trainees of various services, and I find component from Bhutan is always there. So you will have a good connection with them all your life, and Bhutan is a good, picturesque country where nature has bountifully blessed, take our good wishes and greetings to your people.

I wish each one of you great success in your life and urge each one of you to keep Nation first, National Interest first, Nationalism above everything else. One thing which you will have to inculcate, in people, in industry, trade and business, nationalism should never be compromised for fiscal benefit. Economic nationalism will grow and change our economy for the better. We should not tilt in favour of goods from outside because they are cheaper, as they are available in our country.

Thank you so much. Jai Bharat!