New Delhi: In a strong re-election pitch to the business community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday promised collateral-free loan of up to Rs 50 lakh, Rs 10-lakh accidental insurance to GST-registered entities, credit card facility for traders, a pension scheme for small shopkeepers and a new retail policy.
Addressing a traders' convention here, Modi said opposition Congress abused businessmen by calling all of them 'chor' (thieves), while the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi used to take pride in hailing from the businessmen community of Baniya.
The BJP government, he said, has stood by traders in thick and thin and will upon re-election set up a National Traders' Welfare Board to address their issues.
Stating that the country has seen the "insults" meted out by Congress to traders, he said the opposition party has in its 70-year rule only "insulted" businessmen.
"They called all businessmen chor (thieves)" without realising the contribution of the business community in the economy, he said. "Congress' naamdaars (dynasts) cannot see anything but themselves. Gandhiji used to proudly proclaim himself as a Baniya, yet Congress abuses all businessmen, calls them chor (thieves). Today's Congress is neither aware of history nor the ground reality. Congress' naamdaars are unaware of the traders' contribution towards the country's development."
The prime minister said he has in the five years of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre worked to simplify lives and businesses of traders by scraping 1,500 archaic laws, simplifying processes and providing easy credit.
Traders are "backbone" of the Indian economy but had in past never got the respect they deserved, he said adding doubling the side of the economy to USD 5 trillion is not possible without their contribution.
"I am impressed by the hard work of traders... their business has helped the economy bloom," he said. "I have tried to make your life and business easy in last five years."
Modi said the trading community is like weather forecaster who can anticipate future tidings.
"On May 23, once again the Modi-led government will come to power, after which a National Traders' Welfare Board will be constituted. The board will be a permanent arrangement which will create an institutional mechanism for communication between the traders and the government," he said.
Modi said the BJP will formulate a National Retail Policy to boost retail trade and provide accidental insurance up to 10 lakh to all businesses registered with the GST.
"We will introduce a traders' credit card scheme on the lines on the Kisan credit card. We will bring a policy for providing pension to small businessmen," he said.
Modi also promised that a provision will be made to provide loans of up to Rs 50 lakh without any collateral.
Congress-led governments blamed traders for ills like price rise when it was the party's own hoarders who were black marketing commodities, he alleged.
"For promoting entrepreneurship among youth, the new BJP government will invest Rs 20,000 crore in the startup sector... We will get 50,000 start-ups established in the country by 2024," the prime minister said.
He promised that several new incubation zones and incubators will be set up in local bodies to boost startups, adding that the new BJP-led government will strengthen businesses financially and institutionally in such a manner that they can leave a mark in the export sector, and also boost Brand India.
Listing his government's achievements, he said he has ended 1,500 archaic laws at the rate of one per day in the last five years to make doing business easier in the country.
Processes have been simplified, inspector raj largely checked and personal interference in income tax assessment removed.
"I consider you (traders) as biggest stakeholder of the economy. Opposition parties remember you only on special occasion," he said.
Modi said the Goods and Services Tax, which was brought in July 2017 by amalgamating 17 different central and state taxes, has made doing business transparent, ended state check-posts and resulted in doubling of registered traders.
"I do not say there have not been any mistakes (in implementing GST) but we have quickly addressed any anomalies based on suggestions from traders," he said.
Based on suggestions of traders, most daily use items are taxed at zero rate while 98 per cent of the commodities are taxed at less than 18 per cent, he said adding the process of filing tax returns under GST has also been simplified and exemption limit for small businesses doubled.
"We are continuously making this process simple," the prime minister said.
Stating that he is a 'sevak' (servant) and not a 'malik' (lord), Modi said his government has on a daily basis released 70,000 free LPG gas connections to poor women, provided electricity connection to 50,000 households, opened 2 lakh Jan Dhan bank accounts for poor, given loan under Mudra scheme to 1 lakh entrepreneurs.
Modi said India has jumped 65 places on the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking to rank 77 in the world and the target is to break into top 50 in the next 5 years.