Speaking at a virtual event organised by Swarajya magazine, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant made a curious and controversial statement that has since gone viral. Praising the government for carrying out tough reforms across various sectors like labour, mining, coal, agriculture, etc, he said these are very difficult in the Indian context as "we are too much of a democracy".
Soon, Kant tweeted a Hindustan Times article that featured this statement (this has since been deleted) saying this is "definitely not what I said". He said he was in fact talking about "MEIS scheme & resources being spread thin & need for creating global champions in manufacturing sector." However, the denial doesn't address the statement in question, which he most certainly made as evidenced from the video recording of the event. In fact, he even said it twice. Twitter users were only too happy to point this out.
The first time, speaking about India's attempts to become a global manufacturing base, he said, "India has to fire on all engines. India can't grow on the back of only services. At least you can't create jobs. India can't only grow on the back of manufacturing. India must fire on the back of agriculture, manufacturing and services. All three of them on a sustained basis for the next three decades year after year to lift a very young population above the poverty line. If you think that you can do it on the back of services, whoever thinks that is sadly mistaken. You need to support manufacturing. In India, we are too much of a democracy so we keep supporting everybody."
Less than ten minutes later, he repeated himself when asked about overtaking China in manufacturing. "Tough reforms are very difficult in the Indian context. We are too much of a democracy... For the first time, the government has had the courage and the determination to carry out very hard-headed reforms across sectors. Mining, coal, labour, agriculture...these are very very difficult reforms."
He said the current government has "demonstrated its political will to do hard-headed reforms and we need to see them through to become a major manufacturing nation." The video is available here and Kant can be heard making the relevant comments around the 25.40 and 33-minute marks.