New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day address to the nation on Tuesday, said his government is trying to steer the country on to a new track without slowing down the economy.

“To build a developed India, we need a strong economy, balanced growth and next generation infrastructure. When a train changes its track, it has to slow down. We are trying to take the country on a new track, but we have not let it slow down. We have maintained its speed," he said in his fourth Independence Day speech.

On demonetisation of high-value currencies undertaken by the government on 8 November last year, the Prime Minister said the way people of the country showed patience and confidence, the government has been able to take more steps against corruption. “Through demonetisation, we have succeeded on many fronts. The black money which was stashed away had to be disclosed. Outside experts have said through research that around Rs3 trillion money that was outside the formal economy had come back to banks. More than Rs1.75 trillion money deposited in banks are under scrutiny. A minimum Rs2 trillion black money has to be deposited in the banks and now the depositors will be asked to explain as per rules," Modi said.

Modi said the additional money in the hands of banks has led to decline in lending rates, while the demonetisation exercise has led to more income tax assesses joining the economic system. “The income tax return that has been filed between 1 April and 5 August, the number of new personal income assesses has increased to 56 lakh from 22 lakh during the same period last year... This more than double growth in income tax assesses is due to our fight against black money. More than 18 lakh such persons have been identified whose income is much more than they disclose. They have also been asked to explain. Around 4.5 lakh out of the 18 lakh have accepted their mistake, while 1 lakh such people had never filed income tax before," Modi said.

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The Prime Minister said through data mining after demonetisation, 3 lakh shell companies have been identified that were only doing hawala transactions. “Out of that we have cancelled registration of 2.25 lakh companies. We have ensured that people engaged in looting this country are made accountable. You will be astonished to know that in one single address, some 400 shell companies were being run. Nobody was asking them questions. It was pure collusion that was going on," he said.

Modi said government implemented the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act which was hanging in balance for a long time and has been able to confiscate more than Rs800 crore benami property in a short period of time. “This gives confidence to the common man that this country is for honest people," he added, promising to continue the government’s fight against black money and corruption.

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The PM said the rollout of goods and services tax (GST) has given new energy to competitive and cooperative federalism. “GST is a technological miracle. The way it has been successfully rolled out, it gives confidence about the capabilities of the country," he said.

Modi said now through the GEM (government e-marketplace) platform, a man sitting in a village can also supply goods to the government without the help of middlemen. “This has helped in bringing in transparency. I hope after implementation of GST, there will be more transparency. After GST, trucks carrying goods have saved 30% time as check posts have been abolished thus increasing their efficiency," he said.

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