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India is taking all necessary steps to bring home stranded nationals from Ukraine safely, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an interview with Hindi daily Hindustan. India has so far evacuated about 12,000 people from Ukraine, Modi said, adding that the Indian Air Force has joined the mission, apart from regular flights, to bring back remaining Indians from the war-torn country. Around 30 flights will carry Indians back in the next few days, he added. Edited excerpts:

There is a huge crisis in Ukraine, especially when it comes to the evacuation of Indians. You have also been prioritizing it through several high-level meetings. How is the situation?

Through Operation Ganga, we are working day and night to bring back all Indians trapped in this crisis of war. We are also aware of the kind of suffering our children had to go through in these war conditions. In many places, the weather has deepened their misery. Therefore, the first effort of the government was to ensure that the Indian citizens, our students, reach safer places from the war-affected areas. For this, I myself spoke to several heads of states.

We are taking all the necessary steps to assist Indian citizens and students who are still there. We have sent four ministers to coordinate the entire process and ensure all possible help.

Our embassy has been in contact with the students long before the war started and continues to guide them. There used to be a cap on the number of flights between India and Ukraine due to the covid-related air bubble. But before this situation of conflict arose, we worked with the Ukrainian authorities and got this cap relaxed so that the number of flights could be increased.

The result of all these efforts has been that we were able to ensure the evacuation of about 12,000 Indians from Ukraine.

In order to bring back our citizens, we have now engaged the Indian Air Force in this mission apart from the regular flights. Around 30 flights will bring back Indians in the next few days.

Mr. Prime Minister, elections in Uttar Pradesh are now nearing their end. You have addressed dozens of rallies there. What are your expectations?

The people of Uttar Pradesh are determined that the pace of development in the state for the last five years should not be allowed to stop.

I sensed this public sentiment very clearly during my rallies in different parts of UP. There is tremendous enthusiasm among the people for the environment of development that has been created in the state. They yearn for greater development in the near future. It is now evident that people do not want to go back to the days when they had to face problems in every aspect of their life.

You want to double the income of farmers. Has the withdrawal of agricultural laws posed a hurdle to this?

As far as doubling farmers’ income is concerned, we planted the seeds on the same day when we implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. In the process of ‘Beej se Bazaar’, we have tried to help farmers in every way.

We have identified four pillars to make the lives of the farmers easier. These are the four pillars: lowering input cost; increasing the sources of income of farmers; farmers getting better prices in the market; more use of scientific methods in farming by our farmers.

As far as reducing the input cost of farmers is concerned, you will see its effect from “Beej to Bima Yojana" (seed to insurance scheme), minimizing harvest and post-harvest losses and even fertilizer prices. You will understand it better with an example. Despite the huge increase in the prices of fertilizers across the world, we did not let the burden fall upon the farmers and increased the subsidy for DAP fertilisers to 140%, which is unprecedented.

We have focused on an all-round strategy to increase the income of the farmers. For the first time, we have decided to keep the MSP at 150% of the cost of the farmers.

We have worked to strengthen and expand the system of government procurement centres to ensure that farmers get a fair price in the market. Today, foodgrain is being purchased from farmers by twice the number of government procurement centres in the country compared to before 2016.

We are investing about 1 trillion to develop infrastructure like food processing and cold chain. You can see that till the year 2014, there were only two mega food parks in India. But today, the number has increased to 22.

As far as the impediment in the form of the repeal of the agricultural laws is concerned, I would say that the path may be different. But our goal is the welfare of the farmers.

The Opposition is raising the issue of unemployment during the elections. What is the government’s plan in this regard?

When it comes to job creation, we have to look at it in its entirety. I want to give you some facts. And think, would these things have come up without employment generation?

In the last seven years, 24,000km of rail route has been electrified. When it comes to highway construction, we have added thousands of kilometres despite the pandemic.

LPG coverage has increased from 55% to over 95%—this means a larger distribution network and expansion of agencies.

Rural electrification has also taken place at a record pace, and we have electrified more than 99% of villages. This has led to the creation of jobs during and after electrification.

About 33 crore MUDRA loans have been given, which not only ensures economic empowerment but also creates more jobs.

When a record level of work is being done in every sector, not just one, will it happen without employment generation?

Today work is being done three-four times faster than before. When the speed of work increases, more workers are also needed, doesn’t it encourage employment?

Now let’s talk about the pandemic period. Covid is the biggest crisis in 100 years, the greatest pandemic. There is no one in the world who has not been affected by it.

During the pandemic, a lot of things simply came to a standstill. The Opposition and some political experts were even thinking that India would never be able to recover from it. But the power of India is such that we did not have the kind of devastation that these people were praying for. Nevertheless, the speeches these people had prepared then are still being used despite the situation not being the same now.

Coming to EPFO, the number of formal jobs created in the last eight months is more than the previous three years.

There are many such jobs which have been given to the youth. There are more than 1 crore such youth who are 18-28 years old—that means even in the midst of Corona, 1 crore new opportunities have been created for the youth.

According to NASSCOM, in the last 4-5 years, around 23 lakh direct and indirect jobs have been created (in IT).

In 2021 alone, we saw 44 startups reach unicorn status, and over 2,000 new startups have come up. We have also seen startups receiving record investments in 2021.

Forget about 2021. If you talk only about 2022, India has produced one new unicorn every five days. It also means more opportunities for our youth.

Talking about the export of engineering goods, there has been a huge growth in it because small and medium industries are very much involved with this sector. So, clearly, employment opportunities have definitely been created with their growth.

Small and medium industries have been hit hard due to the pandemic. Most of the employment is also generated by this sector. What special measures is the government taking to bring them back on track?

We cannot deny that there was a very serious pandemic in the whole world and in such a situation, we framed the necessary policies and strategies accordingly.

In these circumstances, it is also true that the economy of the whole world had to go through a very difficult period. Despite this, today, we are seeing the positive impact of the policies and decisions we made in the interest of the country. We are seeing how the economy of the major countries of the world is still derailed whereas India’s economy has started getting back on track.

Our approach regarding small-scale industries has been to save as well as grow them in this period. For this, our government has come up with a special credit guarantee scheme. More than 2.5 trillion were given to these small-scale industries across the country. Consequently, many small-scale industries were saved from closure.

It is the result of the efforts of the government that the export of goods is increasing. As the export of goods is rising, our small-scale industries, our MSMEs have started working with new vigour. We are framing the policies in such a way that the small-scale industries of the country benefit and get maximum work. In this budget, we have decided that 68% of the country’s defence needs will be met from the domestic market itself.

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