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View from India: PM Modi urges people to transact digitally during Karnataka visit

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down from New Delhi to attend various public events in parts of Karnataka on Sunday October 29 2017. Mangalore and Bidar, along with the state capital Bangalore, were all spruced up to welcome the PM, who made some important announcements amidst tight security.

The PM’s Karnataka sojourn kicked off in the coastal town of Mangalore, which is around 350 km from Bangalore, Karnataka’s state capital. From Mangalore, the PM took a chopper ride to the temple town of Dharmasthala to offer prayers at the Shri Manjunatha Swamy Temple.

In sync with Digital India, the PM distributed RuPay Cards to the women of self-help groups in Dharmasthala. The RuPay cards were distributed to some of the representatives of the 12-lakh Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana account holders. RuPay is an Indian domestic card scheme conceived and launched by the National Payments Corporation of India. It was created to fulfil the Reserve Bank of India’s desire to have a domestic, open loop and multilateral system of payments in India.

The card distribution is in line with a Memorandum of Understanding signed between State Bank of India and Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) to promote digitised cashless self-help group transactions. SKDRDP is the philanthropic rural empowerment initiative of Dr D Veerendra Heggade, the hereditary administrator of Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala. Modi also flagged Preserve and Transfer Mother Earth to Future Generation, which is a futuristic vision of Dr Heggade.

Our tech-savvy PM drew attention to the BHIM App, as he addressed people and encouraged them to use it. BHIM is an acronym for Bharat Interface for Money that allows users to make simple, easy and quick payment transactions using Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Direct bank to bank payments happen through biometric data which is a fingerprint scanner on a merchant’s device and money is collected using the Mobile number (Smartphone) or Payment address.

The PM unveiled many announcements during his whistle-stop tour and some of these are heartening. Like the one on villages that did not have power for seven decades, now have access to electricity. “We said we’ll bring electricity to 18,000 houses in 1,000 days. It’s not 1,000 days yet and 15,000 houses have access to electricity,” said Modi.

The electric trail continues as LED bulbs which initially cost Rs 350 have been lowered to Rs 40 to 45 rupees under the Ujala Scheme. Modi pointed out that as over 27 crore LED bulbs have been distributed so far, it has led to savings in the electricity bill as well.

Hailing Bangalore as the land of startups, Modi has appealed to the youngsters of the city to come up with innovative ideas. “Let's begin a start-up to bring clean cooking to the doors of [the] poor,” he urged.

The PM also indicated that the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was a collective decision of all parties and revealed that they are open to incorporate changes to make the system better.

Agriculture, too, was another highlight of the trip, which Modi characterised as “Per drop, more crop” - an indicator that farmers should adapt conservation methods like drip irrigation. This, Modi points out, will bring down use of urea in agriculture by 50 per cent by 2022. It’s much needed, as pesticides will otherwise deprive the soil of its natural resources.

Skill development is another area of concern. “In a country like India, where 800 million citizens are younger than the age of 35, skill development should be a primary concern. We have the necessary manpower to fill gaps in human resource requirements around the world,” Modi highlighted.

It’s only natural that agriculture and skill development needs to be backed by connectivity and it’s appropriate that Modi has unveiled a plaque at Bidar Railway Station to signal the inauguration of the 110-kilometre Bidar-Kalaburgi railway track that falls in the in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

This will provide direct rail connectivity from Bangalore to Bidar in the state’s northern region, about 690 kilometres away from the state capital. On a larger scale, this new track is slated to reduce the distance between Bangalore and New Delhi by 380 kilometres and travel time by six to eight hours.

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