Modi says committed to Dalit welfare (Roundup)

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decried attempts to politicise atrocities against Dalits and said he was dedicated to the welfare of the deprived in India and that caste-based discrimination was a social problem that needed to be defeated.

In a previously recorded interview to CNN News18 aired on Friday, Modi spoke on wide ranging issues, including the economy, politics, and tax evasion.

He was more vocal about the Dalit issue and condemned some recent attacks on the Dalit community that have shocked the nation after self-styled cow vigilantes beat up four youths for skinning a dead cow in Gujarat’s Una.

“As far as some incidents are concerned they need to be condemned. There is no place for (such incidents) in a civilised society,” Modi said, but put the onus on the state governments to curb such violence because “law and order is a state subject”.

He ridiculed attempts to turn this “social problem deeply rooted” in Indian society into a political issue and said he was not to be blamed for any anti-Dalit violence.

“Some (people) are selectively picking issues and blaming Modi. Politics over social imbalances is a disservice to society, to all those who have faced injustice for generations.”

He said some people had a problem with the fact that “Modi is a devotee” of Dalit icon B. R. Ambedkar.

He recalled how he celebrated Ambedkar’s 125th anniversary and how the UN celebrated and 102 countries around the globe observed the day.

“I’m devoted to the welfare of all Dalits, the oppressed, underprivileged and deprived. Those who have fed this country with the poison of caste divide have destroyed the country.”

The caste issue is going to be critical for the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh that has a sizeable Dalit population and where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not been in power since 2002. Elections are due next year also in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur.

Modi said the BJP will fight these polls on the issues of development, and its focus will be jobs, peace, unity and social justice.

“As far as the BJP is concerned, we will fight on development issues only. Our focus will be the welfare of farmers, villages, jobs for the youth and we will stay committed to the cause of social justice.

The Prime Minister also rejected any notions that he was following the politics of vendetta.

Asked if he will not be sparing any “dynasty” when targeting black money, Modi said he has never tried to get any file opened to settle political scores.

“I do not think from a political perspective… I have been a Chief Minister for 14 years. I never opened a file for political reasons. We have not advised opening any file from a political point of view. “This interpretation that we are not sparing any dynasty is wrong,” he said, in an oblique reference to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s questionable land deals in Haryana.

On the economic front, Modi said when he assumed the office in 2014 he wanted to bring a White Paper on the condition of the country’s economy but refrained from it in the national interest.

“Many people ask me what has been the biggest mistake we made in two years. When I think about it now, I feel, before presenting the first budget I should have tabled a White Paper on the economic condition of the country… We had this thought,” he said.

“Politics said you must reveal the situation, but national interest said if the situation was revealed, the economy will suffer, and face a setback. So despite facing political damage, I stayed quiet.”

He said that the economy has seen off the worst now.

–IANS

sar/rn

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