Taking on his critics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said at a time when the entire world was discussing how India was able to give certificates to people soon after they were vaccinated against COVID-19, there were some people who were just focusing on why was his photo appearing on these documents.
Speaking after inaugurating 'Digital India Week 2022' here, PM Modi also criticized former Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram, without taking his name, for opposing in Parliament move to push online payment modes such as UPI (Unified Payments Interface).
"The potential which the Digital India programme has built in the country in the last eight years has immensely helped us during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to run the world's biggest COVID-19 vaccination and relief programmes due to it," PM Modi said.
He said technology came handy in providing relief to vulnerable sections of the society during the pandemic.
“We transferred crore of rupees in the bank accounts of women, farmers, labourers during the pandemic. With the help of 'one nation one ration card' we ensured that free ration is distributed to 80 crore people of the country,” the PM said.
PM Modi said India's digital-driven COVID-19 vaccination programme (CoWin served as technology platform for the humongous inoculation exercise) received world-wise praise.
“The world is amazed at the way record of each dose of vaccine given to such a large population was made available. People elsewhere faced trouble in getting vaccine certificates. But in India, once a person got a vaccine dose, he would immediately receive the certificate on his mobile phone,” PM Modi stated.
“The world is discussing how we managed to give COVID-19 vaccination certificates to people just after they got jabbed, but a few people here (in India) were just focussed on why there was PM Modi's photo on these certificates,” the Prime Minister said.
Critics have widely slammed the BJP-led NDA government for the prime minister's photo on COVID-19 certificates. Memes and jokes were circulated on social media about it and there was even a petition in the Kerala High Court questioning the PM's picture on vaccination certificates. The plea was subsequently dismissed.
This was perhaps the first time PM Modi has spoken on the 'photo on vaccination certificates' subject.
Regarding the popularity of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) ,PM Modi said even small traders and hawkers on the street use the system and it has become a great success among people.
In this context, he spoke about a beggar in Bihar who was seen giving people options to pay him alms via digital mode with a QR code placard hanging around his neck.
UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
“Earlier, digital payment by card swapping facilities were available in a few big stores. But now I am told that even a beggar in Bihar has taken his QR code and accepts digital money,” he said.
The PM recalled the opposition which digital payment system being pushed by his government faced in Parliament.
“When we introduced this scheme in Parliament one ex-finance minister raised many issues with it. He said 'people do not have mobile phones, how will they use it'. He is highly learned. The problem with highly learned people is that they make a lot of analysis,” PM Modi said in a veiled reference to PM Chidambaram.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)