Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said the ‘Start-Up India’ initiative is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship by giving them freedom from the government. “It is a final break from the conventional Licence Raj of India,” he said.

Mr Jaitley said that though India in 1991 broke away from the shackles of Licence Raj, when the government wielded tight control over the economy, there are still many areas where the government plays a role in economic activities. “We ostensibly broke away with it (Licence Raj) in 1991. But the break was only partial, because who would be funded, there was an invisible role of the state, control over land permissions, foreign investment proposals, and environmental clearances,” he said. “And unless the political nods came, to venture into newer areas which involved a lot of capital, an entrepreneur was reluctant.”

Mr Jaitley was speaking at the launch event of the ‘Start-Up India’ initiative at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, a mega event in which 1,500 top entrepreneurs are participating.

The finance minister said the start-up initiative will be a “programme in which the government would only be at arm’s length. The government will essentially be a facilitator with very little role in day to day interventions in this business.”

Mr Jaitley also said, on a lighter note, “I must confess that we normally have a large number of formal launches in this plenary hall of Vigyan Bhawan. But this one is with a difference. Because it is probably the first time I see a large number of potential entrepreneurs here, most of whom I am not familiar with. Otherwise at the formal launches we always have the usual suspects.”

Since the NDA government came to power in May 2014, the minister said, its effort has been to restrict the role of state in policy domain. “When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was voted to power in  2014, if I look back at changes some of them are extremely significant. I find the traffic of industry visiting North Block has almost ended. There are no files to be pushed.”

‘Start-Up India,’ a brainchild of PM Modi. would help create jobs in the country at a time when the conventional private sector is facing several challenges, Mr Jaitley said. “The government has limited potential to create jobs within the governmental system. The private sector’s own expansion itself has thrown up challenges because they have overstretched themselves,” he said, referring to corporate India’s very high debt levels.

The government in the Union Budget next month will announce a friendly tax regime that will encourage the setting up of start-ups in the country, he said. The finance minister also noted the success of the MUDRA scheme which is aimed at creating small entrepreneurs in the country. “In four to five months, almost 1.73 crore entrepreneurs have availed loans through MUDRA scheme,” he said.

Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank, and Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, are among the other notable speakers at the event. Also, PM Modi will interact with entrepreneurs and address the meet this evening.

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