'Absolutely unfair' to say government averse to criticism: Sitharaman

'Absolutely unfair' to say government averse to criticism: Sitharaman
New Delhi, Dec 2 () Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said the criticism that the government is not willing to listen is "absolutely unfair" and emphasised that she herself goes around the country and speaks to people.

Her comments in the Lok Sabha come in the backdrop of industrialist Rahul Bajaj's remarks that there was an "atmosphere of fear" and people were afraid to criticise the government.

"We do take their criticism, many of them on my social media handle, call me names. I have no problems with that. They are affected. They feel that more needs to be done and therefore they voice their concerns," she said.
According to the minister, industry leaders do approach her and she also goes around the country speaking to them.

"... to say that the government is not willing to hear criticism is unfair. Absolutely unfair, because we do hear criticism. We do take criticism, we respond to criticism, and therefore, like, Home Minister responding to the very imminent senior elder citizens, industrialists, we do listen, and we do respond," the minister said.

While noting that her tweet on Bajaj's comment was a "nuanced" one and was mis-represented by the media, she said if someone does not ask the government, and spreads one's own impression, "it will not be in the national interest".

The minister also sought to end the controversy over her comments that the slowdown in the automobile sector was due to many factors like the change in mindset of millennials, who now prefer taxi aggregators like OLA and UBER instead of committing for monthly installments to own a car.

She said her observations were based on a study conducted by the Reserve Bank of India. In fact, an prominent industrialist too had made similar observations two years ago, the minister said without naming the business leader.

Sitharaman had earlier responded to Bajaj's statement that India Inc was afraid of criticising the Narendra Modi government, saying spreading one's own impression "can hurt national interest" - a remark that drew sharp reactions on social media.

At The Economic Times' ET Awards event in Mumbai on Saturday evening, Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Group, had told Sitharaman, Home Minister Amit Shah and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on dais that people are afraid of criticising the BJP government's policies and added that no one in the business community would speak about this issue. DP NKD CS MKJ

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