In a letter addressed to 'small business persons across the country', Modi said they are the "real backbone of our nation" and the strength they give to the economy is "one of the most overlooked secrets."

Listing out several initiatives, including MUDRA, taken by the government for their benefit, the Prime Minister said, "If your hands are strengthened, I am confident that you will take the nation to even greater heights.

"You should be able to run your business easily, not be harassed by officials, get loans for your day-to-day activities, material  for your operations and markets for your product."

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In the letter dated March 31 and released today, Modi said, "Vegetable sellers, milkmen, grocers, washermen, newspaperwallahs, weavers, artisans, flower-sellers and so on -- you all are the backbone of our nation.

"While many think that large companies dominate, in reality, it is over 5.5 crore small units like yours, which drive our economy through small manufacturing, trading and service businesses."

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Lauding them for providing jobs to 11-12 crore people, the majority of whom are SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities, Modi said, "India thus depends on you for its growth, jobs and prosperity.

"You should be protected from any financial crisis and feel secure about your future. If this is done, you will be strong enough to lift the nation up."

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