Literacy is vital for a country as illiterate citizens could prove to be a burden for the nation, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in a television interview aired on Sunday.

Shah made the remark while speaking to the state-run Sansad TV about Narendra Modi’s achievements in his 20 years in office, both as the chief minister of Gujarat and the prime minister of India.

Shah claimed that Modi addressed the problem of high dropout rate at primary level in schools across the country. “Modi ji and everyone from patwaris [village registrars] to ministers went to 25 schools [in Gujarat] in five days, even in the scorching heat, to get children enrolled there,” the Bharatiya Janata Party leader told the TV channel.

Shah claimed that the Modi-led Gujarat government managed to achieve 100% primary school enrolment.

He added: “You can gauge what contribution this made to Gujarat and India. An illiterate person could become a big burden on the country. They neither know their constitutional rights nor duties. How can they be a good citizen?”

Shah said in the interview that Modi had not even held the post of a sarpanch, or village head, before becoming the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001.

“Despite this, with a lot of patience, he understood the specifics of administration, connected experts to administration, made changes to schemes and did the work of delivering them to the people,” Shah added.

During the interview, Shah also responded to criticism that as the prime minister, Modi took unilateral decisions.

“I have never come across a listener like Modi ji,” Shah said. “In any meeting, he speaks the least, listens to everyone patiently and then takes appropriate decisions. He gives importance to the suggestions given by everyone.”

The Union home minister claimed that the BJP had taken significant steps to help farmers, even as protests against the Centre’s farm laws continue.

“In total, 11 crore farmers are getting Rs 6,000 annually,” he was quoted as saying by NDTV. “Rs 1.5 lakh crore have been given to the farmers within a year. Sometime back, the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government forgave a loan of Rs 60,000 crore. It came back to the bank but farmers didn’t get anything.”