Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 70th Independence Day, Monday, is noticeably different from his earlier two speeches delivered from the podium in the past, indicating a huge and radical shift in Modi Think-Wave.
While rhetoric was pervasive with references to Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and other leaders who had sacrificed their lives for Independence, he tried wean away attention to the present saga of 125 crore Indians to complete the journey from “Swaraj” to “Suraj” (development).
Unlike his two previous speeches where he trumped achievements, in his third speech he appealed not to focus on development but the mechanism being set up to achieve development.
Suraj can be achieved with sacrifice, hard work, discipline, dedication and courage, and he said that every institution from Panchayat to Parliament must work unitedly towards this goal.
The Prime Minister said when hope gives rise to expectations, it gives the government energy to move faster towards Suraj. Amid allegations of non-performance of his government, Modi said focus should not be on the work done by the Government, but on its work-culture.
The Prime Minister defined various attributes of Suraj, such as Sensitivity, Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency, Efficiency and Good Governance. He illustrated each of these attributes through examples of the working of the Union Government, in areas such as online registration in major hospitals, promptness of income tax refunds, speeding up the process of passport delivery, faster company registrations, and ending interviews for Group C and Group D positions in the Government.
The Prime Minister mentioned how the speed of delivery in vital areas of governance had increased. In this context, he gave examples such as rural roads construction, renewable energy generation capacity, laying of transmission lines, and cooking gas connections.
The Prime Minister spoke of the scale on which work had been accomplished in certain areas, such as opening of 21 crore bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana, construction of 2 crore toilets in rural areas, and electrification of 10,000 unelectrified villages in a short span of time, though many of these villages receivie merely two hours of electric supply daily.
On the subject of LED bulbs, the Prime Minister mentioned that their price had been brought down substantially to make them more accessible to the common man.
The Prime Minister appreciated the farmers for ensuring sufficient foodgrain production despite two successive droughts. He said that the area under pulses cultivation has increased substantially this year. He explained the integrated approach that the Government has taken towards the agriculture sector, which includes focus on soil health cards, irrigation, solar pumps, seeds, fertilizers, and crop insurance.
Modi said the focus of the Government has been to build a national identity. He said the Government aims to Reform; Perform; Transform. He said the the Government is more attentive to substance, rather than symbolism; integrated development rather than isolated development; and empowerment rather than entitlement.
Apart from giving an array of projects re-named and continued for social development, he focused this time on social cohesion (Samaajik Ekta) that was badly hit by the increasing number of ‘Go-Rakshat’ and self-styled Sanghi-policemen across the country. He tried to bring in reason saying that every Indian must abide by the message of peace, oneness and brotherhood, given by great saints, philosophers and thinkers, such as Ramanujacharya, Mahatma Gandhi, and Babasaheb Ambedkar.
On the most crucial employment generation for the youth, he said that the Model Shop and Establishment Act will facilitate opening of shops on all days. However, this is unlikely to fill the gap. Unless this transforms into the government working on all days of the week, there is little scope for creating demand for services and eventually jobs in the country, a point often ignored by successive governments.
Otherwise, some new initiatives announced by the Prime Minister include hike in pension for freedom fighters from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 per month. He said the Government would work towards creation of museums and memorials dedicated to the Adivasi freedom fighters across the country. Government would bear expenses upto one lakh rupees for the poor, towards meeting the cost of hospitalization.
The Independence Day speech is otherwise aimed at creating more a sobre situation ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and eroding the bad waves sent out by Sanghi outfits across the country. How far the speech helps in soothening a peaceful atmosphere in the country depends on how Sanghi Parivar takes with a pinch of salt rather than denouncing their own “Hindu Ruler after 900 years” philosophy.