In his maiden Independence Day address as Prime Minister to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort here on Friday, Narendra Modi proposed an ambitious financial inclusion plan, Jan Dhan Yojana, to enable the poor to open bank accounts, with an insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh. This, he said, would especially help the families of farmers who ended their lives after failing to repay loans.
Ending speculation on the future of the Planning Commission, Modi said the body would be scrapped and an entity imbued with greater federal spirit would replace it. The new institution, he said, would have a new “sharir” and “aatma”, in which state governments would have a greater voice.
In a first, there was no transparent bullet-proof screen guarding the PM during his address. Listening to the PM’s speech, among others, was former PM Manmohan Singh, who sat in the front row of VIPs, alongside Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
In his address, Modi exhorted the youth to ensure India didn’t have to rely on imports to meet its needs, and invited the world to make India a manufacturing hub. “Come, make in India, I appeal to the world,” he said. “Sell anywhere, but manufacture here.” He also stressed the need to balance the country’s import-export basket. He urged the youth to dream of manufacturing items such as electronic goods. “But do not compromise on zero-defect (good quality) and zero-effect (no harm to the environment),” he said.
Trying to explain why he was relatively quiet during his term as PM so far, he described himself as an “outsider”, someone not part of the capital’s elite. He said the insider view he had had of the functioning of the government left him surprised, adding his comments shouldn’t be viewed through the prism of politics. He said he had spent time trying to understand the several governments and fiefdoms that existed within a single government here. He had tried to break the walls between fiefs to transform the government from an “assembled entity to an organic” one, he added.
The PM made an effort to reach out to opponents. “We do not want to rule by the force of majority. We want walk ahead on the solid ground of consensus,” he told the huge crowd that had gathered to listen to him on the occasion of the country’s 68th Independence Day. He said the country was witness to the recently concluded Parliament session, in which the government had taken decisions through consensus with all parties. “We have achieved unprecedented success in taking the Opposition along,” he said, adding not just the ruling party, but all MPs should be credited for this.
The PM appealed to all countrymen to adhere to a “moratorium” on communal violence. “Trust my words. Leave behind your past evil deeds. Let us have a 10-year moratorium on communal and caste violence,” he said. He asked Maoists to drop guns and, instead, pick up ploughs.
Modi dwelled on various subjects, including the need for a ‘skill India’ programme for the country’s unemployed youth, as promised in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto.
Modi started his hour-long speech by invoking the makers of the Indian democracy and those who framed its Constitution, which, he said, allowed “a small town boy from a poor family” to bow his head before the national flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort. In a statesmanlike effort, he acknowledged the efforts of all previous prime ministers and governments, including those in states, to nation-building.
To reduce the drop-out rate of girl students, he urged MPs to spend their development funds to construct toilets for girls in schools. “Can’t we make toilets to protect the dignity of our women?” he asked. The rampant female infanticide and cases of rape and the poor sex ratio were matters of great shame, he said.
Every MP and MLA should adopt a village to make it a model one, he said, adding he would provide the blueprint for the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, the model village scheme, on the birth anniversary of social reformer Jayaprakash Narayan (October 11).
The PM spoke about the importance of e-governance, which, he said, was easy, effective and economical governance. He said as the Railways had linked India, now, IT and broadband networks were playing that role.
He also underlined the need to promote tourism, which provided jobs to many. A hurdle to this, he said, was the lack of cleanliness in India. To address this and commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, Modi said he would launch the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan, a cleanliness mission, on October 2, the birth anniversary of the Mahatma.
Modi called upon South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) member states to work together to alleviate poverty from the region. He said he was hopeful of positive results from his recent visits to Nepal and Bhutan. The fact that the heads of Saarc member states had attended his swearing-in ceremony was a positive in this regard, he said.
To India’s soldiers and security personnel, the PM said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.
The PM ended his speech with the promise that he wasn’t a “pradhan mantri”, but a “pradhan sevak, adding he would work untiringly for the betterment of the country.
|CHARTING A NEW PATH|