New Delhi: In what was probably one of the longest Independence Day speeches delivered by a Prime Minister, Narendra Modi sent out a veiled but stern message to Pakistan on Monday that India would never bend before state-sponsored terrorism or terrorists.
In a 90-minute-long address to the nation, which covered a wide gamut of issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without naming Pakistan, said some countries glorify terrorists, but India is not one of them. He said it is a country that does not have a place for violence or encourages committing of atrocities on its citizens.
Deviating from the norm of restricting Independence Day speeches to issues of domestic import, Modi highlighted Pakistan’s brutality in Gilgit- Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and said the fact that people from those remote and deprived regions are approaching India for help and support should be seen as a certificate of credit of New Delhi’s humanitarian approach and the greater need for shunning violence as a pursuit of one’s life.
Modi’s decision to use his Independence Day speech to expose Pakistan’s brutalities in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was a first by an Indian Prime Minister.
“Many innocents were killed in Peshawar terrorist attack, but there were tears in everyone’s eyes in Parliament here,” Modi said in his speech on the occasion of India’s 70th Independence Day.
Shifting to other issues, the Prime Minister asserted that there cannot be a bigger freedom for any citizen than the freedom from poverty, and invited all SAARC countries to fight this curse.
On inflation, he claimed that his two-year-old government has been successful in bringing it down from ten to six percent, in spite of being faced by a series of challenges.
“I will continue to strive hard to ensure that this inflation doesn’t affect the food plate of the poor,” he said.
This third Independence Day address of Modi backed the RBI target of bringing inflation down to four percent.
“We are rising above the discussion of inflation versus growth and are working to ensure that prices do not rise above a certain level,” he insisted.
“I admit that because of two years of drought, vegetable prices took a hit. Some issues cropped up. The harvest of pulses was less and that led to prices rising. This year however, the monsoon has been good so far, and I would like to congratulate our farmers, because they have shifted back to sowing pulses. They have increased the sowing of pulses,” he added.
He also said that the government is committed to changing the situation where people are scared of filing their income tax or facing authorities of the department, particularly among middle class families.
“We have to change this situation and I will change it,” he said, but warned that tax evaders would not be spared and could expect tough treatment under his watch.
He reminded the citizens of the country that their expectations have gone up because of the NDA government’s commitment to provide good governance, especially in key sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing and renewable energy.
The government, he said, is now laying 50,000 km of transmission lines per year as opposed to 35,000 km in the past. Major government hospitals have gone online in a big way to facilitate patients and their families in a better way. Passports were now being delivered within weeks instead of months. In the last 60 years, 14 crore people were given gas connections, but now in 60 weeks, four crore people have received gas connections. Seventy crore Indians are connected to Aadhaar and other social security schemes and over 70,000 villages are now free from open-defecation.
“Earlier, we used to make 70-75 kms of roads in a day. Today, we make over 100 kms in a day. We have found 9,000 lower ranks in which there will not be any interviews, there will not be any need of references and middlemen. These appointments are being done on merit. Today, the citizen is not happy with just the announcement of projects, the unveiling of plans. She/he wants to see the actual work being done on the ground,” he added.
Modi said his government’s resolve is to turn ‘Swaraj’ (self-rule) into ‘Surajya’ (good rule), adding that the aim is to fulfill the dream of “Ek Bharat, Sresth Bharat”.
Remembering the stalwarts of the freedom struggle such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, besides countless other people who had sacrificed their lives to end British rule over India, Prime Minister Modi said, “From the Vedas to Vivekananda, we have a long history. India is an ancient country with a rich cultural heritage. It is because of our great freedom fighters who laid down their lives that we are independent, and now was an opportunity to resolve to take the country to new heights.”
“The onus is on 125 crore people of India to convert this ‘Swaraj’ (self-rule) into ‘Surajya’ (good rule),” he said.
He said it is easy to keep an account of the work done by the government, but difficult to know of it in-depth.
He said the meaning of ‘Surajya’ is a qualitative and positive change in the lives of the citizen of India, and for that both Niti (policies) and Neeyat (intention) had to be applied transparently and holistically.
With an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, Modi recalled the contributions of the Sikh community’s 10th guru — Guru Gobind Singh, whose 350th birth anniversary will be observed this year. Punjab, being the granary of India, he praised the farming community for its continued dedication towards meeting the goal of feeding India’s 125crore citizenry.
He said the nation must take Guru Gobind Singh’s missive that only those hands that have served are sacred to heart and mind.
In Uttar Pradesh and in other parts of the country, he said the Centre has launched good initiatives to ensure that benefits meet the goal of ‘last man delivery’ decisively.
He asserted that reform, perform and transform is his government’s objective for every sector.
He also dwelled on issues such as guaranteeing education for the girl child, financial independence for women and of the goods and services tax giving strength to the Indian economy.
“We have worked to achieve one nation, one grid and one price. Only then, will we be able to progress in a real sense. Only financial growth is not important, social unity is also important,” he said.
He did not forget to make a mention of the contribution of the nation’s armed forces, saying that their sacrifices would not go in vain and that their families would be well taken care of through pension schemes devised by his government.
Before commencing his address to the nation, the Prime Minister was received below the ramparts of the fort by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre, Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar and General Officer Commanding (GOC) Delhi area Lt. General Vijay Singh.
He inspected a tri-services guard of honour accompanied Wing Commander K. Srinivas. (ANI)