New Delhi: After delivering his shortest Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi resumed his trend of delivering long speeches and spoke for over 80 minutes while addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort today.
This was his last Independence Day address before the next Lok Sabha elections.
Modi had last year spoken for 57 minutes, his shortest Independence Day speech in five years. In 2016, he had spoken for 96 minutes, the longest ever Independence Day address by an Indian prime minister.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru spoke for 72 minutes in 1947, which was till 2015 the longest ever speech from the Red Fort.
In his radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ before last Independence Day, Modi said he had received letters from people complaining that his Independence Day speeches were “a little too long” and promised to make a shorter speech.
He spoke for over 65 minutes in 2014 and 86 minutes in 2015.
Here are some of the things he said this year.
Modi government’s ‘achievements’: Toilets, gas, economy
Modi drew a comparison between the situation in 2013 and how things stand today, and said if the pace of the UPA government’s last year was maintained, it would have taken decades, centuries and generations to build as many toilets, distribute as many LPG connections among the poor and lay down as much optical fibre as his government has done.
While the country is brimming with self-confidence today, it is forging ahead with a new sense of commitment, he said. “India is moving forward at a new pace.”
Modi also spoke about the recent monsoon session of parliament and said it was dedicated to social justice, with measures being taken to protect the interests of Dalits, underprivileged people, tribals and women. “We have to ensure social justice for all and create an India that is progressing rapidly,” he said.
Indians today across the globe are feeling proud as the country has become the sixth largest economy in the world, he said. While decisions have been held back in the past due political and other compulsions, bold decisions like the GST are being taken now, he said. “The world was worried earlier about India as it saw the country among the fragile five, now it looks at us with hope,” he said.
“The world earlier viewed India as a country hit by policy paralysis, delayed reforms, now it sees it as a multi-trillion dollar investment destination,” he said, adding that his government also took the bold measure of announcing the minimum support price for grains at 1.5 times the cost to farmers. This claim, however, has been widely criticised by farmers’ groups and analysts in the past, who say it is only an eyewash as the Modi government is using a lower cost of production in its calculations.
An ‘engine of growth’
While his government’s handling of economic policy has been under scrutiny, Modi today said India will be the engine of growth for the world economy for the next three decades as the “sleeping elephant” has started to run on the back of structural reforms like GST.
He listed out the pace of reforms in the last four years of his government that he said had pulled out the country from being considered a “fragile and risky” economy to being the fastest in the world.
Prior to 2014, India was likened to policy paralysis and delayed reforms. “India was considered among ‘fragile five’ but today the world is seeing it as a destination of multi-billion dollar investment. The narrative has changed,” he said.
The government’s motto, he said, is ‘reform, perform and transform’. Red tape has been replaced with ‘red carpet’, propelling India on the ease of doing business ranking, he said.
Bottlenecks were a topic of discussions among international institutions and experts prior to 2014 but “today they are saying the sleeping elephant has woken up and has started running”.
The comment was an apparent reference to International Monetary Fund’s commentary on India last week in which it said the country is on track to hold its position as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies as reforms start to pay off.
Stating that India is now the sixth largest economy in the world, Modi said international institutions are saying that “India will give strength to the world economy for the next three decades. India will be the engine of growth”.
“We have the potential to take tough decisions. We are not partisan,” he said. “Prior to 2014, global institutions used to say the Indian economy is risky. Today the same institutions and people are saying that reform momentum is giving strength to fundamentals.” He went on to list reforms like the Goods and Services Tax (GST), bankruptcy and insolvency law and benami property law and said they had helped transform the economy.
Electrifying all villages, providing five crore cleaner cooking gas to poor women, doubling the pace of highway construction, record foodgrain production, record mobile phone manufacturing, and building four-time more new houses in villages were some of the achievements of his government, he said. His government’s electrification and cooking gas schemes, however, may not have changed the situation on the ground as much the prime minister says.
An Indian in space
An Indian astronaut will go on a space odyssey by 2022 on board ‘Gaganyaan’, Modi said today.
He said when India celebrates the 75th year of independence in 2022, “and if possible even before, an Indian son or daughter” will undertake a manned space mission on board ‘Gaganyaan’ “carrying the national flag”.
Modi today announced that his government will launch the Ayushman Bharat health insurance shceme on September 25, the birth anniversary of Deendayal Upadhyay.
“The healthcare initiatives of the government will have a positive impact on 50 crore Indians,” he said. “It is essential to ensure that we free the poor of India from the clutches of poverty due to which they cannot afford healthcare.”
The Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) aims to provide coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family annually.
Asserting that technology will play a crucial role in the implementation of the programme, he said in four to six weeks, testing of these technology tools under the scheme will start.
(With PTI inputs)