New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday unveiled his vision for a new, clean and prosperous India in his maiden and stirring Independence Day address from the Red Fort which won him accolades across the country.
Delivering an unusually different August 15 speech, Modi, who took office only on May 26, spoke from the heart in Hindi for around 75 minutes on a range of subjects, announcing a series of initiatives aimed at empowering the common man and calling for a decade-long moratorium on all violence.
He also called investors around the world to make India a manufacturing hub — “Come and Make in India!” —, and unleash a Digital India in which e-governance would play a key role.
Modi announced an end to the Planning Commission, set up in 1950, and said a new institution would replace it.
The 63-year-old prime minister referred to the country’s sages and Vedic wisdom as he called upon Indians to “refine and rebuild the national character”. He also spoke frankly about ills plaguing India.
Tens of thousands from all walks of life trooped to the Red Fort to hear Modi who, wearing his trademark beige colour half-sleeve kurta pyjama with a polka-dotted orange turban, reached the 17th century monument after paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat.
Modi announced a “Clean India” campaign from October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, to make the country clean and hygienic by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma.
“I want to make a beginning today itself — all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls,” he said. He said people must resolve “not to leave a speck of dirt in our village, city, street, area, school, temple, hospital and what have you by 2019”.
For a political leader accused of being divisive, Modi called for an end to “the poison of casteism and communalism”, asking: “How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?
“We have enough of fights, many have been killed. Friends, turn back and you will find that nobody has benefited from it. Except casting a slur on Mother India, we have done nothing.”
Modi gave credit to all his predecessors and earlier governments for India’s progress and vowed to move ahead with a strong consensus Modi referred repeatedly to issues concerning women, saying the rising incidents of rape made Indians hang their heads in shame. He called for an end to female foeticide, and said daughters were more loyal to parents.
Pointing out at the skewed sex ratio, he asked: “Who is causing this imbalance? Certainly not god. I request doctors not to kill the girl child growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets.”
He also urged small entrepreneurs to produce more but without compromising on quality and without spoiling the environment.
The prime minister announced a Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana to ensure that each poor family had a bank account, a debit card and was insured for Rs100,000.