Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi held a stern warning for Pakistan on cross border terror, and its human rights violations in Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), and an appeal for social harmony within the country in the light of recent incidents of atrocities against Dalits by cow vigilante groups.
“When you look at things from the scale of human values and humanity, when innocent school children were massacred in Peshawar, the Indian Parliament wept, every school in India shed tears at this tragedy. On the other hand we have a situation where some people glorify terrorists in our country,” he said. He added that ever since he had called the Pakistani establishment on its record on human rights abuses in Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK, he had been flooded with messages of gratitude by the people of these areas. “I am grateful to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK who have thanked me in the past few days. If people of Balochistan thank me, they are thanking the 125 crore Indians,” he said.
Making his third address as Prime Minister on Independence Day, Mr. Modi also reflected his concerns with regard to atrocities against Dalits in the recent past, issues he has spoken out against very firmly in the last two weeks. “There is no meaning of economic prosperity if it is not accompanied by social justice,” he said. Quoting sage Ramanujacharya he said, “Sage Ramanujucharya used to say that we must view everyone with the same gaze, B R Ambedkar and Gandhiji also said that same things. If society practices discrimination, it will break social structures. If discrimination appears entrenched, then our determination to fight it must be even stronger,” he said.
In a long speech spanning around 90 minutes, Prime Minister Modi also spoke at length on the record of his government, parsing policy formation, and “intent” (niti and niyat) to show that the NDA government had worked towards turning Swarajya (independence) to Surajya (good governance). He announced that the government will be picking the tab for health care costs of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families for an amount of upto Rs. 1 lakh per household, a major announcement.
Recounting the work of various ministries, like roads and highways, where he said his government had averaged the laying of 100 kilometres of rural roads per day (more than previous governments), and power, where he said that nearly 10,000 villages had been electrified out of a total of 18,000 villages that hadn’t received electricity in the last 70 years, he said, “our mission is to reform, perform and transform.”
He highlighted the Aadhar system of direct benefit transfers of cash as having eliminated middlemen. He described his government as being one surrounded by “aspirations” rather than “allegations” as in the past. “For us too, the temptation to empty government coffers in populist programmes had been great but we did not succumb to it, instead we have found ways of optimising good governance for streamlining delivery and making sure existing programmes work,” he said. “I myself use the Pragati system of monitoring to look at least 1800 policies and programmes of previous governments that had run aground, some money had been spent but the programmes had lapsed due to apathy, we are determined to complete them,” he said.
“Governments are a continuum, I do not blame previous governments, and this continuum is the strength of our system too,” he said.