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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day Speech

August 18, 2015

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden Independence Day speech last year was meant to break the monotony of convention – to give an unambiguous message of change to the countrymen from the nation’s biggest stage. However, his second address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort this year was a mix of stock-taking exercise and the roadmap ahead.

Modi's Independence Day speech

Just at a time when much is at stake for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the ensuing Bihar elections, and where again Modi is the front, the Prime Minister’s thrust on issues concerning farmers’ welfare in no uncertain terms addressed the electorates in agrarian Bihar.

Consider that the Prime Minister devoted almost one-tenth of his speech to the farmers. A very significant announcement was the changing the nomenclature of the ‘Ministry of Agriculture’ to the “Ministry of Farmer Welfare’ – “Agricultural growth is as important as the welfare of farmers. Only talking about agricultural development is incomplete for rural life style and for agriculture based livelihood. That will become complete, when the welfare of the farmer is also linked.

The Prime Minister touched almost all aspects of agrarian economy and dwelled in detail on his government’s policies in his speech — “My farmer brothers and sisters, last year we had deficient rainfall… We were still able to curb the price rise… we need drastic changes in the agriculture sector… The farmers need water and electricity and we are working towards their availability…In the recent past, when our crops got damaged due to hailstorm, we increased the compensation enormously. Such an increase has never been witnessed in the past 60 years…”

He talked in detail on his government’s move to compensate farmers even when he incurred 30 per cent loss. He pointed out how earlier farmers were entitled to such compensation only if they suffered at least 50 per cent loss. He spoke about the government’s decision to pump in Rs. 50,000 crore in ‘Pradhaan Mantri Krishi Sinchaai Yojna’. He highlighted his government’s achievement in addressing last year’s deficient rainfall that affected the economy “as well as our farmers. We were still able to curb the price rise”.

Similarly, he spoke on the government’s decision for ‘Neem-coating” of urea – “In our country, urea worth millions and billions of rupees is allocated in the names of farmers, but 15, 20 or 25 per cent of this urea is diverted to the chemical factories as raw material. Allocated in the names of farmers, this urea is pilfered through the middlemen. This pilferage of urea cannot be stopped unless we go for cent per cent “Neem-Coating” of urea. Therefore, irrespective of the burden caused to the exchequer, we have accomplished the task of doing hundred per cent “Neem-Coating” of urea.”

He elaborated, “However, we need drastic changes in the agriculture sector. The cultivable land is shrinking; it is getting divided between families and pieces of land are getting smaller. The fertility and productivity of our agricultural land must increase. The farmers need water and electricity and we are working towards their availability. We have decided to pump in fifty thousand crore rupees in ‘Pradhaan Mantri Krishi Sinchaai Yojna’. How will the water reach the farms? Water will have to be saved. We have to launch a movement in our agricultural sector with the mantra of “Save Water, Save Energy, and Save Fertilizers”. Hence, “Per drop more crop” is our watchword; each drop of water can contribute towards producing more crop and hence successful farming. We have moved in the direction of spending funds to take this cause further.

Obviously, Bihar matters the most to Modi particularly after the drubbing that the BJP had got at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi assembly elections in February this year. He had this in mind when he said: “…India cannot develop till the eastern part of the country develops… India cannot be said to be developing only on the basis of the development of the western parts of the country. India will move ahead only when our eastern Uttar Pradesh becomes prosperous, our Bihar becomes strong…” He spelt out his government’s focus “on eastern India” whether it is “a matter of infrastructure or of rail connectivity or of digital connectivity…” He also referred to the revival of four urea fertilizer plants, one of them in Barauni in Bihar, which were shut down in eastern India. “Youth of these states were unemployed and farmers were in distress…we are working to provide employment to the youth and fertilizers to the farmers.

Considering the poverty in the ‘BIMARU’ state –Modi was severely criticised by the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for referring to Bihar as a BIMARU state in a recent election rally in the state – Modi promised in his I-Day speech that “our dream is to provide wholesome meals to the poorest of the poor”.

A significant aspect of Modi’s I-Day speech was his continued reference to “team India” and the “sava sau crore” (1.25 crore) Indians. He credited “Team India” for all the ‘feats’ of the government and sought every Indian’s cooperation towards achieving milestones in the future. He asked all 6 lakh villages to make resolutions for their development to be accomplished before the platinum jubilee of India’s Independence.

It may be mentioned that in his last year’s address, Modi had given calls for “swachh bharat”, “digital India”, building public toilets and separate lavatories for girl students in schools, and announced schemes such as “Jan Dhan Yojana”. Claiming all these campaigns were a huge success, he gave a new call for “Start Up India, Stand Up India”.

With the monsoon session of Parliament virtually being a washout over the issue of corruption, Modi declared from the ramparts of the Red Fort that not a single charge of corruption was levelled against his government. He went on to highlight the steps that his government had actually taken to check corruption, subtly hitting out at the Congress party for the corrupt practices that had spread like a malady. He talked about the ways to tackle corruption such as Direct Benefit Transfer Schemes including voluntary abdication of LPG subsidy, a unique ID to let poor, migrating workers of the unorganised sector access their money from banks across India and more effective implementation of MGNREGA. He pointed out at the successful open auctioning of some of the coal blocks out of overall 200 blocks,whose allocation the Supreme Court had declared null and void last year. In the same breath, he announced the successful bidding for FM station bandwidths “despite a lot of pressure on me to look at this as a means of modest income”.

Yet the prime minister did sound tentative on issues such as the issue of “One Rank, One Pension”, which successive governments have failed to address. Modi did little more than assure the retired military officers that his government is committed to OROP in principle. He left the problem unexplained. Yet on the contentious issue of black money, he sounded more emphatic when he announced a slew of measures such as direct subsidy linking LPG subsidy to bank account.

One thing was clear. Modi was again at his oratorical best what if his speech exceeded two hours!

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