By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, Aug 15:
In his maiden Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to work for a new and clean India by shedding the “poison” of communalism and making the country the world’s manufacturing hub.
Addressing tens of thousands of cheering people gathered at the Red Fort complex on a bright morning, Modi spoke for over an hour, focussing mainly on nation building and underlining the need to forge national consensus on major issues.
In the process, Modi, 63, who took charge of India May 26, outlined his vision for the country, frankly admitting the faults within and calling on neighbouring countries to team up with India to battle poverty.
He also announced a burial of the Planning Commission, saying it was not needed any more. He said a new institution will take its place.
For the first time in years, there was no reference to Pakistan in the Independence Day address. Indeed, he made no mention to any other country except neighbouring Bhutan and Nepal which he recently visited.
Indians, he said, needed to give up the “poison” of casteism and communalism and added it was a shame that these plagued India even so many years after independence.
“How long will this continue?” he asked, sounding emotive. “We have fought enough, we have killed enough. Turn back and see, has anyone gained anything?”
He said decades of bloodshed had caused deep wounds to “Bharat Mata”, adding there should be no violence for 10 years.
Wearing his trademark white half-sleeve kurta pyjama with a polka-dotted flaming orange turban, Modi reached the 17th century Red Fort after paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat.
Before beginning the speech, Modi — in a departure from convention — took salute from the armed forces. He spoke mostly extempore, occasionally looking down for a peek at his notes.
Asking the world to “Come, Make in India!”, Modi urged global investors to make this country a manufacturing hub.
“I tell the world, Make in India! Sell anywhere but manufacture here. We have the skill and talent.”
He said it should be every Indian’s dream to see “Made in India” products around the world — green friendly and with zero defects.
Reiterating his dream to make India a clean place, Modi asked: “Do we want to live in filth?”
He said India should become clean and hygienic by 2019 — the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a staunch believer in cleanliness.
Modi made special reference to women’s safety and the girl child.
Despairing over India’s skewed sex ratio, he told Indians to end female foeticide. “I appeal to parents not to sacrifice the girl child.”
Modi added: “Our heads hang in shame when we hear news about rape.”
Dubbed by critics as a divisive personality, the prime minister underlined the need to take everyone along. “Let us walk together, think together, and make a determination to take ahead the nation together.”
Lending a personal touch, the prime minister hailed Indian democracy for allowing a person from “a poor family, an ordinary family” to assume the country’s top post.
“I stand before you today not as the prime minister but as the Pradhan Sevak (Chief Public Servant).” The remark, made at the start of his speech, drew thunderous applause.
Modi also called himself “an outsider to Delhi. But an outsider came to Delhi and got an insider view (of the administration)”.