Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his second Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, highlighted his 15-month-old government’s achievements in a speech that lasted for almost two hours.
From ending black money to ensuring every school in the country has toilets, the Prime Minister said his government has done much to fulfill the promises it made since coming to power.
Terming the progress of the country in the last year as the hard work of ‘Team India’, the Prime Minister said it was achievable only because of the efforts of 125 crore Indians.
However, this year’s speech saw few announcements being made by the Prime Minister specially on the issue of One Rank One Pension, where ex-servicemen have been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar seeking a final implementation date. Here are the top highlights of the PM’s speech:
One Rank One Pension
Pending for over 40 years, PM Modi once again reiterated his government’s commitment to the scheme saying there was an ‘in-principle’ approval by his government but that talks are still on.
“The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ came up in front on every government. Some even made small promises, but the issue could not be solved. I assure the servicemen and I am saying it under the tricolour from the Red Fort, that we have accepted OROP. Some talks are still on. The way the talks are going on I am expecting something positive.”
But his words failed to impress the hundreds of ex-servicemen protesting at Jantar Mantar. “Why is it taking him so long? Why can’t the government just give us a date. This is going on for 45 years. What is holding on its implementation?” angry protesters said, speaking to NDTV, when asked what they thought about the PM’s address.
“We reject the Prime Minister’s assurance. Are we not part of Team India?” another protester at the venue said.
Modi first made an assurance of implementing the scheme in his first election rally at Rewari in September 2013. In May this year, celebrating his government’s first anniversary, ex-servicemen expected Modi to make the announcement, but he didn’t.
Perhaps the biggest political issue before storming to power 15 months ago, PM Modi highlighted the issue of black money once again, saying his government was committed to putting an end to it with tough legislation, but failed to provide any concrete assurances.
“We took a lot of steps within such a short time, we formed a SIT under SC’s guidance the day we took over,” he said, claming that “nobody dares to send black money abroad now”. “We have worked hard on our black money promise. We have reached agreements with many nations who can provide us information about black money,” he said.
“Kuch log kale dhan ke khilaf hamare kanoon se pareshaan hain, Kabhi kabhi jab bimaari badi hoti toh aise injection ki zarurat padti hai” (Some people are worried about the black money law. Sometimes, there’s a need to inject such medicine).
But his own party leaders have indicated that the issue of black money was not going to be solved any time soon. BJP chief Amit Shah had termed the ‘promises’ made by the BJP of recovering black money in 100 days and depositing Rs 15 lakh in each person’s account, as political jumlas.
Then a vocal BJP supporter, senior Supreme Court lawyer Ram Jethmalani had also criticised the Modi government’s attempts to bringing back black money, terming them “worse than an illusion” and a “fraud on the nation”.
Having faced continuous protests in Parliament over allegations of corruption in his government as well as state government’s where his party is in power, Prime Minister Modi rejected the claims vowing to fulfill his promise of wiping out corruption from the country.
“There is no allegation of corruption of even a single rupee in our 15 month government,” Modi said.
Throughout his speech, the Prime Minister brought up the issue of corruption even choosing to refer to it as a ‘termite’ that needs treatment. “The country can be freed of corruption. We must start from the top. Corruption is like a termite. You have to inject medicine every square metre to treat it.”
Modi highlighted how various initiatives of the government had helped in the elimination of middlemen. He said that in the last year, the CBI had registered 1800 cases against corruption, as against 800 in the year before that.
Jan Dhan Yojana
Recalling his commitment last year to provide the poor with financial security, PM Modi today said his government achieved the target set to bring the poor under the scheme by Republic Day this year.
Over 20,000 crore has been deposited in accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech, adding that over 17 crore people have opened accounts.
“Setting up banks is an easy task but getting people to deposit money is not easy,” Modi said, adding that he had seen the “richness of the poor” as they had deposited Rs 20,000 crore under the scheme despite the option of having zero bank balance. “I bow to them,” he said.
The government even managed to set a Guinness World Record by opening 1,80,96,130 in one week.
Start-Up India, Stand-Up India
Like every Modi speech, this one, too, had catch phrases. The Prime Minister announced his government’s commitment to backing the entrepreneur culture in the country.
“We have to give the youth opportunities to grow and be industrialists and entrepreneurs. We want a startup network to be established in India… Start UP India, Stand Up India.”
“We are looking at systems for enabling start-ups. We must be Number 1 in start-ups,” Modi said, adding “I want all bank branches in India to contribute to the startup revolution. All bank branches should work to provide finances to tribals and Dalits and at least one woman entrepreneur so that they can be entrepreneurs of the future.”
Before speaking about coal, the Prime Minister urged political pundits not to give his comments a political twist, saying Independence Day was not the time to target political rivals.
The Prime Minister, however, went on to suggest that the previous UPA government had caused a loss of over 1 lakh crore due to an unfair method of coal allocation.
“When the CAG said that the country had lost Rs 1,74,000 crore due to unfair coal block allocations, I was stumped. I used to talk about it during speeches but I thought, it couldn’t be that much.
“However, when we came to power, we were shocked. We immediately ordered the re-auction of coal blocks. The government has made Rs 3 lakh crore from the fair auction of coal blocks this time.”