In a marathon address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today underlined India’s unity and diversity and said the poison of casteism and communal frenzy have no place in the country.
Modi, in his second Independence Day address, focussed largely on the issue of corruption and asserted that the steps taken by his government over the last 15 months to deal with the “termite” had started yielding results.
Responding to opposition criticism that nothing is happening on the problem of black money, he said “some people love to spread pessimism” as he informed that about Rs 6500 cr of undeclared money has been disclosed during the compliance window provided by the government.
He spoke about a number of initiatives to end corruption and bring transparency and proposed doing away with the practice of interview for small jobs, contending that this becomes a route for corruption.
During the 85-minute address, he talked about the much-anticipated ‘One-Rank, One-Pension’, saying the government has “in-principle accepted” it and he was hopeful of a positive outcome of the ongoing discussions which are in the “last stage”.
He mentioned the announcements made during his first Independence Day address last year and said many of them had been implemented in a time-bound manner.
The government programmes are focussed on welfare of the poor and other under privileged sections while ensuring reduction in inflation and efforts to boost growth to double digit, he said.
While talking about efforts for development, Modi made a strong pitch for communal harmony and peace. “The world keeps signing praise about India’s diversity and greatness. Like diversity, the country also has simplicity and unity, which are our capital. These have been nurtured over the centuries. This capital has to be preserved,” he said.
“Be it the poison of casteism or the frenzy of communalism, these have no place in the country and should not be allowed to grow. These ills have to be eradicated through the nectar of development,” he said. Modi said if the unity of India is destroyed, then the “dreams” of the people will also be shattered as the country looking forward to development and progress.
Talking about the issue of corruption which he described as “termite”, the Prime Minister vowed to free the country from this evil “braving all kinds of attacks” on him as he asserted that there is not an allegation of even Re one corruption against his 15-month-old government.
“There is a lot of talk in our country about corruption. It is like a sick person giving suggestions to others on how to remain healthy, there are people who are themselves corrupt, who give suggestions on how to deal with corruption,” he said.
“Giving suggestions to each other is also an art. I want to give an account today…We have not shown our commitment to fight corruption by addressing press conferences. We are working on the ground. We have shown results,” he said.
He said the “termite” had spread but nobody took any action against it over the last 60 years. “There is a requirement of applying injection per square metre for a long time to deal with this termite,” Modi said.
Responding to criticism, he said, “some people love to spread pessimism. It is like an addiction. They cannot get sleep without it. For them, there is no meaning for programmes and initiatives. They keep on saying that nothing is happening, nothing is visible.”
Though he did not name anybody, his remarks assume significance as Rahul Gandhi had only last week in Parliament questioned what had been done on dealing with black money.
Mentioning the new Act made on black money, he said people have been complaining that it is “too tough” a law. “We have received messages that the law is too tough and it should be diluted,” he said, without naming anybody.
Likening it to treating a serious ailment which requires administering strong medicines, he said, “there can be side-effects but the ailment has to be cured.”
He said through the new law, while efforts are being made to bring back black money already stashed abroad, it has at least ensured that nobody dares to take tainted money out of the country.
He said through the compliance window provided by the government, around Rs 6500 crore of undeclared money has already been disclosed. “Is it not fighting corruption?” Contending that a “new atmosphere of confidence” has emerged, the Prime Minister asserted that “India can be free of corruption” and “steps have to begin from the top”, requiring a lot of efforts. “I am determined to do it,” he said.
Talking about steps to deal with corruption and bring about transparency, he mentioned initiatives like Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG, ‘give it up’ campaign for gas subsidy, Jandhan and auction of precious resources like coal, spectrum and radio FM channels.
He referred to coal block auction and said the national exchequer will get Rs 3 lakh crore through it.
“When I mention coal, I appeal to political pundits not to view it politically. When CAG said there was a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, the amount seemed stupendous. But when we went through the auction route, we saw that Rs 3 lakh crore will go to the national exchequer,” Modi said.
He also talked about auctioning of spectrum for telecom purposes.
In this context, he mentioned the auctioning of FM radio channels. “A lot of pressure was put on me. Questions were asked as to why radio channels are being auctioned as they cater to the common people. But I was firm as India wants transparency. Auction inf 80-85 cities has yielded over Rs 1000 crore,” he said.
Talking about efforts for financial inclusion of the poor and marginalised people, he said the time-bound implementation of Jandhan scheme announced by him in last Independence Day address saw 17 crore bank accounts being opened with overall deposit of Rs 20,000 crore.
“All our programmes and institutions should be helpful to the poor. We have to empower them through financial inclusion,” he said.