The Prime Minister addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Wednesday, the last Independence Day before he returns to the people for a fresh mandate, devoted most of his time listing what all the Government had done in last four-plus years. It was a dhobi list of big and small things meant to ameliorate the condition of the underprivileged and to set the economy on the path to robust recovery. He reiterated his commitment to sabka saath, sabka viaks, citing the tremendous work done in taking the benefits of development to the poor.
Housing, power, clean water, cooking gas, connectivity, sanitation, etc, were all meant to restore ‘dignity of the poor which was as important as economic growth’. Modi hammered home the theme of development, and said that his government had single-mindedly devoted itself to this task and achieved far more in the last four years than previous governments had done in decades. “I have experienced since 2014 that people had not just come forward to form a government but for nation-building. We are proud of what we have achieved and at the same time, we also have to look at where we have come from. That is when we will realise the remarkable strides the nation has made.” As if to drive him the point, he said that at the pace toilets were made in 2013, the last year of the UPA, it would take us decades more to complete them. In a similar vein, he compared and contrasted the speed at which the villages were electrified by the previous governments or the subsidised LPG cylinders were given to the poor households, especially in the rural areas. Aware of the Opposition propaganda, the PM said the recent monsoon session of Parliament was devoted to the empowerment of Dalits and other backward castes, mentioning the constitutional status given to the backward castes commission.
As if to nail the lie that he had not spoken against the vigilante violence, the PM emphasised that the rule of law alone was supreme and nobody had any right to take the law into his own hands. Given the recent failure of the Government to pass the Bill against the practice of triple talaq, an issue that feeds well into the BJP’s electoral narrative, Modi noted how certain elements were bent on defending this anti-women practice, but he committed himself to end the injustice to Muslim women. On the incidents of rape, the PM backed the death penalty for the crime and noted how a rapist in Madhya Pradesh was recently hanged by a fast-track court. Probably the biggest announcement concerned about the launch of the Ayushman Bharat health scheme, which is to be inaugurated on 25th September which happens to be the birth anniversary of the BJP’s mascot Deen Dayal Upadhyay. This scheme could be a game-changer should it take off ahead of the parliamentary poll next year. Providing a modicum of health insurance through a country-wide network of basic dispensaries might be an arduous task, involving a huge infrastructure of medical centres for a cluster of villages, rising up to district and state level facilities, and entails a huge outlay of funds, but the objective is laudable and, given ample time, even attainable.
Since it was his fifth and last I-Day address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort, it was okay for him to quote from the recent reports of the IMF and the World Bank to reassure the people that the economy was on the right track. It was set to grow the fastest in the world in the next three decades. Such confidence was possible because his government was capable of taking bold decisions and undertake reforms such as the GST, the insolvency law, the benami property law, etc. He had freed the government from the baneful effect of crony capitalists and in a telling sentence claimed that the ‘streets of Delhi are free from powerbrokers and middlemen’. He reiterated the resolve to punish the corrupt and to attack the black money in the system. He also touched upon Kashmir and the North-East in his 85-mintue report-card to the nation, exuding confidence that the economy, the sixth largest in the world, would attain a higher position if it continued on the right track. All in all, an encouraging performance report.