Independence Day: PM Modi talks about Kashmir, pushes for population control measures, 'one-nation one-election'
(Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

New Delhi: In his first Independence Day address after returning to power with a bigger mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to spearhead the three services, called for measures to check "population explosion" and gave a fresh push to the idea of 'one nation, one election'.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort, Modi pitched abrogation of Article 370 as a step towards 'one nation, one Constitution', saying a new approach was needed as the special provision for Jammu and Kashmir failed to yield desired results in 70 years. His nearly 95-minute-long address was marked by a host of significant announcements as the prime minister said his government in the second term will work towards fulfilling the people's aspirations and dreams after meeting their needs in the last five years.

Modi also touched upon a host of other issues including tackling terrorism, corruption, poverty, environment and ease of living. With his government facing criticism for increasing taxes for the affluent class, Modi sought to assuage them, saying those creating wealth must be respected as wealth distribution can happen only when wealth is created. In his sixth consecutive Independence Day address, Modi also announced roll out of 'Jal Jivan' mission to provide piped drinking water to all households and said his government will spend Rs 3.5 lakh crore for it.

Donning a colourful safa, the prime minister referred to BJP's big win in the general election and said his government's return to power showed as to how despair had given way to hope with people believing that the country can change for the better after seeing his dispensation's first five years of work. "The period between 2014-19 was about fulfilling people's needs. Now is the time to meet their aspirations and dreams," he said.

Announcing the major step of appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, a recommendation made after the Kargil war, Modi said it will ensure synergy among the three services and provide effective leadership to them. "Our government has decided to have a Chief of Defence Staff- CDS. It will help all three services to walk together as the country can no longer afford to work in silos," Modi said, adding India has to keep pace with the changing world.

A high-level committee set up to examine the gaps in the country's security system in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999 had called for appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff as a single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister. A group of ministers that analysed required reforms in the national security system had also favoured appointing a chief of defence staff. The prime minister said his government has taken several key steps since coming to power less than 10 weeks back and cited the law against instant triple talaq, making stringent provisions in law on sexual crimes against children and reforming medical education sector.

"If we can take steps against 'Sati' custom, female foeticide, child marriage and dowry, then why not against instant triple talaq," he asked justifying decision to abolish triple talaq. On revoking provisions of Article 370 and Article 35(A) in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, "We neither nurse problems nor let them fester." "Why didn't those who are supporting Article 370 make it a permanent provision for Jammu and Kashmir. Why did they keep it as a temporary measure," he said.

Raising the issue of simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assemblies, he said discussions should now be held on 'one-nation one-election' as it is imperative to make the country "great". On Goods and Services Tax, he said it brought to life the dream of 'one nation, one tax'. Voicing concern over "population explosion", the prime minister said it leads to many difficulties and there was need for the Centre as well as state governments to launch schemes to tackle it.

Modi said people should be more aware about the issue and ensure that they are able to fulfil the needs of the children they are bringing to this world. Talking about making people's lives easier, he said his priority was to ensure 'ease of living' with government having minimal role in people's lives. "Let our people have the freedom of pursuing their own aspirations, let the right eco-system be made in this regard," he said. Modi said his government will invest a massive Rs 100 lakh crore on developing modern infrastructure that will aid in nearly doubling the size of the Indian economy to USD 5 trillion in the next five years.

He said reforms will continue to be ushered in to help India break into top 50 countries on the 'ease of doing business' ranking. "To some the target of nearly doubling the size of Indian economy to USD 5 trillion in five years may seem difficult. But when we have in five years (of BJP rule) added USD 1 trillion as compared to USD 2 trillion size achieved in 70 years of independence, then this target is achievable," he said.

Modi said political stability through a massive mandate for his government alongside predictable policy provides a unique opportunity for India to grow. "The country shouldn't lose this opportunity," he said adding that his government has provided high growth while keeping inflation at low rate.

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