Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that "One Nation, One Constitution" has become a reality with the repeal of Article 370 and announced an "important" military reform by the creation of post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in his first Independence Day speech of his second term in the office.

In his over 90-minute speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on 73rd Independence Day, Modi touched the issue of "population explosion", talked of triple talaq legislation, targeted Pakistan on terrorism and exhorted people to work with dedication to create a new India while noting that incremental progress was not enough to transform the country and there was a need for giant strides.

Modi, who returned to power with a greater majority in this year's Lok Sabha elections, announced that the government will spend Rs 3.5 lakh crore on Jal Jeevan Mission that aims to provide tapped water to every household by 2024.

A sum of Rs 100 lakh crore had been earmarked for developing modern infrastructure which will boost jobs. In steps apparently aimed at boosting domestic demand, he urged people to visit 15 tourist places in the country before 2022 and to give priority to "Made in India" products.

Modi said while his government's first term was a period to fulfill the needs of people, the period beyond 2019 is for "fulfillment of aspirations and dreams". Prime Minister Modi also pushed for a simultaneous poll to assemblies and Lok Sabha.

He said India will become an open-defecation-free (ODF) nation on Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2 and asked the countrymen to pledge to make India free from single-use plastic by the date.

He said some people can find the goal of India becoming a US dollar five trillion economy in five years "difficult" and they cannot be wrong but "if we do not do difficult work, how will the country progress." "We should keep goals high," he said.

Referring to the government's decision to repeal Article 370 which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, he said it encouraged corruption, nepotism, separatism, discrimination and there was injustice when it came to rights of women, children, Dalits, tribal communities.

"If this (provision) was so important or life-changing, why was this Article not made permanent? Why did you let it remain temporary? After all, those people had huge mandates and could have easily removed its temporary status of Article 370," he said, targeting the Congress.

Modi said within 10 weeks of returning to power, his government took key decisions including repeal of Article 370, ban on the practice of Triple Talaq and anti-terror laws to fulfill the aspirations of the people.

Repealing of Article 370 and Article 35A were steps towards fulfilling Sardar Patel's dream of a strong and united India, he said. "The task that was not done in the last 70 years has been accomplished within 70 days," he said.

Referring to the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, he said they can become role models for peace and prosperity and contribute significantly to India's development. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, the other Union Territory will be Ladakh.

He attacked Pakistan for "supporting and exporting" terrorism while outlining the need for all global powers to come together to fight against the menace. He stated that his government's policy for eradicating terrorism was firm and clear.

"Different parts of the world are struggling with conflicts and security crisis. For world peace, India has to play its role. India cannot stay as a mute spectator. We all must come together to identify those who support or breed terrorism. We are committed to fighting against terrorism," he said, adding that India was strongly fighting against those who were spreading terrorism.

Without taking any name, he said some people have troubled not only India but also our neighbours through terrorism. "Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka are also affected by terrorism. All countries in the world need to come together to fight this menace."

Modi announced a major reform concerning higher defence management with the creation of a new post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for better coordination among Army, Navy and the Air Force.

He said the changing nature of war and technology-driven systems require the Army, Navy and Air Force to move forward together and cohesively in their modernisation efforts.

"Today when a technology-driven system is developing, it will not work to think in parts. Our entire military force has to move forward together. One is ahead in land, sea, air and the other a step behind and the third two steps behind, this will not work.

"The three have to move together on one plane. The coordination should be good, according to the expectation of people and according to the changing nature of war and security in the world.

"Keeping this in mind, I want to make an important announcement from the Red Fort. The experts have also been making a demand for a long time. We have decided today that we will make provision for Chief of Defence Staff. After its formation, the three forces will get effective leadership at the top," he said.

Noting that population explosion can create new problems especially for the future generations, he said there was also an enlightened section of society which is aware of this challenge. "We have to ponder on this issue taking along all the sections of the society," he said.

Modi said fundamentals of the economy were strong and reforms such as GST (Goods and Services Tax) and IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) have created a new faith and prices were under control.

The Prime Minister asserted that his government had acted with speed in the first few weeks of its office, taking some historical decisions, and urged people to work tirelessly to create a New India in an enabling environment.

He urged shopkeepers to place placards urging customers not to expect plastic bags and said people should gift cloth bags on Diwali.

Pushing for digital payments, he suggested that shopkeepers should display board -- `Yes, to digital payment, No to cash.' He urged farmers to take care of soil health and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers. "When Gandhiji has already shown us the path, can't we reduce by 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent use of chemical fertilizers," he said.

PM Modi said GST achieved the dream of 'One Nation, One Tax' and the government also worked towards 'One Nation, One Grid' and 'One Nation, One Mobility Card' system and there was discussion in the country for 'One Nation, One Poll'.

He said his government has taken steps to fight corruption and nepotism and pushed for ease of living and building an eco-system where there is less government interference in the daily life of people.

Noting that the country will observer 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022, he said farmers' income should double, every poor should get a house, every family should get electricity connection and every village should have optical fibre network and broadband connectivity besides the facility of long-distance education.

He said farmers should become exporters and every district of the country should be an export hub. "Value-added goods from every district should reach global markets," he said.

Modi said wealth creators should not be seen with suspicion. "Our priority should be a 'Made in India' product. For a better tomorrow, can we think of consuming local products and also help improve rural economy and the MSME sector," he said.

He called for steps to enhance the self-respect of the poor and making them capable. Modi began his speech by conveying his good wishes on Raksha Bandhan and also conveying his concern over the loss of life and property in floods.

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