By SM.15 Aug, 2019
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the nation on Independence Day today, announced a Chief of Defence Staff post to oversee the tri-services, a "Jal Jeevan mission" to provide water for all and an investment of Rs. 100 lakh crore in infrastructure.
He also defended seismic decisions made by his government within 10 weeks of its second term, including the end of special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a ban on triple talaq or instant divorce.
Dwelling on the theme of a "New India", PM Modi also, for the first time, expressed concern on what he called the "population explosion" in India, and said those who had limited their family to only two children were true patriots and deserved respect. The government"s mega "Article 370" move was the headliner of the Prime Minister"s 92-minute speech from the 17th century Red Fort in Delhi.
"One Nation, One Constitution - this spirit has become a reality and India is proud of it," he said, declaring that the decisions to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories were a fulfilment of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel"s dream of a unified India.
Asserting that his administration was not one to let problems like Article 370 fester, he targeted the Congress and said: "Those who speak in support of Article 370, the nation asks them, if it was so essential and life-changing, if you had the conviction, then for 70 years, why did it remain temporary, why did you not use your large mandates to make it permanent?"
The Congress and other parties have not just accused the government of blindsiding the opposition with the Kashmir decisions but also imposing an unprecedented security lockdown in the state where several politicians have been kept under arrest, movement has been severely restricted and phone and internet connections suspended.
PM Modi also spoke about the triple talaq ban, saying: "If we can take steps against "sati", female foeticide, child marriage and dowry, then why not against instant triple talaq?"
Addressing his sixth straight Independence Day speech after being re-elected to office with a huge mandate earlier this year, PM Modi stayed with his trademark multi-coloured safa (turban with a long trail) and white kurta look for the occasion.
One of his major announcements in the speech was the creation of a new defence post recommended after the Kargil war of 1999 but stalled for two decades. The move would "sharpen coordination" between the Army, Navy and Air Force, he said.
In his second term, PM Modi faces a number of challenges that include lack of jobs, a wobbling economy and farm distress. He said the government planned to spend Rs. 3.5 lakh crore to bring piped water to every home and spend Rs. 100 lakh crore on building infrastructure.
"It is unfortunate that so many people lack access to water even 70 years after independence," he said.
Commenting that Indians today were no longer content with mediocrity, he said: "The period between 2014 and 2019 was about fulfilling people"s needs. Now is the time to meet their aspirations and dreams."
He said reforms would continue 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 $5 trillion in five years may seem difficult. But in five years, we added $1 trillion as compared to $2 trillion achieved in 70 years of independence, then this target is achievable," he said.