Address to nation on 76th I-Day: PM says women’s power key to national progress, flags nepotism and corruption

IDENTIFYING CORRUPTION and nepotism as the key challenges for the next 25 years in India’s journey to mark 100 years since Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that there is a need to take “corrective steps” in time before these twin threats become “formidable”.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the 76th Independence Day, the Prime Minister also called for a resolve to respect women. “It hurts me to say that we have witnessed a perversion in our day-to-day speech, behaviour.

We have been casually using language and words that are insulting to women. Can we not pledge to get rid of everything in our behaviour, culture and everyday life that humiliates and demeans women? The pride of women will be a huge asset in fulfilling the dreams of the nation. I see this women’s power (“naari shakti”) and therefore I insist on it,” he said.

He laid out five key resolutions, which he called the “Panch Pran”, including the “big resolution” of making India a developed country.

Detailing the challenges that the country faces in the period leading to the centenary year, Modi said, “I do not want to discuss everything but would definitely want to focus on two issues. One is corruption and the other is nepotism (“bhai-bhatijawad”) and the dynasty system (“parivarwad”)…If we do not take corrective steps in time, these can become formidable.”

In his 82-minute speech, which started at 7.35 am, the Prime Minister also spoke about a range of other key issues that, he said, need to be addressed: self-reliance (“Atmanirbhar Bharat”); need for innovation (“anusandhaan”); cleansing (“shuddhikaran”) of politics and institutions from a “family mentality”; ensuring cooperative federalism that is also competitive; and, respect for women.

His “Panch Pran” included making India a developed country by 2047; abandoning the mentality of servitude; taking pride in the country’s heritage; ensuring unity and solidarity; and, performing the duty of citizens.

Modi said the occasion is also “an opportunity to also solemnly acknowledge” the debt of those who fought for India’s freedom and “pledge to fulfil their dreams at the earliest with deep resolve”. Listing several personalities in this context, he said: “All the countrymen are deeply indebted to Pujya Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi), Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Veer Savarkar, who devoted all their life on the path of duty towards the nation.”

Modi also invoked the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru while listing the “great men” who “fought the war of independence and built the country after independence” — “like Dr Rajendra Prasad ji, Nehru ji, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Deendayal Upadhyay, Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Nanaji Deshmukh, Subramania Bharathi”.

Even so, a sizable part of the speech — his ninth from Red Fort as Prime Minister — was devoted to tackling corruption and nepotism.

Asserting that India’s fight against corruption was entering a “decisive period”, Modi said “even bigwigs will not be spared”. “In a country like India where people are fighting poverty… on one side, there are people who do not have a place to live, on the other side, there are people who do not have a place to keep their ill-gotten money,” he said.

“This is not an ideal condition. Therefore, we have to fight against corruption with full vigour,” Modi said, adding that the Government has been successful in working for the betterment of the country by saving Rs 2 lakh crore, which used to “go to the wrong hands”, by using modern systems like Direct Benefit Transfer and Aadhaar.

“Those who fled the country after looting banks during the tenure of the previous government, we have seized their property and are trying to get them back. Some have been forced to go behind bars,” he said.

Corruption, he said, is hollowing the country like termites. “It is our effort that those who have looted the country are forced to return (the loot). We are trying to create that situation… With this attitude, India is marching in a decisive period against corruption,” he said.

Striking a personal note, Modi said, “I have to fight against it, intensify the fight and have to take it to a decisive point. So, my 130 crore countrymen, please bless me and support me. Today I have come to seek your support and cooperation so that I can fight this battle… The lives of ordinary citizens have been ruined by corruption. So, I want to make sure that ordinary citizens are once again able to live with dignity.”

Without naming any entity or individual, the Prime Minister said that it is “a matter of great concern that although abhorrence of corruption in the country is visible and expressed, sometimes generosity is shown towards the corrupt, which is not acceptable in any country”.

He said, “And many people have been so shameless that despite being convicted in court, having been proved corrupt, having been sentenced to imprisonment, while still serving time in jail, they continue to glorify, take pride and continue to elevate their status.”

“Such mentality will not change”, he said, “unless we develop hatred towards corruption and the corrupt, until we relegate these people to social shaming”.

Moving on to the other key challenge, Modi said, “When I talk about nepotism, people think that I am only talking about politics. No, unfortunately that evil in the political field has nurtured nepotism in every institution of India.”

Against the backdrop of India finishing fourth in the Commonwealth Games, he said, “It is not that our sons and daughters, the youth of India, are not achieving anything in the world of sports. But sadly they have been pushed out due to the nepotism channel. The ones that qualified to reach the competition in other countries were least bothered about winning medals for the country. But when transparency was reinstated, selection was on merit and talent was honoured on playgrounds. It is a moment of pride today to see the Tricolor flying high and the national anthem reverberating at stadiums globally.”

Hitting out at dynasty politics, Modi said it “is aimed at the welfare of a family only and doesn’t care about the welfare of the country”. “Aaiyee, Hindustan ki rajneeti ke shuddhikaran aur sabhi sansthaon ki shuddhi ke liye kadam badhayen (Come, let’s move forward and clean India’s politics and institutions),” he said.

The Prime Minister also stressed on the need for the country to set its own standards. “The slave mentality has to be abandoned. How long will the world continue to give certificates to us? How long will we live on the certificates of the world? Shall we not set our own standards? Can a country of 130 crore not make an effort to exceed its own standards?”

Discussing the Government’s focus on “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, Modi said, “We have to become self-reliant in the energy sector.” In this context, he emphasised on the need for innovation, adding “Jai Anusandhaan” to the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” which he said was the “inspirational call” of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to which “Jai Vigyan” was added by former prime minister A B Vajpayee. “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhaan,” he said.

Speaking about the principle of federalism, Modi said, “Our dreams are bound to be realised if we walk shoulder to shoulder… Programmes may differ, working styles may differ, but resolutions can’t differ, dreams for a nation cannot be different… There are many states of our country, which have played a great role in taking the country forward, have led and worked as examples in many fields. This gives strength to our federalism. But today the need of the hour is that we need cooperative federalism as well as cooperative competitive federalism. We need competition for development.”