Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 74th Independence Day speech, and his seventh consecutive one from the ramparts of the Red Fort, looked back at what has been achieved and also gave a comprehensive view of the government’s focus in the time to come.
Today’s speech was expected to be on par with his earlier ones — and his 86-minute speech was a prime example of Modi’s oratorical skills. What made today’s speech challenging is the unprecedented crisis faced by India, and the world. A pandemic-induced health and economic crisis has meant that the government is facing multiple challenges, the economy is in choppy waters, and public morale is down. In such a circumstance, it’s up to the political leadership to boost public confidence — and Modi just did that!
Modi started his speech with his signature salutation “Mere Pyare Desh Wasiyon” — which he used 13 times throughout his speech — and went on to talk about the importance of Independence Day and the sacrifice behind it. He linked the battle against COVID-19 to it, and thanked everyone, especially the frontline workers, for their service.
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In his speech, the Prime Minister talked about peace and harmony, agriculture, the space sector, economy, banking, infrastructure, villages, education, connectivity, technology, healthcare, security and defence. These are topics that usually find mention in Independence Day speeches — however, what was different this time was that these different topics were brought under one roof, a goal which formed the central theme of Modi’s speech — Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
Since May 12, when Modi first introduced the concept of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat or a self-reliant India, the government has been working towards realigning its policies to strengthen this move.
Modi stressed on the importance of being self-reliant. He neatly balanced the need to modernise and advance technologically, and at the same time use it to further enhance India’s age-old traditions and ways of life. He made a direct case for self-reliance when he asked ‘for how long will India sell raw materials and import finished goods’! Modi said that relying on imports was reducing creativity and discouraging budding entrepreneurs.
He said that going forward the mantra ‘vocal for local’ must be a motto for every Indian, because only then can Indian products improve, be exported and compete at a global level. His call for ‘Make in India’ to expand to become ‘Make for the world’ is an extension of the government’s focus on improving India’s manufacturing prowess.
India is celebrating 73 years of freedom at a time when ties with its contiguous neighbours are sour. The fatal standoff at the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh is still fresh in our minds, and Modi reiterated that be it the Line of Control on the western side or the Line of Actual Control on the eastern side, the armed forces have replied to attacks in a befitting manner. What’s interesting here is that Modi focused on the development and reforms that his government has planned for the region. He stressed that India was planning of improving the road infrastructure from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. This was a clear indicator that the government is not in two minds about its plan to strengthen India’s borders.
Modi did not mention Pakistan or China by name, but effective communication is achieved when the intended message is conveyed. His focus on India’s neighbourhood, extended neighbourhood, India’s deep ties with South East Asia, the ASEAN, etc. sent out clear messages.
Towards the end of his speech, Modi mentioned the temple in Ayodhya and this could have probably raised eyebrows. However, the Prime Minister deftly used it as an example to show the unity and brotherhood among the people — and said that it was this unity that will be the strength behind an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
Modi’s Independence Day speech did not fixate about the challenges India is facing, but, instead, highlighted the opportunities ahead of each Indian. For these opportunities to materialise, he stressed that we need to reduce our imports, promote MSMEs, empower our youth, women, tribals, villages, and be ‘vocal for local’. As he said, if a youngster is expected to be independent by their 20s, it’s high time India at 74 became aatmanirbhar.