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Modi’s I-Day speech: Looking back at the hits and misses

Modi’s I-Day speech reviewed last year’s promises but held back big announcements.

editorials Updated: Aug 17, 2015 02:17 IST
Independence Day
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 69th Independence Day celebration in New Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT Photo)

If anyone expected dramatic announcements, not unrealistic given his flair for flourishes, they must have been disappointed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to use his Independence Day speech to make assurances and do a substantial amount of stocktaking.

The one issue that has become a talking point is the ‘one rank one pension’ for armed forces veterans, on which he has stated his commitment in principle but refused to put a dateline to the demand.

This was perhaps a realistic move, given that the matter is complex and has huge financial implications.

What Mr Modi did do was to revisit many of the schemes he announced in his maiden speech last year, among them those for the inclusion of the poor and marginalised.

Mr Modi spoke of including the poor in wealth generation and given the dire state of our agricultural sector, he also focused substantially on schemes for the kisan — though announcing a change in the name of the agriculture ministry was somewhat needless.

Promising bank loans for start-ups for Tribals, Dalits and women was a new dimension that he added this year.

He went further saying that he intended to make India a start-up hub, giving us the new slogan: Start-up India, Stand-up India.

The one area where the NDA government can claim success is in the progress of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, announced last year. The PM’s report card tells us that 425,000 toilets have been built in 262,000 schools.

This will have a dramatic effect on enrolment and retention, especially for the girl child.

Special schemes for miners, power for all villages in 1,000 days and the effect of the Jan Dhan Yojana were all promises on which he will have to deliver at least partially before his next Independence Day speech.

His tough talk on black money is in keeping with his campaign speech, though the actual realisation of Rs 6,500 crore through a compliance window hardly touches the surface of the problem.

Throughout his speech, the point he seemed most exercised about was corruption, which he said has come down in his tenure and would be wiped out along with casteism and communalism.

But the surprise was that despite a lot of talk of Team India, he did not use the occasion to reach out to the Opposition to work with his government for the greater common good.

This might have defused some of the tension and bitterness between the government and the Opposition in recent months.

Perhaps the burden of expectations will leave many feeling a little shortchanged.

But, Mr Modi’s speech provides a realistic picture of how tough it is to translate assurances into actuality.