Poverty alleviation, farmers’ welfare and financial inclusion: These were key themes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address from the Red Fort as India celebrated the 69th year of its freedom.
In the wake of critics claiming the recent land acquisition ordinance to be “anti-farmer” and with backward, largely agrarian Bihar going to the polls months from now, Modi dealt at length with the interests of the bottom of India’s social pyramid. The BJP has in recent weeks accepted many changes suggested to the land bill, bringing it close to the 2013 Land Act of the UPA.
With the opposition in the last few months attacking the Modi government as “pro-rich” and “anti-farmer”, Modi sought to counter the accusations by listing the “pro-poor” initiatives of his government.
Stressing the need for farmers’ welfare, Modi announced that the Ministry of Agriculture would be renamed the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare. Asserting that his government was focusing on farm productivity and provision of power and irrigation to farmers, Modi said that the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana had been launched with an outlay of Rs. 50,000-crore.
Modi promised to provide electricity to the country's all 18,500 villages without power with electricity in the next 1000 days.
“The development pyramid should be strong at its base. Financial inclusion will strengthen the development pyramid,” Modi said. “Respect for the poor should be our national pride. It should be the strength and worship of all.”
Asserting that his government had successfully implemented financial inclusion, the Prime Minister said his government had opened 15-crore bank accounts for the poor till now under the Jan Dhan Yojana. He underlined that poor people had already put Rs 20,000 crore in these accounts, though these were zero-balance accounts, hailing this gesture as the “richness of the poor” (garibon ki ameeri). He congratulated bank officials for having brought such a large number of people into the banking system.
The Prime Minister also spoke of the welfare schemes launched by the government, including Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana.
Modi spelt out his vision for 2022, when India would complete 75 years of its independence: Making India a developed nation with a house and access to basic services like electricity for all.
The PM took the opportunity to list out other promises implemented till now. He said almost 4.25-lakh toilets were built in 2.62-lakh schools in one year. He also claimed that the Clean India campaign was on track, seeing this as an effort of “Team India”, his term for India’s 125-crore population. He claimed children had become the biggest brand ambassadors of Clean India who would convince even their parents to maintain cleanliness.