In a free-wheeling chatty address to the nation, through radio, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a clarion call to citizens to join his social initiatives and contribute to nation-building. He also promised to stay in touch and connect - at least once, if not twice, a month with citizens on radio, becoming the first Indian Prime minister to reach out to citizens on such a regular basis, directly.
Modi used his debut on radio – during a programme titiled Mann ki Baat - to remind listeners of his Swachh Bharat, Clean India, campaign. He spoke of the nine people he had invited to join the campaign, and urged every citizen to do the same - clean up, encourage another nine people to do so, and create a movement.
Modi also promoted the use of khadi, and said he was not asking people to wear only khadi. “But even if you use one khadi product, it will light the lamp of prosperity in the house of a poor person.”
The PM peppered his speech with anecdotes which had a running theme – of motivating and energizing citizens, and recognising their inner strength. This has been a constant thread of Modi’s addresses, be it at the Independence Day or in US or during the Swachh Bharat pledge.
Modi’s emphasis has been that the country is not only that of the government, but of the people, and citizens have to step up.
“You know, our scientists have undertaken the Mars mission successfully at minimum expenses. There is nothing lacking in our capabilities. We only have forgotten our strengths. We have forgotten ourselves as if we have become despondent.
My brothers and sisters, this cannot be,” said Modi."We need to recognise our internal strengths," he added. "The 125 crore Indians are blessed with immense skill and strength. All we need to do is to understand our strengths."
Modi spoke of his engagement with specially-abled children, and how they are the responsibility of not just their parents, but of the society and the country. He also spoke of skill development, and environment.
But more than the message, the novelty on Friday was in Modi’s choice of the medium and his direct engagement.
Modi plans to make his radio speeches once or twice a month on Sunday mornings to get his message across to two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people who listen regularly to the radio.
Presidents and prime ministers generally use radio to address the people on Republic Day and Independence Day, but Modi’s address is the start of a regular slot on air for the prime minister.
He addressed millions of school students across the country on state-run Doordarshan on Teachers’ Day, but radio will help him reach deeper into the country as All India Radio has a much wider reach.
To make the communication two-way, Modi added if citizens wanted to respond, they could do so over email and letters. "If you have ideas and actual incidents which are constructive, do share with me. Together let us serve India and take our nation to newer heights," Modi said.