Prime Minister Narendra Modi will likely list out policy achievements in what has been a year of messy political challenges and declare some new development targets during his Independence Day speech on Saturday, while a media blitz will brand the government as one headed “Towards True Freedom”, officials have said.
This will be Modi’s second speech from the Red Fort, the customary I-Day address, in a stately ceremony. A leader who utilises his public speeches to connect powerfully with the masses, Modi had set a precedent to become the first prime minister to “crowd-source” ideas for the signature address. This year, a government website for the purpose received over 12,000 ideas, some of which officials have picked for a possible mention by the PM.
Last year’s I-Day speech followed a euphoric phase of Modi’s massive election victory and the government now has to deliver on an ambitious growth-oriented economic agenda. Modi will seek to keep the faith and magic alive through his speech.
In his previous Red Fort speech, Modi talked of ending bureaucratic rivalry and pulling them out of their silos for cohesive action, manufacturing, women’s dignity and toilets.
The Prime Minister is widely expected to list out progress on key policies in the areas of social security, health, agriculture and the economy.
A robust media campaign will greet citizens on Saturday. The messaging strategy, spearheaded by the information and broadcasting ministry, has been crafted around the idea of ‘Towards True Freedom’ on ‘freedom day’.
For instance, hashtags and ad campaigns on five major policies will play around with this theme. ‘Freedom from dirt, squalor and garbage: Swachch Bharat’, goes the hashtag and adverts for the flagship sanitation programme, along with ‘Freedom from financial untouchability: Jan Dhan Yojana’, ‘Freedom from illiteracy for girl child: Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, ‘Freedom from archaic labour laws: Shramev Jayate’, ‘Freedom from being unfunded: PM Mudra Yojana’.
Over the course of last several weeks, the Press Information Bureau had been tasked with sourcing copious material and data from key ministries, which had been routed to the prime minister’s office as inputs for Modi’s speech.
“He could recall last year’s I-Day speech and compare it with the government’s progress on those things,” a senior official said, requesting anonymity.
Modi could draw up a regional snapshot of what’s happening where, another official said. For instance, Himachal Pradesh has been successfully implementing the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Campaign, more than 1.5 lakh accounts were opened under the Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, an insurance scheme, in Rajasthan and a huge response to the Soil Health Card Scheme was seen in Tamil Nadu.
To be sure, the Modi government has whittled down red tape, allowed foreign investment in railways, defence, insurance and pensions, while going further to deregulate fuel prices. It also ushered in private competition in coal mining, aimed at attracting investors. For social security, three major insurance and pension plans have been launched in the past year.
Yet, Modi is known to surprise. "Don't rule out some new objectives," a bureaucrat said. Last year’s I-Day speech followed a very productive Parliament session, in contrast to a disruptive monsoon session this time. Some officials said they wouldn’t be surprised if Modi touched upon the issue.