From the ramparts of Red Fort

Over the past 20 years, addresses by prime ministers on Independence Day have focussed on development goals, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the importance of Jammu and Kashmir and the bane of corruption.
In Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s first speech from the rampart of the Red Fort, he announced a moratorium of 10 years against promoting communal and caste tensions.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
In Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s first speech from the rampart of the Red Fort, he announced a moratorium of 10 years against promoting communal and caste tensions.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
Published on Aug 15, 2020 07:32 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Over the past 20 years, addresses by prime ministers on Independence Day have focussed on development goals, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the importance of Jammu and Kashmir and the bane of corruption.


Kashmir unbreakable from India

Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir were the main themes of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech in which he mentioned that J&K would remain an “unbreakable” part of India and Islamabad would not be able to secure anything through its “undeclared war” because the 21st century didn’t permit the redrawing of borders in the name of religion or by the strength of the sword. “This is the age of resolving differences, not for prolonging disputes,” he said.


Warning to Pakistan

In the backdrop of the failed Agra summit earlier that year, Vajpayee delivered a stern warning to Pakistan while striking a hopeful note for India’s development and future. “Let no one entertain any delusion that Pakistan can succeed in wresting Jammu & Kashmir through jehad and terrorism,” he said. He also said that his government was determined to stamp out corruption and bring the fruits of development to the poorest classes. “The sun has come out and a better tomorrow awaits us,” he added.


J&K elections in focus

The scheduled elections for Jammu & Kashmir occupied centre stage in the PM’s address with Vajpayee pledging that there would be a redressal of “mistakes of the past”. In a 25-minute speech, one of the shortest by any PM on Independence Day, Vajpayee said no one would be allowed to create any disturbances in the assembly elections. “For us, Kashmir is not a piece of land, it is a test case for the nation’s secularism,” he said. The PM also condemned the communal riots in Gujarat and announced 15 major initiatives, which included social security schemes and the induction of Agni missiles in the army.



Opening doors to neighbour

Pakistan, Kashmir and development dominated the address as Vajpayee said the government was willing to work for peace with Pakistan if it agreed to shed its anti-India outlook and support for cross-border terrorism. “Let people travel across border. Let more and more elected representatives visit each others country. Let us open some new doors,” he said. The PM also unfurled a series of schemes for farmers, pledging to double their income in seven years. He also spoke of linking rivers and developing village roads.


Promises to keep

In his first Independence Day address as PM, Manmohan Singh emphasised the need for good governance and a code of conduct for political parties. Singh also identified seven priority sectors on which the government would focus. “On this solemn occasion, let us resolve to work together to develop a code of conduct in a consensual way so as to uphold the values enshrined in our Constitution,” he said. Singh made no promises and announced no big schemes, but said the national common minimum programme would guide his government. “Today, I have no promises to make, but I have promises to keep,” he said.


Focus on Aam Aadmi

Manmohan Singh explained his policy initiatives for the “aam aadmi” (common man) and invoked former PM Indira Gandhi’s name. His spin to her “Garibi hatao” slogan was about employment-oriented growth: “Garibi hatao, rozgar badhao”. Conceding that the fruits of first-generation reforms hadn’t fully reached the hinterland, the PM linked economic growth with social justice to mobilise the poor and disadvantaged classes.

He took note of Pakistan’s half-hearted efforts to fight terrorism, and warned of a tough Indian response to violence in J&K.


Stop terror and extremism

As he unveiled his vision for a “new India”, Manmohan Singh said terrorism threatened economic prosperity in South Asia, and Pakistan must know that popular support for the peace process would be undermined unless it clamped down on terror infrastructure. “Terrorism anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere,” the PM said.

He said the dream of a South Asian community where borders ceased to matter could not be realised if politics of hate cast a shadow. On the domestic front, the PM hinted at a possible rise in the prices of kerosene and LPG.


Best is yet to come

India is moving in the right direction but Indians need to work harder for at least a decade to eradicate poverty and provide education and health care to the millions on the other side of the divide, Manmohan Singh said on the nation’s 60th Independence Day. In his 40-minute speech, the prime minister did not refer to the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal — or to Pakistan. “We are a nation of young people. Once unleashed, the energy of our youth will drive India onto a new growth path. I assure you that for each one of you…the best is yet to come,” he said.


10% growth needed

“Let’s Make Peace” was the underlining theme of Manmohan Singh’s speech. He also said “terrorists and those who support terrorism” are enemies of people and countries must collectively “defeat them”. He mentioned the nuclear deal with the US saying the pact would “spur” economic growth. Singh said modern silence should “find solution to our energy problem”. He also announced a special skill development mission and launching of a new space aircraft. “Our economy must grow at the rate of at least 10 per cent every year to get rid of poverty and generate employment for all,” Singh said.


Restoring growth biggest challenge

Manmohan Singh explained the slowing down the economic growth in the wake of global financial crisis. The economy grew at a rate of about 9% from the year 2004-05 to the year 2007-08. This growth rate came down to 6.7% in 2008-09 due to the crisis. “It is only a result of our policies that the global crisis has affected us to a lesser extent than many other countries,” Singh said, and maintained that restoring growth rate to 9% is the greatest challenge at hand. Reflecting on the deadly terror strike in November 2008, Singh spoke about the efforts his government was putting in place for national security. He also said that the nation-building is the “highest duty” for everyone.


Discussion and dialogue ways to peace

Manmohan Singh made a fresh appeal to young people in Kashmir and Naxals and said discussion and dialogue was the only way to resolve issues.

On the economy, he accepted that inflation was on the rise and hurting the common people, while he cited subsidy burden to explain why the government had to increase prices of petro products (auto fuel was regulated at that time). But Singh spoke of agricultural reforms not only as a solution to high inflation but also to ensure development of rural India. This was the year of the Commonwealth Games, and they found a mention in his speech.


Hunger strikes won’t solve corruption

Manmohan Singh’s seventh speech as Prime Minister reflected the growing allegations of corruption against his government. The Commonwealth Games scam and the 2G scam were already making headlines and Singh said that one single step cannot root out corruption, hunger strikes are not a solution but a multipronged effort is required to control it.

In this context, he mentioned a Lokpal legislation, Judicial Accountability Bill and a legislation for public procurement. “Now only Parliament can decide… I also believe that they (those who don’t agree with this bill) should not resort to hunger strikes and fasts-unto-death,” he said. He mentioned corruption 16 times in his speech.


Slow growth national security threat

Concerns about slowing growth and high inflation were evident in Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech in 2012. The PM made an explicit connection between slow growth and national security. Singh blamed the global economy as well as lack of political consensus as major roadblock for increasing the pace of growth. “You are aware that these days, the global economy is passing through a difficult phase … Also there have been domestic developments which are hindering our economic growth,” Singh said. He also spoke about the need to create more employment opportunities in the country and in that context laid down the idea of a National Skill Development Authority.


No place for narrow sectarian ideologies

Manmohan Singh’s last speech as Prime Minister was a recap of the achievements of the past United Progressive Alliance and Congress years. As growth slumped, concerns were evident in Singh’s speech as he spoke about effort to expedite stuck projects, remove bottlenecks of environmental clearances. He ended his speech with an appeal towards creating a tolerant society that celebrates communal harmony. “If in the future we can achieve the same kind of progress as in the last decade, the day is not far off when India will be rid of poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance,” he said.


Ten-year moratorium on communalism, casteism

In Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s first speech from the rampart of the Red Fort, he announced a moratorium of 10 years against promoting communal and caste tensions. “Enough battles have been fought, enough people have died… no one benefits from this,” said the PM.

Calling himself the Pradhan Sevak, or prime servant, he spoke at length about Swachh Bharat and the need to make more toilet in schools; he also spoke of financial inclusion and announced a scheme for MPs to adopt model villages. “We will replace the Planning Commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction,” Modi said.


A corruption-free India

In his second speech, Modi made a strong pro-poor, pro-farmer and anti-corruption speech. On one hand, he announced Start-up India, Stand-up India to appeal to the young and as a mode of job creation; on the other hand, he rolled out a slew of social welfare schemes on pension and insurance. He spoke against corruption, mentioning it 19 times during his speech, and said that there has not been any allegation during his term. “There is not an allegation of corruption of even a single paisa,” he said.

Modi also said that in 1,000 days all non-electrified villages would be given a power connection.


Thank you, Balochistan

The highlight of Modi’s 86-minute speech was his reference to Balochistan—a sensitive topic for Pakistan administration. He said he is grateful to people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir who had wished India on Independence Day. “I want to specially thank some special people from the Red Fort. In the last few days, people of Balochistan,Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had conveyed good wishes and gratitude to me,” Modi said

Modi also used the address to highlight the government’s social goals - including medical aid of up to 1 lakh for people below the poverty line - and reach out to middle class by saying they would be spared the tyranny of the tax authorities.


Kashmir needs to be embraced

At a time when Kashmir continues to face unrest, PM Modi adopted a conciliatory approach and said the Kashmir problem will be solved neither by gaali (abuses), or goli (bullets), but by embracing all Kashmiris. “I am clear in my belief on how to win the war against separatism, which is spread by a handful of people,” Modi said.

He also condemned violence in the name of faith, and said the slogan before Independence was “Bharat Chhoro” but now it should be “Bharat Jorro”. He empathised with Muslim women who suffered Instant Triple Talaq - which would become a key political theme of his government - and said they are with their struggles. He continued his strong messaging against corruption and said that the government wants to create job givers not job seekers


An Indian in space

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that an Indian would be in space before 2022 and reached out to key constituencies --farmers, the poor, women—and touched upon key issues (development, corruption, reforms, security) even as he targeted the Opposition by comparing the present with what it was like in 2014,when he took over. Modi’s fifth speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort lasted 82 minutes. The PM reached out to multiple classes and communities by projecting his government’s “vast development canvas”; highlighted its ability to take difficult decisions, battle corruption and improve delivery; and spoke of the steps taken to create a more equal and gender-sensitive India and a more secure India.


Article 370 move hailed

In the first speech of his second term, Narendra Modi highlighted the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, ending the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims, strengthening of laws to fight terror, and moving towards “one nation, one Constitution” as some of the key accomplishments of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in less than 70 days of its second term.

The work that was not done in the last 70 years has been accomplished within 70 days...The removal of Article 370 and Article 35A is an important step,” he said.

Modi, after decades of the proposal being in limbo, also announced the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for more effective coordination between the three armed forces. The PM outlined the journey of India from 2014 to 2019 as one from disappointment to hope; urged citizen participation in a range of new environmental initiatives, from water conservation to ending single-use plastic; and in a move that could have policy implications in the future, flagged population explosion as a key concern.

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