Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said his government had found a way to solve the “Kashmir problem” while previous administrations had repeatedly failed. In his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi said his government had achieved the dream of “one nation, one Constitution”.
“When the solutions do not work, we must think of new ways,” said the prime minister. “We do not believe in delay solving problems or let them worsen.” On August 5, his government had revoked the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.
“The old arrangement in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh encouraged corruption, nepotism but there was injustice when it came to rights of women, children, Dalits, tribal communities,” the prime minister said. “The dreams of sanitation workers were incomplete. How can we accept such a situation?”
Taking a dig at Congress governments, Modi asked why articles 370 and 35A had not been made permanent provisions if they were so important. He pointed out those governments also had “huge majorities”.
“It means you also know that what happened was not correct, but you just did not have the courage or resolve to bring reforms,” the prime minister added. “It would have jeopardised your political future, but for me the country’s future is everything. During the difficult times of Independence, people like Vallabhbhai Patel took very tough and valiant decisions. But because of Article 370 there emerged problems. Today, as I address the nation, I can say that every citizen can proudly say it is ‘one nation, one Constitution’.”
The prime minister also spoke of ways to address the problem of population explosion, the threat of terrorism, means to strengthen the economy and the government’s ambitious schemes. “If 2014 to 2019 was the period of fulfilment of needs, the period from now on will be a period of fulfilment of aspirations and dreams,” the prime minister added.
Here are some of the key points from Modi’s speech:
- The prime minister said that since coming back to power less than 10 weeks ago, his government had outlawed instant triple talaq, enacted stringent provisions in the law on sexual crimes against children, and reformed the medical education sector. “If we can take steps against ‘Sati’ custom, female foeticide, child marriage and dowry, then why not against instant triple talaq?” he asked.
- Modi spoke of the problem posed by “population explosion” for coming generations, and said the Centre and states should take measures to deal with it. “There is a need to have greater discussion and awareness on population explosion,” he added. “Before a child is born in our home, we must ask if we have prepared ourselves to fulfil the child’s needs, or are we going to leave the child to its fate?”
- The post of a chief of defence staff will be created to oversee the three wings of the armed forces. The prime minister said the chief of defence staff will ensure synergy among the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and provide them effective leadership.
- Modi reiterated that India can become a $5-trillion economy in the next five years. “We have decided to invest Rs 100 lakh crore in infrastructure building,” he added. “India does not want to wait too long for incremental progress. A high jump is needed, our thought process has to be expanded.”The prime minister said India was aiming to be among the top 50 nations in the ease of doing business index.
- The prime minister urged citizens to switch to modes of digital payment, and said neighbourhood shops should discourage the use of cash. “Say yes to digital payments, and no to cash,” he said.
- Modi said the country had simplified its complicated tax system by introducing the Goods and Services Tax. “GST brought to life the dream of ‘one nation, one tax’,” he added. “In power, we implemented ‘one nation, one grid. For the automobile sector, we implemented ‘one nation, one mobility card’. Similarly, discussions around ‘one nation, one election’ are on.”
- The prime minister announced the rollout of the government’s Jal Jeevan Mission, which aims to make drinking water available to all households. The government would spend Rs 3.5 lakh crore for it, he added.
- On poverty, Modi said: “The country has to make its place in the world and has to make itself free from poverty. It is not a favour to anyone. We have made many successful efforts to reduce poverty in the last five years.”
- Modi spoke of the government’s plans to make the country free of single-use plastic from October 2. “The time for implementing such an idea has come,” he added. “May teams be mobilised to work in this direction. Let a significant step be made on October 2.”
- Modi said India was fighting hard against those who back terrorists. “India is not the only target of terrorism in the region, countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have also been affected,” he pointed out.