Prime Minister Modi’s I DAY speech includes sanitation, womens’ safety, improving sex ratios, adopting villages , ending poverty and possibly removing the planning commission.
On India’s 68th independence day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the need to improve India’s sex ratios and against the widespread practice of aborting female foetuses in his speech. He used the occasion to talk about improving sanitation and hygiene in terms of restoring women’s dignity, lack of access to toilets linking it to preventive health and also defeating poverty .He urged individuals to take more responsibility, to stop dropping litter, keep their neighbourhoods and villages clean, to care for those weaker than them.
Some of his key comments include:
- “India’s sex ratio is 1000 boys for 940 girls. Who creates this disparity? People feel that sons will take care of them when they are old. But I have seen aged parents in old-age homes or single daughter taking care of old parents.”
- “Do we want to live in unhygienic conditions? Can’t our nation be clean? If billions of Indians pledge to keep the surroundings clean, can’t this nation be cleaner? What do we give Mahatma Gandhi on his October 2? People’s participation is necessary to ensure that our schools, hospitals, roads and infrastructure are clean.”
- “Can’t we arrange public toilets? Why do our womenfolk need to wait till dark to use the toilets?”“You may wonder what kind of PM talks of toilets and cleanliness from the ramparts of the Red Fort. But I have come from a poor background; I know how the situation is on the ground.”
- “Our parliamentarians utilizing MPLAD fund are there. I appeal to them to spend it for constructing toilets in schools for a year. The government should utilise its budget on providing toilets. I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under Corporate Social Responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments and on the next 15th August, we should be in a firm position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.”
- The need to the hour is to eliminate poverty. Can’t we overcome poverty? Come, let a billion countrymen promise to eradicate poverty.
- “Many programmes are running in the names of PMs and other leaders. Today, I announce a Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. Let each MP adopt a village and take care of its sanitation, education and other needs. Make model villages.I will place the blueprint for this programme before MPs and state government on October 11 of Jai Prakash Narayan’s birth anniversary.”
- “To strengthen our federal structure, we will have to think about giving the Planning Commission a look. So, I am saying from the rampart of the Red Fort that it is a very old system and ….therefore within a short period, we will replace the planning commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilisation of resources, utilisation of youth power of the nation, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.”
The Congress attacked his speech for delivering a “zero effect” speech and getting bogged down in “pedestrian issues” on Independence Day, saying it had “no new ideas, new schemes, and new initiatives”.
While the opposition slams his speech, some term it ‘inspirational’.
“Whereas previous Red Fort speeches made tall promises, PM Modi bowed before people as true sevak (helper). Most inclusive speech ever. Zero defect!,”” said Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan.
“What a stirring and awe -inspiring Independence Day address from PM Modi. It touched the emotional chords in every one of us”, tweeted Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. She is the MD of Biocon Limited ( a pharmaceutical company in India) and has been a very vocal supporter of the BJP government coming into power.
“Speech by Modi was truly inspirational! Modi spoke like a PM should”. said Sanjay Baru, media adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Now PM Modi to mark a new era with new institution! History in making!” Sanjay Baru is also the Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
(To read the crucial points of his speech, click here. The full transcript of his speech is here.)
The Planning Commission to be abolished
Speculation has been mounting as the Modi government has been thinking of abolishing the Planning Commission, a 64-year-old apex policy making body, and replace it with a new institution to address the emerging economic needs and strengthen federal structure .This is now been confirmed in his speech.
The Planning Commission was set up in March 1950 by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to promote a rapid rise in the standard of living of the people by efficient exploitation of the resources of the country, increasing production and offering opportunities to all for employment in the service of the community.
According to earlier an article in the Hindustan Times, a source close to the PM designate had said: “Modi is not fine with the job that the panel has been doing. Given his agenda to quicken the economy, he plans to remove bottlenecks and hurdles. “Not a single penny of plan funds can be spent without the panel’s approval. This wasn’t what Nehru had in mind,” said a senior panel official, requesting anonymity.
“In my five years in the Planning Commission, I saw that there were many cases where in-principle approvals, investment clearances, grants-in-aid and other decisions appeared to smack of bureaucratic red tape. But it is also true that in these five years I saw innumerable instances of the exercise of positive power”, says Mihir Shah member, Planning Commission from 2009-14.
“I believe there are at least five broad areas in which the Planning Commission played an extremely positive role: one, pioneering an inclusive planning process; two, facilitating and mainstreaming reform,; three, co-ordinating across, if not breaking down silos; four, being the spokesperson of the states at the Centre; and five, arbitrating disputes by taking a more long-term and holistic view of issues.
The 12th Plan process included the best minds and practitioners from across Central and state governments, academia, research institutions, industry, civil society, and panchayati raj institutions. The result was a series of landmark proposals that constitute a paradigm shift in water management in India, including the first-ever National Aquifer Management Programme, a new approach to incentivise de-bureaucratisation of large irrigation projects, a new integrated approach to rural drinking water and sanitation, a proposal to regularly audit the industrial water footprint, a new approach to flood management, a scheme to empower gram panchayats amongst others.
It will be important to see what the PM sets up in place of the Planning Commission and that the new organisation has a strong focus on health and development in the country.