My take on PM's I-Day Address

The 74th Independence Day of Indian Union came at a time when the country is facing and fighting the COVID pandemic with ever increasing numbers of the mortality figures crossing 50,000 and the curve is still climbing up. The day starts with an address to the nation by the honourable Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s 7th speech. The address lasted 86 minutes, the 2nd longest address exceeded only by the one in 2019.

The gift of the gab of Mr Modi is exemplary and he has the art of keeping his audience spellbound. He started by remembering Sri Aurobindo who was born on the same date in 1872. He acknowledged the contribution of the frontline and health workers in fighting the continuing endemic. He pointed repeatedly that he was representing 1.3 billion people of India.

He emphasized the need of being self-reliant as if he was the first champion of this concept. It must be remembered this concept was started by Nehru and carried on by Indira Gandhi, Shastri, Morarji Desai, Vajpayee and ministers like Yashwant Sinha, replaced by Jaswant Singh when RSS challenged his policies on self-reliance in that regimen. “Vocal about Local” is the new buzz word and the need for making everything from the raw material to the finished product domestically is the need of the hour. A new slogan of “Make for World” was also coined for exporting our products.

The much-awaited vaccine for COVID did figure in his speech. He informed the countrymen that 3 vaccines would be coming soon but did not mention the time frame.

This was a good advice to him because only a month ago the ICMR authorities had indicated that the Indian vaccine would be gifted to the nation on the Independence Day this year. Another very impressive announcement was the promise of getting the Digital Health mission coming in the next 2 years. One needs to remember, however, that the planned budget for health care consists of only 1.28% of the country’s GDP in 2020.

Thus, it looks a very tall promise for delivering better health-oriented schemes. The often-repeated quotes of over one lack household being provided drinking water under Jal Jeevan mission and new opportunities for middle class was again a part of the address. The free grain and transferring of Rs 90,000 crores directly to bank accounts of poor was again repeated. Another welcome point he repeated was to reduce pollution in 100 selected cities of the country.

 In addition, he spoke about 7,000 projects in different sectors being identified to bring in new revolution in infrastructure without any elaboration or a time frame. The optical fibre connectivity for all 6,00,000 villages within 1,000 days was an important reiteration, the provider of this platform though evokes a controversial debate.

As a Kashmiri waiting to hear about the schemes for my homeland which is cut into 2 Union Territories, he did spend a few minutes.  About Ladakh he said the plans are on the lines of Sikkim to make it a carbon neutral region. As regards Jammu and Kashmir he boasted of a year of development journey. Well, having visited every nook and corner repeatedly in the valley during the previous year, I haven’t seen or heard about anything new happening.

The roads have pot holes all around, in spite of being a Sati Sar, healthy water supply even in the city is dismal, and water borne diseases are frequently seen. Nature has been kind to us by providing our far-flung areas with lot of springs and healthy supply. However, because of global warming these sources are slowly depleting and future is bleak because of lack of administration and no people’s representatives to listen to local issues. He also spoke about delimitation which is a pre requisite to elections.

The aim is apparently to put a person of their ideology on the seat of CM, once statehood is restored. One thing worth appreciation is that he clearly informs the country about his agenda. The way outsiders are being pushed in the valley in various garbs is a proof of his government’s style of functioning. This besides hitting the already debilitated economy has resulted in a huge spike of COVID in the valley. Compare the COVID figures of Jammu vs Kashmir and the truth will be obvious. The Kashmiri pandit tragedy and migration, and so-called rehabilitation done during this regimen is pathetic. Their plight is being sadly highlighted and used to get votes from various parts of the country by playing on the Hindu sentiment. Finally, now after being fleeced by their co-religion brothers in Jammu, they are confused and have become irrelevant in their home ground. This is  so unfortunate for the community which was so important for spreading Kashmiri culture in the erstwhile state.

The economic problems, the mounting un employment and rehabilitation of a large Indian population coming back from all over the world, labour returning to their villages from all the metros did not even get a mention. The declining value of Rupee, the dependence on the reserves of Reserve Bank of India to survive did not even get 10 seconds in the address, leave aside the remedial measures envisaged.  Unfortunately, our future cannot be put back on track by these self-denials. Finally, before the conclusion Ram Mandir construction inauguration and its importance was highlighted in no uncertain terms. His captive audience which seems to have become blind by these charismatic rhetorics, must have been very contented.

The address was directly beamed for his admirers, cabinet colleagues, bureaucrats and top citizen of Delhi, sitting in the very spacious decorated area, with self-distancing early in the morning. Their palms and fingers must have become red,  applauding his every narrative shloka. The country is too busy in their woes to take much notice of these verses of self-praise.

Author is a cardiologist, recipient of Dr B C Roy Award and Padamshri.