New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said that the time had come to cleanse the country of corruption and nepotism and asked people to have 'nafrat' (hatred) for these twin evils that go beyond politics, as he set a 'Panch Pran' (five resolves) target to make India a developed nation in 25 years.
“The nation should now only be setting big goals. That big goal is a developed India and nothing less,” Modi asserted in his ninth consecutive address from the ramparts of Red Fort on the country's 76th Independence Day, as he also highlighted the challenges of dynastic politics.
India has entered a decisive era in its battle against corruption which is “eating the country like termites”, he said, adding corruption and nepotism are the two main challenges for the nation.
Modi hoisted the national flag amid a 21-gun salute by the indigenously-developed howitzer gun, ATAGS, which he noted with pride was the first from Red Fort in 75 years.
He said it was a historic day for India and the completion of 75 years of Independence was a time to move forward with a new resolve and he also spoke strongly for cooperative federalism, celebrating the country's diversity, unity among citizens, and gender equality, and research and innovation.
While his 82-minute speech was peppered with several exhortations, including removing the "distortion" in our conduct causing insult to women and the slogan "Jai Anusandhan" to promote research and innovation, there was no announcement of any new initiative or scheme as has been the case in many of his and his predecessors' Independence Day speeches earlier.
"A distortion has crept in our conduct and we at times insult women," Modi said as he struck a chord with women, and asked, "Can we take a pledge to get rid of this from our behaviour and values?"
Asserting that giving respect to women is an important pillar for India's growth, he said it is important that in speech and conduct "we do nothing that lowers the dignity of women".
The prime minister cautioned the countrymen against complacency over the country's achievements in the last 75 years and said it has to now focus its strength on fulfilling the "Panch Pran" in the next 25 years in the run-up to the centenary of its independence.
He spelled out the five pledges as a resolve for a developed India; removing any trace of the colonial mindset; taking pride in our legacy; our strength of unity; and fulfilling the duties of citizens, which include the prime minister and chief ministers as well.
"We have to move forward with these five resolves in mind and take up the responsibility to fulfill the dreams of our freedom fighters in the next 25 years when we attain 100 years of independence."
Modi said in this 'Amrit Kaal', a reference to the next 25 years, every Indian is aspiring to see the fast progress of a new India with enthusiasm and impatience and asserted that he has dedicated himself to fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi's wish to empower the last person in the queue.
"This Amrit Kaal is providing us a golden opportunity to fulfill the dreams and goals of an aspirational society."
Underlining the importance of unity, Modi said people have to celebrate the diversity of a big country like India as the country's many faiths and traditions are its pride.
Gender equality is the first condition for unity, he said, adding that women are now doing very well in different sectors, including science and people's representation.
"Our nation has proved that we have an inherent strength from our diversity and the common thread of patriotism makes India unshakeable," Modi said, as he termed India the "mother of democracy".
He also pushed back sharply against the Opposition's charge that his government was using federal agencies like the Enforcement Directorate to target its leaders over alleged corruption, and also slammed "parivarvad and bhai-bhatijavad" (dynasty and nepotism).
People saw that some persons do not have enough space to hide their illicit money while many in the country do not have enough space to live, he said in an obvious pointer to the recovery of the huge amount of allegedly unaccounted cash and other assets during raids at premises of some leaders of opposition parties.
"Corruption is eating the country like termites and we have to fight it with full might. It is our endeavour that those who have looted the country have to return it," he said, and also slammed the efforts to "glorify" them, an apparent reference to the opposition parties defending those accused of corruption.
"This mindset is not going to end unless there is a feeling of 'nafrat' (hatred) for corruption and the corrupt and people are forced to look down upon them socially."
Though the prime minister took no names, the BJP has often slammed the Congress for its nationwide protests against the ED's questioning of its leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald money laundering case.
Under his government, he said, over Rs two lakh crore which would have gone into the wrong hands earlier has now been invested in the country's development using direct benefits transfer.
"We are trying to bring back those who ran away after looting banks in the previous governments. We have seized their assets. Many people have been forced to live in jails. Our effort is that those who have looted the country pay back and we are creating conditions for it."
"Even the big people will not be able to escape," Modi said.
Also hitting out at dynasty politics and nepotism, he said their presence in politics nourished this evil in all other institutions of the country. This must be ended, he said.
"This nepotism harms India's talents and capabilities. This is also a reason for corruption as people resort to it when they see no other option," he said, seeking awareness against this to rid India's institutions of these evils for their bright future.
He said he considered it his constitutional and democratic responsibility to fight these evils and sought people's support.
"In politics too, the dynasty has done the most injustice to the country's strength. Dynastic politics is aimed at a family's welfare and has no interest in the country's welfare," he said, asking people to join him in purifying Indian politics and institutions to rid the country of this to take the country forward.
Otherwise, everybody feels frustrated as they believe they did not get their due because they had no relatives to promote them, he said. This mindset is not good for any country, he said.
With his government often accused by the Opposition of weakening states' rights, Modi underlined his faith in cooperative federalism and the spirit of "team India", saying this is what he practised when he was Gujarat chief minister and a different party (Congress) was in power at the Centre.
"We may have different programmes and working styles but our dreams for the nation are not different," he said in an apparent appeal to opposition parties to work together to develop the country.
"The need of the hour today is cooperative competitive federalism along with cooperative federalism. We need competition in the development," he said, noting that many states are doing good work.
At the start of his address, he paid tributes to freedom fighters and leaders from across the political spectrum for their contributions to the independence struggle and nation-building, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, V D Savarkar, Ram Manohar Lohia, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Mangal Pandey among others.
He also saluted the armed forces for supporting his vision for a self-reliant India and made a mention of the export of Brahmos supersonic cruise missile.
Modi also referred to the use of an indigenously developed howitzer gun for the first time for the ceremonial 21-gun salute at the celebrations.
The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) has been developed under the government's 'Make in India' initiative by the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO).
"For the first time after 75 years, the Made-in-India cannon has saluted the Tricolour from the Red Fort. Will there be any Indian who will not be inspired by this sound? My dear brothers and sisters, today I want to congratulate the soldiers of the army of my country from my heart," Modi said.
"I salute the way the army jawans have shouldered this responsibility of self-reliance in an organised way and with courage... He stands firmly in the middle when there is no gap between death and life," he said.
The prime minister also talked about the decision of the armed forces to not import around 300 items.
"The resolution of our country is not small when the armed forces make a list and decide not to import 300 defence products," he said.
"In this resolution, I can see the seed of a bright future of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' that will convert this dream into a banyan tree. Salute! Salute! Salute to my army officers!" the prime minister said.
The prime minister said India is becoming a manufacturing hub and that people from around the world are coming to the country to try their luck.
"India is becoming a manufacturing hub. It is building a foundation for a self-reliant India. Be it manufacturing of electronic goods or mobile phones, today the country is progressing at a very fast pace," Modi said.
"Which Indian wouldn't be proud when our Brahmos is exported to the world? Today the Vande Bharat train and our metro coaches are becoming objects of attraction for the world," he said.
Modi hailed the diversity of India and said that while our talent may be restricted by language barriers, pride should be taken in the variety of languages that exist in the country.
He said India's strengths are diversity and democracy.
"We have seen that sometimes our talent gets tied in the shackles of language. This is the result of the slave mentality. We should be proud of every language of our country. We may or may not know the language, but we should be proud that it is the language of my country and it is the language given to the world by our ancestors," he said.
He also said India's diversity needs to be celebrated.
"India is the mother of democracy, diversity is its strength," the prime minister said.
"Our nation has proved that we have an inherent strength from our diversity and the common thread of patriotism makes India unshakeable," Modi said.
He also said that India's strength comes in the diverse ways in which things are perceived by people, which makes the country globally appealing.
"We are the people who see Shiva in the living entity, we are the people who see Narayan in the male, we are the people who call the woman as Narayani, we are the people who see the divine in the plant, we are people who consider the river as a mother, we are the people who see Shankar in pebbles," he said.
Modi said that the peaceful co-existence of innumerable traditions and creeds is India's pride.
"For us all are equal. No one is inferior or superior; all are our own," he said.
The prime minister said the diversity of India has proved priceless for the country.
"India's diversity, which others once thought was a burden to the country, is proven to be the priceless power of India. A strong testimony of its power.
"The world was not cognisant that India has an inherent potential of strong culture and values, a bond of thoughts deeply embedded in mind and soul, and that is - India is the mother of democracy. And when those who have democracy pulsating in their minds walk with determination and resolve, it augurs doom for the most powerful sultanates of the world. This mother of democracy, our India has proven to all that we have this invaluable strength," he said.
During the last stage of the freedom struggle, many indulged in scare-mongering by saying India will be "ruined" and go into the "dark age" if the British left, but the country survived and kept growing due to its inherent strength, Modi said.
India's 75-year journey since independence is filled with several ups and downs but the people of the country did not give up and let their dreams disappear, Modi said.
The people made efforts and proved that India has immense capacity to survive all odds even as "hundreds of years of slavery" had inflicted "deep wounds" on it, he said.
"When the fight for freedom was in its last stage, all measures were taken to scare, disappoint and frustrate the country, that it will break, that infighting will kill people, that it will be left with nothing and that India will go into the dark age, various apprehensions were raised," the prime minister said without naming anyone.
"But they did not know this is the soil of India that has lived through centuries with power, more than that any ruler would have had," he said.
The prime minister said India's growth story continued despite terrorism and proxy wars, natural calamities, and even as success and failures and hopes and disappointments kept showing up.
To others, he said, India's diversity seemed to be its burden but this is its invaluable strength.
"They did not know India has an inherent capacity. India is the mother of democracy. When those with democracy in mind undertake their course with this resolve, the biggest of the empires in the world fall," Modi said.