NEW DELHI -- Addressing the nation from the Red Fort on its 69th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on issues ranging from financial inclusion and sanitation to good governance and combating corruption, while informing ex-servicemen that he has accepted their demand of "One Rank-One Pension."
"I assure the servicemen, and I am saying it under the Tricolour from the Red Fort, we have accepted OROP," Modi said in his second Independence Day speech since taking office in May 2014.
"We are now discussing how to implement it. The way the talks are going on I am expecting something positive," he said.
But ex-servicemen protested in the capital on Saturday, shouting "Shame, Shame" since Modi did not announce a time frame to implement OROP.
Retried armed forces personnel have demanded that they receive the same pension given to personnel of the same rank, who are retiring now. Presently, the amount of pension is determined by the date of retirement.
Reiterating his promise of gifting Mahatma Gandhi a "clean India" on his 145th birth anniversary in 2019, Modi once again called on Indians to join his "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" (Clean India Campaign), which he launched on Independence Day, last year.
"Who has given maximum strength to Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan?," he said. "It is the children of India."
Recalling his promise to build separate toilets for boys and girls in all schools within a year, Modi said that the Indian government had almost reached the goal of constructing 4.25 lakh toilets in 2.62 lakh schools.
While warning that corruption was like "deemak" (termites) eating up the country, Modi promised to get rid of the widespread problem plaguing the nation. "Corruption has spread like deemak. We need to put an injection in every square meter, every month," he said. "I promise you that I will give you a India free of corruption."
Modi said that 800 cases of corruption were registered before his government came to power, but since then 1,800 cases against government officials have been registered with the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Further on the corruption track, Modi also talked about removing the interview round in the selection process of low-income jobs, which often requires "seefarish." "I request state governments to end interviews for low-income jobs," he said.
Modi also gave a call for more Start-Ups in India, and encouraged banks to give loans, especially to tribals and Dalits, who could be "entrepreneurs for the future."
"In coming days, we will promote start-up all over the country," he said. "We must be Number 1 in start-ups. Start-up India and Stand up India."
On the issue of financial inclusion, Modi said that 17 crore accounts have been opened under the Jan Dhan Yojna, which was announced in August, 2014, and the poor have deposited over Rs20,000 crores.
"Bank accounts are essential for integrating the poor into the financial system. After all, who are the banks for They are for the poor," he said. “I respect the richness of the poor."
Almost seven decades after independence, Modi said that 18,500 villages in India do not have electricity, but his government will try to bring electricity to these villages in the next 1000 days.
Modi said that 15,000 crores, which would have been lost to middlemen and corruption, had been saved because cash subsidies for cooking gas were now being transferred directly into bank accounts. "I say with pride that 20 lakh people have given up gas subsidies. This, by no means, is a small number," he said.
Modi said that India's success rested on the shoulders of 125 crore Indians, who constitute "Team India."
"This is no ordinary morning. This is a morning of hope of the dreams and aspirations of 125 crore Indians," he said. "This is Team India, a team of 125 crore Indians. This is the team that makes the nation and takes our Nation to new heights."
Modi railed against caste-based discrimination and religious violence in the country. "Casteism and communalism will not be tolerated in India," he said.
While Modi steered clear of touching on the raging political tensions, he subtly responded to criticism about his penchant for delivering monologues on his radio show "Mann Ki Baat," but not listening to the people. Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi has asked why Modi doesn't respond to Indians, who want answers on the Lalit Modi scandal and the Vyapam Scam.
"Jan Bhagidari is the biggest asset of a democracy," Modi said. "Be it MyGov, letters from citizens, Mann Ki Baat, communication with people...daily Jan Bhagidari is increasing."
Hitting back at his critics, he said, "Some people like to remain in Nirasha. And they are not satisfied till they have spoken about it to other people."