NEW DELHI –- On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his fifth Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi. In the speech, which lasted more than an hour, Modi hailed his government's achievements. HuffPost India lists the key takeaways from the speech:
Eye on elections
Modi's last Independence Day speech before next year's general elections was clearly drafted with the polls in mind. The address was partly a report card of the government's achievements in the past four-and-a-half years. The speech also included some key announcements such as declaring September 25, the birth anniversary of RSS icon Deen Dayal Upadhyay, as the launch date for the ambitious health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat, which aims to cover 50 crore Indians. The PM also said that by 2022, an Indian will be sent to space under Mission Gaganyaan. Modi lauded the social achievements made by his first major initiative as PM, the Swachh Bharat mission, which, he said, had been appreciated by the World Health Organization. He also asserted that his government had increased the minimum support price for buying a large number of crops, acting on a long-pending demand by farmers.
Reaching out to women voters
Consistent with his approach of reaching out to women voters, the PM mentioned the bill for outlawing the practice of triple talaq, which has been introduced by the government in Parliament. He made sure to add that it was the opposition which has not ensured a smooth passage for the bill. He added that the legal system has become proactive in giving justice to victims of sexual crimes such as rape. By way of example, he highlighted a recent rape trial in Madhya Pradesh where the accused was sentenced to death within a few days. He also added that the message that rapists would be punished with death should be widely publicized to ensure deterrence. Evidently, the intention behind these pronouncements was to convey that the government is sensitive towards women's concerns.
Idealism has petered out
The grand ambition and idealism that marked Modi's first Independence Day speech in 2014 was absent this time. Save for an announcement about putting a son or daughter of India into outer space, the speech was filled with initiatives and policy decisions which the government has been trying to implement with mixed results. For instance, the national health insurance scheme has been fleshed out in greater detail by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech in February. There was no word from the Prime Minister about whether the challenges in implementation which cropped up after Jaitley's announcement have been addressed. Save for limited achievements in initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat campaign, the speech did not have any significant details about how other initiatives announced in the 2014 speech have fared. The PM was also silent about the status of the 10-year-moratorium on communal violence he had called for in his 2014 speech—at a time when people from minority communities are facing persecution from multiple angles.