“I have spoken on several matters, but what I have not said is also important,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said towards the end of his Independence Day address from the ramparts of Red Fort in New Delhi. It may just have been the most accurate part of his speech.
Here’s a bunch of things the prime minister left out his speech:
What he said: Modi hailed the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A, calling it “an important step in making Sardar Patel’s dreams come true.” He also expressed happiness over India finally having “one nation, one constitution”.
“If Article 370 was so important, why it was not made permanent?” he asked.
What he left out: The Supreme Court had in 2018 said that Article 370 had permanent status.
Kashmir is in its 11th day of communication blockade. At least 300 political leaders and workers (the numbers could be higher, but the government won’t confirm) have been arrested. People have been protesting the removal of special status for Jammu and Kashmir, though the government has again denied this. Reports have highlighted incidents of detentions, stone-pelting and use of pellet guns by security forces in the region.
2. Laws passed
What he said: Modi hailed the passing of Triple Talaq and UAPA bill in the Parliament. “In the first 10 weeks of current government we have repealed 60 obsolete laws,” he said.
He also claimed that every day for the past 5 years, his government had removed at least one law that burdened the people.
What he left out: Bills moved by the government on Triple Talaq, terror and transgender rights have been criticised for criminalising Muslim men, for its potential for misuse against critics of the government, and for being violative of the rights of the transgender community, respectively. The RTI Amendment Bill, passed amid protests by the opposition, significantly weakens the landmark legislation that aimed to make the government more transparent and accountable to people. Opposition members have said the ruling party was railroading the passage of bills through Parliament without allowing for proper discussion. Only 26% of bills had been sent for scrutiny to House committees by the first Modi-led government. (The bill to remove Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was moved and passed in two days.)
What he said: “We can’t leave our children helpless. We have passed tough laws for their protection,” Modi said in reference to POCSO amendments. He also emphasised on the need to make sure “we do justice to the aspirations of our children” while talking about population explosion.
What he left out:Children are being detained in Kashmir, activist Kavita Krishnan said after her return from a fact-finding mission in the region. “They are being beaten up. Their parents have no way of ascertaining whether their children will disappear or be returned. There is no case that is registered, no FIR.”
And that brings us to...
4. ...Assam NRC
What he said: Nothing. There was no mention of the NRC in Modi’s speech. The prime minister only said the northeast was beautiful and should become a tourist hub.
What he left out: The deadline for publication of the final NRC list is August 31. It is still not clear what the government plans to do with the lakhs of people who may just be stateless after that date.
The process of re-verification has led to panic among people in the state, The Wire reports, with many unsure whether the government’s direction complied with Supreme Court orders. The rush to travel to attend the re-verification hearings have led to multiple accidents and grievous injuries.
A HuffPost India report also found that the BJP-led Assam government was building a biometric database of those excluded from the NRC with the help of the UIDAI.
What he said: Modi asked farmers to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides that destroyed the earth. “We don’t have the right to destroy Mother Earth,” he said. He also urged people to stop the use of single-use plastic.
Modi said the government would work on the Jal Jeevan Mission to improve access to water for every citizen. He added that the movement towards water conservation had to take place at the grassroots level.
What he left out: Any mention of climate change and the government’s efforts to address it. This is particularly ironic, given Modi appeared on Bear Grylls’ show three days ago to promote the conservation of the environment. In 2018, he was awarded UN’s highest honour for environmental action. Multiplereports have shown his government’s poor record on the environment and its roles in weakening India’s green laws.
Large parts of the country are currently battling unprecedented levels of flooding, and experts say it’s high time the government takes into account the impact of climate change on India’s weather patterns. But Modi’s own environment minister Prakash Javadekar has been reluctant to acknowledge this, saying at a recent event in Maharashtra that it would be “wrong and unscientific to attribute the current flood situation to climate change”.
What he said: “We have controlled inflation and are working to increase development. The fundamentals of the economy are strong.”
He said the government would invest Rs 100 lakh crore on modern infrastructure, which he said will contribute to increasing employment.
He also urged the consumption of local products to improve rural economy and the MSME sector.
What he left out: The auto industry is facing its worst crisis in decades, with over 3.5 lakh people laid off in four months. Maruti Suzuki’s chairman RC Bhargava said he expects the prime minister and finance minister to directly intervene to fix the crisis, but it may not be that easy. Economist Jayati Ghosh has said low inflation rates could be another symptom of India’s economic slowdown. Multiple factors point to a slowdown in economic activity and hence, GDP growth.
The RBI has revised India’s GDP growth for 2019-20 downward to 6.9% from 7%. Meanwhile, economists have said they do not trust the numbers being put out by the government and are creating their own benchmarks.