Independence Day speech: PM Modi says wealth creators must be honoured

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Red Fort in New Delhi on Thursday | Photo: PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday sought to improve the morale of India Inc in the wake of complaints of ‘tax terrorism’, saying people should stop viewing wealth creators with suspicion and that they deserved greater respect. 

Addressing the nation on the 73rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the historical Red Fort, Modi said greater wealth creation would lead to greater distribution and welfare of the poor. “Our investors should invest more, earn more, and generate more jobs,” he said. People involved in creating wealth, he said, were “the wealth of the country” to him.

In the speech, his sixth from the iconic Mughal monument since 2014, the PM announced that the country would soon have a chief of defence staff, or CDS, for better coordination between the army, navy, and air force, and reforms in armed forces.

The PM cautioned the country about “population explosion” posing a grave danger for future generations. Modi said people who practised family planning were “patriots”. “We have to think and discuss the issue in depth and take along all the sections of society,” he added. 

In the past few years, several leaders, ministers and MPs of his Bharatiya Janata Party, and sympathisers like yoga guru Ramdev have demanded a law on population control, including disenfranchising those with more than two children. 

On economy, the PM said its “fundamentals are very strong”. He said reforms like the goods and services tax (GST) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code had created faith in the system. He reiterated his government’s objective of making India a $5-trillion economy in the next five years, and self-reliant. To achieve this, he appealed to people to purchase “made in India products” to help the cause of self-reliance and his government’s ‘Make in India’ mission. He said buy local for a “lucky tomorrow”, a more prosperous tomorrow. He said people should buy products made in their villages, tehsils, districts and their own state. 

“This will strengthen our rural economy, micro and small scale sectors, and traditional products.” 

He said the world looked at India as a big market, and it was time India also looked at the world as a market. The PM said each of the country’s districts could become export hubs, as each has its own core competence in manufacturing, whether saris, perfumes, utensils and other traditional goods.

Modi said the country was now impatient with “incremental progress”, and the need of the time was a “high jump”, to change old ways of thinking to create modern infrastructure. He said the government would invest Rs 100 trillion in infrastructure in the next five years, which would also spur job growth.

Modi said nepotism and corruption had eaten away the country like termites. He said his government had taken several steps to “cure the disease” but it was widespread and required constant efforts to uproot, including with the use of technology.

Possibly alluding to bureaucrats sacked and ministers dropped, Modi said, “You must have seen how in the last five years, and also in the new government, we have shown the exit door to several high and mighty people sitting in the government who were proving to be obstacles in our campaign,” the PM said. “They were told they can go about doing whatever business they were involved in, but the country has no longer any need for their services,” Modi said.

The PM asked the people to pledge to make India free from ‘single-use plastic’ by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. He said people should use cloth or jute bags. He said water conservation and providing piped water to all households was a priority for his government. He said Rs 3.5 trillion was earmarked for the Jal Jeevan Mission.

The PM pointed to the frenetic pace of work by the new government, particularly the passage of important laws, like proscribing ‘triple talaq’ and scrapping provisions of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution. He detailed how Article 370 was discriminatory to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

On J&K becoming a Union Territory, Modi said people of the region could now approach New Delhi directly instead of relying on intermediaries. “We accomplished within 70 days what was not done for the last 70 years,” he said. Modi said every Indian could now proudly say ‘one nation, one constitution’, just as GST achieved the dream of ‘one nation, one tax’. In the energy sector, the country has attained ‘one nation, one grid’ and ‘one nation, one mobility card’ developed in the transport sector. He said ‘one nation, one poll’ was being discussed, “and it should happen in a democratic manner”.

The PM spoke of his government taking steps to improve ‘ease of living’, and the need to reduce government interference in day-to-day lives of common people, but it should be there to help as a facilitator. “Na sarkar ka dabav ho, na sarkar ka abhav ho,” the PM said.

Modi did not mention Pakistan, but said his government was taking steps to defeat terrorism.