Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Weakest of the last 68 speeches

Pankaj Sharma
17 August 2015, New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address flatters to deceive.

From the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, Narendra Modi delivered, what was probably the weakest Independence Day speech by a sitting prime minister in the last 68 years. Being a visionary means seeing the big picture. When the prime minister of India stands on the ramparts of the Red Fort every year on August 15, the whole world keenly listens to his words. Through the speech, many governments around the world attempt to discern and understand the future course of action India will take. Over the years, our prime ministers have used this symbolic occasion to address the nation as well as the world, telling everyone with a sense of pride, the story of India’s progress and achievements.

Listening to Narendra Modi for a full 86 minutes this Independence Day, I was left really disappointed. On the same occasion last year, Modi spoke frankly about his ideas for the future. With 15 months under his belt, one would have assumed that he has understood things a lot better. In his speech on August 15 this year, however, he continued to talk about the ‘atmosphere of confidence’ his government has built in the last 15 months. Despite Modi’s exhortations, most of us are unable to feel that elusive ‘atmosphere of confidence’. 

Modi took an oath that he will take his fight against corruption to its logical end and India must be ready for “the side effects of the injection”, since there is no other remedy for this malaise. 

Therefore, even if some innocents are harassed at the hands of government officials, Modi is ready to ignore their indiscretions. Our prime minister has told the world that India is a nation, whose whole body is a home for termites and how he plans to eradicate every square meter of corruption, besides warning them about how influential groups with vested interests are trying to exert pressure on him to dilute the black money law. Modi declared that his government is corruption-free, conveniently forgetting that public sentiments have arisen against the deeds of a union minister and two chief ministers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states. No business could be conducted in the previous monsoon session because of the government’s brazen attitude of not listening to the opposition’s demand for action against its errant ministers. 

Global leaders, who want to battle against the most corrupt methods of fulfilling the goals of a ‘Global Empire’, must learn from Modi the techniques used to fight against termites and use them effectively to kill the major ones—World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Corporatocracy and the Economic Hit Men—sitting on every square meter of Mother Earth. In a world where economic and military supper-bullies are playing their games under no rules whatsoever, I was impressed by Modi’s announcement that the outflow of black money from India to other countries have now stopped and Rs 6500 crores have come back to India from foreign banks. Nobody supports the generation of black money and we need to take every step against it. 

However, looking at the expansionist approach that countries such as China and America adopt, is it necessary to loudly beat the drums for steps taken to control the two extra tuitions given and hidden by some teachers? There are larger questions that must be dealt with in the area of corruption globally and just because a Bhasmasur is running fast after its creator, countries like ours should not fall into the trap of over indulgent self criticism. Those who themselves are sick certainly have no business giving health tips to others. 

During his speech, Modi kept silent on issues surrounding foreign relations. He should have given a report card of the progress made in core areas of national interests and how much support he is receiving from his ‘friend’ and US President Barack Obama. Modi should have also told the nation about how he feels about seeing Xi Jinping, with whom he shared the swing in Sabarmati, leaning heavily towards Pakistan. Our prime minister could have shed some positive light for resuming talks with Pakistan. The fight against poverty in SAARC has been Modi’s passion after assuming power. Why has it lost steam in such a short span of time? 

From farmers to the armed forces, Modi tried to touch upon every voter constituency. From giving priority to the progress of the Northeast to the implementation of social schemes for the poor, he tried to narrate everything. But Modi had nothing new to add to the glory of his government this time. He could only mention the figures of 17 crores new bank accounts, which are mostly lying idle with no transactions conducted, besides the surrendering of LPG subsidies by 20 lakh people. Modi told us that he will connect all 18,500 villages with electricity poles and wires, without mentioning how many of these villages are already connected to a source of electricity. He also told ex-servicemen that their demand for ‘one rank, one pension’ has been accepted in principle; carefully hiding the fact that this scheme was already approved by Congress-led UPA government on February 16, 2014 and made applicable with effect from April 1, 2014. The game of Hide and seek is one Modi knows better than anyone else.

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