Friday, August 15, 2014

A Remarkable Speech



Another independence day has gone past us. India turned 68. Like many heads of governments before him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also delivered his speech from the ramparts of Red Fort. This was Mr. Modi's first address to the nation after coming to power in Delhi three months before. Enough has been said and discussed about the speech. Many have applauded the oratory of Mr. Modi. Many have praised neutrality and inclusivity of the speech. Many have also criticised the lack of specifics in the speech.




In my mind, prime minister is the head of government. Prime minister should exude vision and show direction where his government should go. Prime minister does not necessarily has to announce grandiose plans for the people from red fort. We have heard such plans at least ten times in last ten years or so. We know where we stand, how much they get translated anyway. 

If we set aside gestures like no bullet proof cover, no umbrella for rain, and claiming himself to be first servant of Inida, I found this speech remarkable on several counts, let us consider three points: 

Speech was made extempore. Speech was made in Hindi only. Speech had clarity, speech made an effort to connect with people of India, not the party and party supremo. 

After 68 years an Indian prime minister had gone up on the Red Fort and declared that India is dirty. He admitted India needs to clean up. He admitted India needs more toilets for girls. Yes we knew all there for a long long time. Yet no one admitted publicly about the issue. No prime minister of India  had ever made an issue of our dirty streets, filthy towns and villages. Let us hope prime minister proclaiming from the ramparts of Red Fort, may have a galvanising effect on ministers, bureaucrats and administrators. 

A third important thing that stuck me was prime ministers emphasis on safety of women. For the first time a prime minister has admitted the scourge of rape. He asked parents to make boys more accountable.  He talked about skewed child sex ratio, he talked about female infanticide. These are issues that affects us Indians deeply. 

We are made laughing stock of the world when we claim India to be superpower. Someone simply has to look at our garbage strewn streets, look at our unsafe streets. For India to be strong, our women, 50% of our population, must be treated with dignity. Admitting a problem is the first step in addressing it. Hopefully, prime minister's independence day speech will bring in a breath of fresh air in our thought process.

Tags: Clean India, Independence Day, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister. Safety of Women, Speech


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