New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first Independence Day speech after assuming office for a second term, unveiled an ambitious plan to transform India into a $5 trillion economy in the next five years on the back of a strong mandate and the rising aspirations of people.
While his first term in office was focused on delivering the basic needs of the people, it’s now time to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of 1.37 billion people, Modi said on Thursday.
Modi’s 90-minute speech gave glimpses of what his government would do as well as what the people—the poor, the middle class and the rich—could do to propel India’s growth in the 21st century. The themes that he touched on were varied and diverse.
One of the first subjects that Modi spoke about was Kashmir, listing it as one of the key decisions taken within 70 days of assuming office. “The system that prevailed over the past 70 years had aggravated separatism and given birth to terrorism. It had encouraged dynastic rule and in a way strengthened the foundations of corruption and discrimination," Modi said. By revoking Article 370 and reorganizing Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into two Union territories, India had become “One Nation, One Constitution", he said adding that such attempts to unify India into one seamless country should continue. Modi said that for better synergy among the three armed forces, the government was setting up the office of a Chief of Defence Staff as a single-point reference for the government on all matters of national security.
In a message to India Inc., the Prime Minister said he was committed not only to improving the ease of doing business, but also to improving the ease of living. “Wealth creation is a great national service," Modi said. “The need of the hour is to recognize and encourage the wealth creators of our nation. They should receive more honour. If wealth is not created, wealth cannot be distributed. Further, if wealth is not distributed we cannot uplift the poor sections of our society."
Modi said the government was planning to invest ₹100 trillion on modern infrastructure, which in turn would generate employment. The government has also set ambitious plans, such as Sagarmala (ports) and Bharatmala (roads) to improve transport infrastructure. The total investment for the Bharatmala project was pegged at ₹10 trillion—the largest-ever outlay for a government road construction scheme.
Aspiration was a recurring motif in his speech. “Ordinary citizens are no longer satisfied with just a railway station. They will immediately ask, ‘When will Vande Bharat Express come to our area?’ Their thinking has changed," Modi said. By the 75th year of independence (2022), he said, farmers’ income should double, every poor person should get a pucca house, every family should get electricity connection and every village should have optical fibre network and broadband connectivity, besides the facility of long-distance education.
“The nation cannot wait for incremental progress. We have to jump high… we have to change the way of thinking too," he said.
On the theme of sustainability, Modi urged the people to avoid using plastic bags and rid themselves of the habit of using single-use bags by 2 October, Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Modi urged startups, technicians and entrepreneurs to look at innovative ways to recycle plastic. Modi also flagged the growing water crisis in the country and said around ₹3.5 trillion will be spent under the ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission aimed at providing potable water.
He highlighted a new challenge: population explosion. This is the first time in recent history that a government has highlighted the need for a discussion on population growth. “We have to think, can we do justice to the aspirations of our children? There is a need to have greater discussion and awareness on population explosion," Modi said. A UN report in June estimated that around 2027, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country.