Modi’s Refreshing Address from the Red Fort

Kollengode S. Venkataraman


This August 15, from the ramparts of the majestic Lal Kila (Red Fort), Narendra Modi made his first address as Prime Minister of India to the nation and the world at large as is the custom on India’s independence day. The speech, though did not contain major initiatives that people were looking for, was refreshing nevertheless on several key elements:

Modi ar Red FortFor starters, with many diplomatic dignitaries and global business leaders were in his audience, he did away with the bullet-proof shield on the podium as has been the practice for the last two decades. With no embarrassment, he addressed head on several key problems afflicting India that previous prime ministers felt uncomfortable handling from the grandeur of the Red Fort. That required great conviction. Here are the points Modi covered:

♣   The lack of social hygiene and civic sense among Indians. He did not mince words in telling his citizens what everybody sees. Even educated Indians toss garbage on the streets even as they keep their personal space in homes and offices spic-and-span. For a country that emphasizes shuddham in scriptures, this has been an embarrassment. Modi declared that every parliamentary constituency will have one village as a model for cleanliness, and made its member of the parliament to lead in this effort.

♣   Modi declared that every school in India will have separate urinals and rest rooms for girls within a year. How many urban Indians in the middle class even know that in rural and interior India, schools do not often have separate rest rooms for girls? This is one reason why girls drop out of school. He sought partnership from Corporate India in this.

♣   Another important point Modi addressed was on the skewed gender ratio, with only 940 girls for every 1000 boys on the average because of gender selection before and during pregnancy — even killing of infant girls. Nature keeps this ratio within tight range, around 1050 boys for every 1000 girls. If 940 girls for 1000 boys is the average, it is obvious that in parts of India, it has to be higher. Here are the numbers: Punjab (893 girls), Gujarat (920 girls), Haryana (877 girls), and in some social subgroups, this ratio will be far worse, may be even 800 girls for 1000 boys in the extreme. As we wrote earlier, this has huge social consequences — crimes and violence against women, abduction of married women in rural areas, changes in the sexual mores among people, and many others.

♣   He also talked on violence against women. Instead of looking at this only as crimes, he went to the root cause on how people raise children in India. He declared the obvious: After all, every young man who rapes and molests girls is someone else’s son. How is that, he asked, we do not teach boys  good public behavior the same way we raise girls at home? That was his rhetorical question that should make every Indian think.

♣   The absence of bellicosity in his address was noteworthy. Another feature was that he naturally made references to Indian thinkers who have influenced India in big ways — Aurabindo Ghosh, Swami Vivekananda, Jayaprakash Nayaran and Vallabhbhai Patel. With Congress prime ministers, all the encomiums were heaped only on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. For them, there were no other Indian seminal thinkers worthy of recognition except perhaps the Mahatma. So total has been the Congress cronies’ sycophancy towards the Nehru-Indira-Rajiv-Sonia-Rahul lineage, to which now they have desperately added Priyanka as their savior. Indian regional parties simply emulated the Congress model in sycophancy.

The only big policy announcement in Modi’s speech was that the Indian Planning Commission, a relic of the Nehruvian Socialism, would be dissolved.  Finally.

So, Narendra Modi deserves credit for his candor. But candor in exhorting his citizens is one thing, but getting the job done through the deeply entrenched bureaucracy is another. For there is an old saying in Tamil: A bureaucratic egg can break a boulder.  One hopes that Modi will prevent the bureaucratic eggs in his administration from breaking the boulders of his fresh ideas.    

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.