UNVEILING HIS vision for 2018 in his last Mann ki Baat radio address of 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all those who turn 18 over the year to register as voters and become the “bedrock of new India”.
“Indian democracy welcomes the voters of the 21st century, the new India voters. I congratulate our youth and urge them to register themselves as voters. The entire nation is eager to welcome you as voters of the 21st century… your vote will prove to be the bedrock of new India,” he said.
Modi also suggested that a “mock Parliament” be organised to mark August 15 in Delhi, comprising one young representative from each district to deliberate on how a new India could be formed in the next five years.
In the address, the Prime Minister also underlined how a policy change by his government this year has enabled Muslim women from India to perform Haj without a male guardian accompanying them.
Pointing out that such a restriction, called “mahram”, is not prevalent in many Islamic countries, he said, “I am happy to note that this time about 1,300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without mahram and women from different parts of the country from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Haj pilgrimage.”
In October, a committee formed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, had recommended that Muslim women above 45 years, unaccompanied by male guardians, should be allowed to go for Haj in groups of four.
The Prime Minister also said that leaders from “all ten ASEAN countries” would attend the Republic Day parade in Delhi on January 26 as chief guests. “This is unprecedented in India’s history,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, the Prime Minister referred to the issue of instant triple talaq while inaugurating the 85th pilgrimage celebrations at the Sivagiri Mutt in Kerala via video conference. Muslim women were facing hardships due to the practice for years, he said. “But now they have found a way to free themselves,” he said, in an indirect reference to the Bill passed by Lok Sabha last week banning the practice.
In his radio address, Modi referred to his government’s cleanliness initiative and said that a Cleanliness Survey 2018, the largest in the world, will be conducted from January 4 to March 10 to evaluate the achievements of the mission in urban areas. This survey will cover a population of more than 40 crore in over 4,000 cities, he said.
Referring to the practice of “mahram” for Haj, Modi said, “When I first heard about it, I wondered how it could be possible. Who would have drafted such rules? Why this discrimination? And when I went into the depth of the matter, I was surprised to find that even after 70 years of our Independence, we were the ones who had imposed these restrictions. For decades, injustice was being rendered to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries, this practice does not exist. But Muslim women in India did not have this right. And I’m glad that our government paid heed to this matter.”
The Prime Minister said that he has suggested to the Ministry of Minority Affairs that all women who have applied to travel alone be allowed to perform Haj. “Usually, there is a lottery system for selection of Haj pilgrims, but I would like that single women pilgrims be excluded from this lottery system and given a chance as a special category,” he said.
Modi said that in the new year, people should take concrete steps to make a “progressive India” and referred to Anjum Bashir Khan Khattak, the topper in the Kashmir Administrative Service exam.
“He actually extricated himself from the sting of terrorism and hatred, and topped in the Kashmir Administrative Examination. You will be surprised to know that terrorists had set his ancestral home on fire in 1990,” Modi said.
On human values, the Prime Minister spoke about Christmas and the message of Jesus Christ who taught the spirit of “sewa bhaav” or service. “Be it any religion, caste or creed, tradition or colour in this world, the spirit of service is an invaluable hallmark of the highest human values,” he said.
He also recalled the life of Guru Gobind Singh, saying that it was full of courage and sacrifice. Referring to the 350th birth anniversary of the Sikh guru, which was marked earlier this year, Modi said that Guru Gobind Singh preached the virtues of human values and practiced them in his own life.