Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sought to lay down the mantras of Atmanirbhar Bharat, vocal for local, and Make for World for the country in order to face the economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Modi, who last year invoked the legislation that criminalised triple talaq and led to abrogation of special status under Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, in his Independence Day address focused on welfare of women for evolving a progressive society, the anti-Covid vaccine being developed by Indian scientists, agriculture reforms, importance of filling the digital divide for villages, and the significance of adopting the new education policy.
In the middle of a debate over ‘vaccine nationalism’, the Prime Minister said India is fully prepared for mass-scale production once the vaccine is finalised. He said: “Our scientists are working on three vaccine candidates that are at various stages of testing…. Once the vaccine is ready, they will be produced and distributed to all Indians in shortest possible time.”
He also said, “I want to tell people, the talent of our scientists is like that of ‘rishi-munis’ (sages)…”
The major thrust of the Prime Minister’s 86-minute speech was on creating an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). He gave a call to reduce imports and push exports of finished projects instead of raw materials, and urged people to move from Make in India to Make for the World. He said neither the pandemic nor natural disasters can break the country’s resolve to be self-reliant.
“…It is the demand of time that India’s contribution to global growth increases. For that, the country would have to become self-reliant and more resourceful,” Modi, in his customary kurta-pajama and a saffron safa, said. “For how long will we continue to supply raw material to the world and import finished products? We have to become self-reliant.”
He emphasised on reforms in agriculture and said they are aimed at making farmers debt-free. “One of the main priorities of Aatmanirbhar Bharat is self-reliant agriculture and self-reliant farmer,” he said. There was a time, the PM pointed out, when the country imported grains but today farmers also produce crops for those in need across the world.
Connectivity — digital and physical infrastructure — is another aspect of self-reliance he mentioned. He announced creation of a four-lane coastal road project and expansion of the optical fibre network to all 6 lakh villages in 1,000 days, including those in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
In his seventh consecutive Independence Day speech, Modi also spoke about challenges posed from cyberspace for the country’s “social fabric, economy and infrastructure” and said a new cyber police would be set up soon.
With celebrations at Red Fort scaled down due to the pandemic, Modi also pointed to the absence of schoolchildren, who usually are seated before the dais each year.
The Prime Minister made no political remarks.
While Modi had compared the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya with the country’s freedom struggle during its bhoomi-pujan on August 5, he mentioned it on Saturday only to laud the “conduct of the people in the country”.
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