Addressing the country from the ramparts of Red Fort in New Delhi, marking 75 years of the nation's Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India was entering a decisive phase in its war against corruption and that nepotism and misogyny were some of the big challenges that were not just a political issue but existed in other institutions of society and public life, and needed to be combated.
In his ninth consecutive speech from the Red Fort, Mr. Modi said it was a historic day for India and the completion of 75 years of Independence was a time to step towards a new direction with a new resolve. "Our nation has proved that we have an inherent strength from our diversity and the common thread of patriotism makes India unshakeable," Mr. Modi said, as he termed India the "mother of democracy".
He also gave a call for setting big resolutions and spelled out "Panch Pran" (five resolves) to fulfil the freedom fighters' dreams for the country at India's Independence centenary by 2047.
He said Indians should focus on the five pledges — a resolve of developed India; removing any trace of the colonial mindset; taking pride in our legacy; our strength of unity; and fulfilling the duties of citizens with honesty, which should be done by the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers as well.
"In no part of our mind or heart should there be any ounce of slavery," the Prime Minister said elaborating on how India's mindset should be completely decolonised.
"How long will the world continue to give certificates to us? Shall we not set our own standards? Can a country of 130 crore people not make an effort to exceed its standards?" he asked, while also pointing to the New Education Policy (NEP) as one that would serve this purpose. He also said that the country should be proud of every Indian language.
Mr. Modi dedicated a big part of his speech to hit out at corruption, saying it was seen that some people do not have enough space to hide their illicit money while many in the country do not have enough space to live, an obvious pointer to the recovery of huge amounts of allegedly unaccounted cash and other assets during raids at some leaders of Opposition parties.
"Corruption is eating the country like termites and we have to fight it with full might. It is our endeavour that those who have looted the country have to return it," he said, while also slamming efforts to "glorify" them, an apparent reference to the Opposition parties defending those accused of corruption.
"This mindset is not going to end unless there is a feeling of nafrat (hatred) for corruption and the corrupt, and people are forced to look down upon them socially," he said.
Though the Prime Minister took no names, the BJP has often referred to the Congress’ nationwide protests against the Enforcement Directorate’s questioning of its leaders, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, in the National Herald case.
Also hitting out at dynasty and nepotism, he said their presence in politics nourished this evil in all other institutions of the country. This must be ended, he said.
"This nepotism harms India's talents and capabilities. This is also a reason for corruption as people resort to it when they see no other option," he said.
"It is my constitutional and democratic responsibility to fight these evils," Mr. Modi said, and sought people's support.
"In politics too, the dynasty has done the most injustice to the country's strength. Dynastic politics is aimed at a family's welfare and has no interest in the country's welfare," he said.
A strong exhortation by the Prime Minister was made on the issue of misogyny, and speech and action that caused insult to women. He said that in the next 25 years it would be the unshackling of the talent of women in India that would lead to the country reaching its development and societal goals sooner.
He noted that a ‘made in India’ gun was used for the first time in 75 years for the ceremonial 21-shot salute at the historic Red Fort on Independence Day on Monday. He lauded the feat and congratulated the Armed Forces.
"When 130 crore people take one step ahead, the nation moves 130 crore steps," he said, and highlighted his government's resolve for "Aatmanirbhar India" (self-reliant India).
While his 82-minute speech was peppered with several exhortations of "Jai Anusandhan" to promote research and innovation, there was no announcement of any new initiative or scheme as has been the case in previous speeches by him or his predecessors.
Ahead of his speech at the Red Fort, Mr. Modi, dressed in a traditional kurta and churidar paired with a blue jacket and a white safa with tricolour stripes and a long trail as his headgear, unfurled the National Flag amid a 21-gun salute by the indigenously-developed Howitzer gun, the ATAGS.
The Prime Minister said that it was time for India’s “techade” (‘technological decade’) and digital technology is going to bring reforms in every area. “India’s techade is here! With 5G, semiconductor manufacturing and optical fibre cable in villages, we are bringing a revolution through Digital India to the grassroots level,” Mr. Modi said.
He also said the success of ‘Digital India’ and startups has been driven by youth from the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
He also paid tributes to freedom fighters and leaders from across the political spectrum for their contribution to the Independence struggle and nation-building, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, V.D. Savarkar, Ram Manohar Lohia, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mangal Pandey among others.