India celebrates 66 years of Independence
[ By R. Chandrakanth ]
It was at the Red Fort in Delhi, the first Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled India’s national flag on August 15, 1947, celebrating freedom from British rule. Since then, Independence Day festivities have been synonymous with the Prime Minister hoisting the tricolour (national flag) at the Red Fort and the nation paying homage to all those who laid down their lives winning independence for us. This year too, India celebrated its 67th Independence Day on August 15 with great fervour, but amidst tight security arrangements. Reminding the nation of the sacrifices of soldiers and others, the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee while delivering the “Address to the Nation” on the eve of Independence Day said, “I applaud the courage and heroism of our security and armed forces who maintain eternal vigilance, and pay homage to those who have made the supreme sacrifice of the most precious gift of life in the service of the motherland.”
“We have seen in the recent past grave challenges to our security, internal as well as external. The barbaric face of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh led to a loss of many innocent lives. Despite India’s consistent efforts to build friendly relations with neighbours, there have been tensions on the border and repeated violations of the ceasefire on the line of control, leading to tragic loss of lives. Our commitment to peace is unfailing but even our patience has limits. All steps necessary to ensure internal security and protect the territorial integrity of the nation will be taken.”
Delivering his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said, “Today is certainly a day of joy for us. But on this celebration of independence we also feel pain in our hearts that our brothers and sisters in Uttarakhand had to face devastation about two months back. Our deepest sympathies are with all the families that suffered loss of life or property. I want to assure the people of Uttarakhand today that the whole country stands with them in this moment of crisis. Our government is working with all the resources at its command to rehabilitate those whose houses have been destroyed and rebuild damaged infrastructure.
“Our Army, paramilitary forces and numerous officers and staff of the Central and state governments worked in difficult conditions in partnership with the common people to perform an outstanding task in providing relief to those who were stranded. We especially pay homage to the officers and men of the Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) who sacrificed their lives to save others.
“We are also deeply pained that we lost the submarine, INS Sindurakshak in an accident yesterday. Eighteen brave sailors are feared to have lost their lives. The accident is all the more painful because the Navy had recently achieved two major successes in the form of its first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant and the aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. We pay homage to the brave hearts we have lost. We also congratulate the Navy on its successes.”
“Countries today are more integrated with each other than ever before. We have endeavoured that our foreign policy exploits this fully to India’s benefit. In the last nine years, there has been a continuous improvement in our relations with the major powers of the world. Our ‘Look East’ policy in respect of 10 ASEAN countries in East and South-East Asia has borne good results, especially in economic matters. We have also strived for friendship with our neighbouring countries. However, for relations with Pakistan to improve, it is essential that they prevent the use of their territory and territory under their control for any anti-India activity.
“There has been improvement in the area of national security also. Despite some worrisome communal incidents in 2012 and this year, the last nine years have been good for communal harmony. There has been a reduction in terrorist and naxal violence also. However, the area of national security calls for constant vigil. We have not been successful in preventing naxal attacks that happen from time to time. The naxal violence in Chhatisgarh on 25 May was a frontal attack on our democracy. Recently, there was a dastardly attack on our Jawans on the line of control with Pakistan. We will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in the future.”
Singh said that every decade after independence has witnessed major changes in our country and we need to think today what changes we would like to see in the decade ahead.
“If in the future we can achieve the same kind of progress as in the last decade, the day is not far off when India will be rid of poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance. Our India will be prosperous and all its citizens will be equal partners in this prosperity, irrespective of their religion, caste, region or language. We will also need to build an environment of political stability, social cohesion and security for this to happen.”