SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s In­de­pen­dence Day speech on Au­gust 15 was in the back­drop op­ti­mism wherein he said that if In­dia was plagued by mil­lions of prob­lems it also had 1.25 bil­lion minds to solve them. Ear­lier, Prime Min­is­ter Modi had asked for sug­ges­tions from the pub­lic as to what sub­jects he should speak on. His speech cov­ered a vast ar­ray of is­sues mostly an­chored on the achieve­ments of his gov­ern­ment, and the un­mis­tak­able fo­cus on farm­ers, the poor, econ­omy, tech­nol­ogy and ad­vance­ment.

Salient is­sues cov­ered by the Modi were: in­de­pen­dence earned by free­dom fight­ers must be trans­formed into good ad­min­is­tra­tion; agri­cul­ture bud­get in­creased by 44 per cent (from ` 24,909 crore) in 2015-16 to ` 35,984 crore (in 2016-17) and sev­eral ru­ral pro­grammes launched like ‘Prad­han Mantri Kr­ishi Sin­chayee Yo­jana’ (`50,000 crore be­ing pumped into it) and ‘Save Wa­ter, Save En­ergy, and Save Fer­tilis­ers”; gov­ern­ment to foot the med­i­cal ex­penses of those be­low poverty line to the tune of ` 1,00,000; 17 crore peo­ple have opened their bank ac­counts un­der Prad­han Mantri Jan Dhan Yo­jana (24 per cent with zero bal­ance) while 40 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion had no bank ac­count till Au­gust 15, 2015; 100 per cent sep­a­rate toi­lets for boys and girls have been built in all schools across the coun­try (more than 4.25 lakh toi­lets in some 2,62,000 schools); 70,000 vi­lages now have toi­lets; 20 lakh LPG con­sumers have given up the LPG sub­sidy and as many as 1.76 mil­lion con­nec­tions have been given to BPL fam­i­lies un­der the ‘Prad­han Mantri Ujjwala Yo­jana’, aim of the project be­ing to pro­vide LPG con­nec­tions to 50 mil­lion women from such fam­i­lies; to­day in one minute 15,000 rail­way tick­ets can be booked; big hos­pi­tals have on­line reg­is­tra­tion; IT re­fund is easy; pass­ports can be made in two weeks; a com­pany can be reg­is­tered in 24 hours; postal net­work has been con­verted into pay­ment banks to im­ple­ment di­rect ben­e­fit trans­fer schemes; PSUs like Air In­dia and BSNL are not run­ning at loss now; so­lar en­ergy has in­creased by 116 per cent; 100 km roads are be­ing con­structed daily; 50,000 km trans­mis­sion lines have been laid; four crore gas con­nec­tions were al­lot­ted in 60 weeks; 70 crore ci­ti­zens have been given Aad­haar card; 1,700 old laws have been can­celled; and 77 core sub­sidised LED bulbs have been dis­trib­uted sav­ing 20,000 megawatt elec­tric­ity; in­fla­tion has been re­stricted to 6 per cent; spec­trum auc­tion has been made trans­par­ent; In­dian econ­omy has reached third in the world; farm­ers can now sell their prod­ucts on­line; One Rank One Pen­sion (OROP) has been sanc­tioned; GST has put the coun­try on one grid and the like.

On the for­eign pol­icy front, Prime Min­is­ter Modi sig­naled a shift by fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Balochis­tan, Pak­istan-oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (PoK) and Gil­git-Baltistan. This was ob­vi­ous quid pro quo to the sit­u­a­tion that has been cre­ated in the Sri­na­gar Val­ley by with ac­tive as­sis­tance from Pak­istan, Pak­istan pass­ing anti-In­dia res­o­lu­tion, eu­lo­gis­ing Burhan Wani, ob­serv­ing black day and Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif gloat­ing Jammu and Kash­mir ( J&K) will be­come part of Pak­istan and declar­ing to send sup­port and medicines to pro­test­ers in J&K, etc.

At the fag end of his speech, Modi thanked the po­lice and the sol­diers for de­fend­ing the coun­try on land, sea and air. There has been con­sid­er­able dis­sec­tion of Modi’s speech in the me­dia. Tele­vi­sion chan­nels have been show­ing vil­lages with­out elec­tric­ity even though trans­mis­sion lines have been laid in some and vil­lagers say­ing re­peated re­quests for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion have been ig­nored. There are also clips on schools with­out toi­lets be­ly­ing the claim that all schools have been pro­vided toi­lets. Ear­lier the CAG had pointed out that gov­ern­ment claim of sav­ing ` 20,000 from sur­ren­dered LPG sub­sidy was ac­tu­ally less than ` 2,000. The men­tion of po­lice and sol­diers at the fag end also has raised eye­brows not only be­cause of the OROP con­tro­versy, non-ad­dres­sal of anom­alies of 6th Cen­tral Pay Comis­sion (CPC) pointed out by the mil­i­tary, down­grad­ing the mil­i­tary to po­lice level in 7th CPC, ac­cep­tance of 7th CPC with­out ad­dress­ing mil­i­tary’s con­cern, and ex­tend­ing re­tire­ment age of doc­tors in civil and po­lice forces, while deny­ing the same to mil­i­tary doc­tors.

Modi’s ref­er­ence to Balochis­tan, PoK and Gil­git-Baltistan met the ex­pected rhetoric from Pak­istan that Modi was try­ing to di­vert at­ten­tion from the sit­u­a­tion in J&K, whereas it is Pak­istan that has ag­gra­vated the sit­u­a­tion in J&K to di­vert at­ten­tion from the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion within Pak­istan – es­pe­cially in Gil­git-Baltistan and Balochis­tan. Baloch sep­a­ratists have hailed Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s In­de­pen­dence Day speech and termed it an “un­prece­dented” ex­pres­sion of “moral and po­lit­i­cal sup­port”. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Free Balochis­tan Move­ment (FBM) based in Delhi and Lon­don say In­dia should lead oth­ers in recog­nis­ing Balochis­tan as a “his­toric na­tion” un­der the “il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pak­istan”. The op­po­si­tion in In­dia is de­cry­ing Modi for men­tion­ing Balochis­tan, a For­eign Min­is­ter declar­ing Balochis­tan should not be In­dia’s con­cern, but he for­gets it was Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh who per­mit­ted the in­clu­sion of Balochis­tan in the joint dec­la­ra­tion at Sharm-el-Shaikh. Not that this makes any dif­fer­ence be­cause Pak­istan blames all such in­fir­mi­ties on R&AW any­way.

The bot­tom line how­ever is that while Pak­istan will con­tinue to stoke the fires in In­dia while she sits in the lap of China, will Modi trans­late his rhetoric about Balochis­tan and Gil­git-Baltistan into ac­tion?

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