Indian Decade

Singh Speaks on India’s Independence Day

The Prime Minister outlines his goals for India’s future.

In his address on India’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised that the Indian economy was poised for better growth despite the global slowdown and a bad monsoon.

Interestingly, Singh didn’t mention Pakistan once during his speech. In recent weeks, Indo-Pakistani relations have been improving and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna is scheduled to pay an important bilateral visit to Pakistan early next month. 

However, Singh’s detractors were quick to dismiss his speech as uninspiring and many criticized him for what he did not say. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and a strong contender for Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate nomination in 2013, criticized the Prime Minister for failing to address the violence in Mumabi, a ripple effect of the bloody ethnic violence in Assam earlier this month that left scores dead and thousands others homeless.

The now-disbanded Team Anna also took the PM to task for not mentioning his proposed roadmap for combating corruption. Kiran Bedi, another well-known critic of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), tweeted that, "The Prime Minister says we have passed Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill etc. Does not say what kind of bill? One which weakens CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) further! Banks on people's legal illiteracy."

Baba Ramdev, who just ended his six-day fast in protest of 'black money', rapped Singh for his non-performance and described him as a “moni baba” (silent hermit), an unflattering remark which in the political context is generally meant to denote an executive who does not speak his or her mind. Interestingly, Anna Hazare has so far remained silent on PM Singh’s speech.

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For his part, Singh devoted a major portion of his 40-minute speech to the issue of corruption. While reaffirming that his government would continue to work tirelessly to root out the menace, he did stress that there was no magic wand that could solve it. What must have really irked Hazare, Ramdev, and company is that Singh decried hunger strikes as a means to push the envelope.

At the same time, Singh sought to reassure potential foreign investor that despite recent changes in the taxation code, there would be "no barriers" to investing in India. He also said that more than a hundred thousand new villages now had electricity as a result of the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme. He also announced that the UPA government’s next goal is to provide electricity to each and every household in the country in the next five years.