In his first Independence Day speech Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi listed the issues he plans to focus on as the leader of the world’s largest democracy: bickering bureaucrats, women’s rights, manufacturing jobs, trash and toilets.
“You might say Independence Day is an opportunity to talk about big ideas and make big declarations. But sometimes, when these declarations are not fulfilled, they plunge society into disappointment,”said Mr. Modi, who is the South Asian nation’s first prime minister born after India gained independence from Britain 67 years ago. “That’s why I’m talking about things we can achieve in our time.”
Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was propelled to power by Indians who, hungry for better jobs and a higher standard of living, grew frustrated with slowing growth under the previous Congress-led government. Since coming to power in May, Mr. Modi has made some cautious policy moves, disappointing some of his supporters who had expected immediate and bold change from his administration.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of New Delhi’s regal Red Fort Friday, Mr. Modi said he plans to set the government in order and stop bureaucratic squabbling, underlining his focus on administrative processes rather than economic overhauls. As “an outsider” to New Delhi, he said, he has been shocked since taking office to find that “there were dozens of governments inside the government,” each with “its own fiefdom.”
“Departments are fighting each other, suing each other in the Supreme Court,” Mr. Modi said. “How can they move the country forward?”
In his nearly hour-long speech delivered largely in Hindi, Mr. Modi reiterated his focus on making India a global manufacturing hub and export powerhouse.
Offering a new slogan in English, “Come, make in India,” Mr. Modi invited the world to come to India to manufacture.
“Sell anywhere in the world but make it here,” he said. “Electricals to electronics, chemicals to pharmaceuticals, automobiles to agro-products, paper or plastic, satellites or submarines — Come, make in India.”
Mr. Modi questioned why India needs to import “every little thing,” and urged the country’s youth to open factories and export goods.
Manufacturing makes up only around 15% of India’s gross domestic product as most of its rapid expansion over the last decades has come from the service sector. During spring elections the BJP said it planned to create millions of new jobs if elected. Economists say one of the best ways India can generate employment is through exports.
While India’s labor costs are among the lowest in the world, it has consistently failed to become an export powerhouse like China and Asia’s other largest economies.
Prime Minister Modi also announced initiatives aimed at modernizing India: a nationwide drive for cleanliness that would boost tourism, a program for parliamentarians to transform villages, one by one, into “model villages,” encouraging politicians and companies to build more toilets so people don’t have to use the outdoors and a push to open bank accounts for all Indians.
Mr. Modi also used his speech to address an issue the new opposition has been demanding discussion on: religious violence. A Hindu nationalist leader accused of not doing enough to stop communal violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister there, Mr. Modi Friday urged Indians to stop communal fighting. Just this week, opposition parties accused the BJP of polarizing Indians on religious lines and analysts have blamed Mr. Modi of not addressing recent tensions.
“Who benefits from this poison of communalism? It is an impediment to growth,” Mr. Modi said. “Let us choose peace instead and see how it propels our nation forward.”
via Modi Targets Bureaucrats, Manufacturing and Toilets in Independence-Day Speech – India Real Time – WSJ.