In his debut Independence Day address on Friday to a nation impatient for development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shunned the customary bulletproof shield and persisted with his characteristic rhetorical flourish, but forcefully conveyed his vision of “Come, make in India,” inviting firms across the world to “sell in any country but manufacture here”.
In a speech that lasted for more than an hour and attended by a larger-than-usual array of foreign diplomats, Modi pledged a philosophy of consensual governance where everyone felt empowered and announced that the 64-year-old Planning Commission, increasingly out of sync with current times, would soon make way for a “new body with a soul”.
Analysts read into his every word for pointers to the government’s economic plans and the prominent takeaways included, apart from the precedence given to the woefully underperforming manufacturing sector, a wholehearted embracing of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for economic growth. Even the new institution superseding the Planning Commission would be spearheading PPPs for development with the greater involvement of not only the state governments but also the youth of the country.
“The internal situation of the country has changed, global environment has changed... Government is no longer at the centre of economic development,” he said.
However, critics, especially those from the financial world, rued his being non-committal about structural (market) reforms they believe the stuttering economy is in crying need of.
On their part, Modi’s political adversaries were critical of what they called his continued penchant for the rhetoric that helped him in the hustings while the need of the hour was to act on promises and come out with specific policies.
In fact, he did unveil some. He launched a new scheme of financial inclusion — Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana — with the aim to get every poor family a bank account, a debit card and an insurance cover of R1 lakh. The PM also unveiled a scheme called Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana for each member of Parliament or state legislatures to convert one village in his or her constituency to a model one, to be named after him or her, by 2016.
A reiteration of “Skill India” movement aimed at making the youth employable (some 12 million enter the Indian workforce each year), an emphasis on digital infrastructure as a means to improve governance and a cleanliness mission with a five-year horizon were among the other highlights of his speech. Calling himself an “outsider to Delhi” till the