75th Independence Day: Three Speeches, Three Leaders And A Vision For A New India

From terrorism to economic, social and gender inequality, these Independence Day speeches focus on challenges a modern India must fight

Team RD Updated: Aug 15, 2021 12:03:59 IST
75th Independence Day: Three Speeches, Three Leaders And A Vision For A New India Three of India's long-serving Prime Ministers (Photos courtesy Flickr and Wikimedia Commons)

In the last 20 years, much has changed in India. Yet, some of the core objectives—ensuring social, economic and gender equality, making education accessible to all, and providing employment opportunities to our youth—have remained unchanged.

On the 74th Independence Day, Reader’s Digest looks at three speeches that celebrate a New India of the 21st century, while underlining the challenges that a young nation faces. From Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 1999 speech that talks about the Kargil War and the scourge of terrorism, to Manmohan Singh’s 2012 address that dwells on the importance of a healthy economic growth, to PM Narendra Modi’s 2014 speech that trains the spotlight on sanitation, these speeches identify issues that a modern India must grapple with. 

15 August 1999

Terrorism is a curse on the world. When it is combined with religious extremism, it becomes a grave danger to humanity: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

This year’s Independence Day has special significance for all of us. The present century is coming to an end. The world will have entered the next century by the time of the next Independence Day.

We pay our homage to those self-sacrificing and devoted leaders and patriots who struggled for freedom throughout their lives, and, when necessary, even laid down their lives as aahuti (offering) in the great yagya of freedom.

In the same way, I offer my condolences to the valiant jawans, officers and others belonging to the Army and the Air Force, who displayed magnificent heroism and the spirit of sacrifice in recapturing that part of our Motherland in Kargil from the enemy. All of us bow our heads in gratitude for those who were martyred in the Kargil war.

When I addressed you from this rampart last year, there was uncertainty and cynicism in the atmosphere. I was being asked:

Will we be able to withstand economic sanctions?

Today, speaking to a self-confident India, I declare:

Sanctions have lost their effect. They have become a thing of the past. We have dealt with them in such a way that they hardly had any effect on our economy.

Pokharan has given us enviable strength and self-confidence; AGNI-2 has been tested—in the face of pressure—and will be integrated into our defence arsenal.

Last year we had taken a major step—Pokhran 2—which was essential for our security, a step which had been contemplated for long but which could not be taken because of the pressures which were put on successive governments.

Some did not agree with our assessment. Some even sought to portray us as an irresponsible nation. However today, within a year, in the councils of the world, ‘India’ is synonymous with ‘responsibility’.

Also, the world has seen that whatever we do, will be for self-defence, never for aggression.

These were the principles, which guided us when Pakistan forced the Kargil war on us. Our response was well thought-out.

The Lahore bus journey was taken to improve our relations with Pakistan. This made the world realize that we truly want peace and friendship.

Later, when the bus to Lahore was taken to Kargil, it did not take much time for the world to realise that Pakistan not only violated the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, but it also crossed the borders of trust and goodwill.

We need peace in order to raise the standard of living of the people in both countries. For peace, we need trust. Has trust increased on account of all that happened in Kargil? Does the path of armed intrusion lead to friendship?

Terrorism is a curse on the world. When it is combined with religious extremism, it becomes a grave danger to humanity.

… we must defend our country and develop our society by keeping national interests utmost in our minds. If our economy is not strong, and if we are not self-reliant in important matters of national security, then we cannot successfully face external challenges.

I note with regret that several regions in the country—including the North-Eastern states—have been the victims of unbalanced progress. The nation has an especially pressing obligation to bring the people of the North-East into the developmental mainstream.

Come, let us build an India in which Dalits, Adivasis, and Backward Classes are not only freed from economic deprivation, but also enjoy the fruits of social justice. The path that will take us to this ideal is the path of samata, mamata and samajik samarasta.

Come, let us build an India in which our narishakti—our women—are able to realize their full potential—from shaping the future of their families to shaping the future of the nation. It is our collective responsibility to empower them economically, socially, educationally and also politically. In this regard, I would like to see early passage of the legislation to reserve seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies.

Come, let us build an India in which the minorities fully enjoy the fruits of national development, while having full opportunities to contribute to it. Our country belongs to all. And all are entitled to equal and fair treatment in the eyes of the law and the government. India, which is home to the great secular principle of Sarva Panth Samabhav, fully guarantees the religious freedom of all communities. It is a matter of immense pride for India that all the religions of the world have a harmonious co-existence here. Unity in diversity is our priceless heritage.

Come let us together build a Parishrami Bharat, a Parakrami Bharat, a Vijayi Bharat.

For the entire speech, head over here: https://archivepmo.nic.in/abv/speech-details.php?nodeid=9169


15 August 2012

If we do not increase the pace of the country’s economic growth... it most certainly affects our national security: Manmohan Singh

The leaders of our freedom movement, under the stewardship of Mahatma Gandhi, had dreamt of an independent and prosperous India. On this day in 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took the first step towards the realization of that dream by hoisting the Tricolour at the Red Fort. The journey we began on 15 August, 1947 is now 65 years old. We have achieved much in these 65 years.

Today is certainly a day to celebrate the success of our democracy. However, on this occasion we should also introspect about what remains to be done. We would achieve independence in the true sense only when we are able to banish poverty, illiteracy, hunger and backwardness from our country. This would be possible only when we learn from our failures and build on our successes.

You are aware that these days the global economy is passing through a difficult phase. The pace of economic growth has come down in all countries of the world. Seen together, the European countries are estimated to grow at 0 percent this year. Our country has also been affected by these adverse external conditions. Also, there have been domestic developments which are hindering our economic growth. Last year our GDP grew by 6.5 percent. This year we hope to do a little better.

We cannot do much about the conditions that prevail outside our country. But we must make every effort to resolve the problems inside our country so that our economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities in the country are again speeded up.

While doing this, we must also control inflation. As far as creating an environment within the country for rapid economic growth is concerned, I believe that we are not being able to achieve this because of a lack of political consensus on many issues. Time has now come to view the issues which affect our development processes as matters of national security.

If we do not increase the pace of the country’s economic growth, take steps to encourage new investment in the economy, improve the management of government finances and work for the livelihood security of the common man and energy security of the country, then it most certainly affects our national security.

Our children are the biggest strength of our country. If our children are provided with good education and are healthy, then our future would be bright.

This is the reason why we have paid special attention to the needs of children in our policies and programmes. The education of children has been made mandatory by law.

We want to create many new job opportunities for our youth in the coming years. To achieve this it is necessary that we train them in skills which our economy needs. It is our endeavour to put in place a system in which training facilities are available in many new skills. The National Skill Development Council has formulated a major scheme for skill development in which 8 crore people will be trained in the next 5 years. This is an ambitious scheme which can be implemented only through a specialized agency of the central government. Therefore, we are considering the establishment of a National Skill Development Authority so that skill development programmes all over the country can be implemented in a coordinated manner. We would also need contribution from the private sector and non-governmental organizations in this work.

Creation of new employment opportunities is possible only when we encourage industry and trade. For this we need to speedily improve our infrastructure. Ambitious targets have been fixed in roads, airports, railways, electricity generation and coal production. To attract foreign capital, we will have to create confidence at the international level that there are no barriers to investment in India.

In my first message to the country after assuming the office of Prime Minister I had appealed to you to contribute to the sacred work of nation building. I am very happy that today more of our citizens than ever before, and especially the youth, are taking interest in issues related to the progress of our society and country. Our government believes that the difficult problems which India faces can be resolved only with the cooperation of the common man. It will be our endeavour that in the coming times, still more people help us in tasks like removal of poverty, illiteracy and inequality.

I believe that no power in the world can stop our country from achieving new heights of progress and development. What is needed is that we work together as one people for the success of our country. Let us once more resolve that we will continue to work for a progressive, modern and prosperous India.

For a full transcript of Manmohan Singh's speech, you can head over to this link: https://archivepmo.nic.in/drmanmohansingh/speech-details.php?nodeid=1199


15 August 2014

The poor need respect and it begins with cleanliness: Narendra Modi

My dear countrymen, this nation has neither been built by political leaders nor by rulers nor by governments. This nation has been built by our farmers, our workers, our mothers and sisters, our youth. This is the beauty of India’s Constitution; this is its capability which has made it possible that today a boy from small town, a poor family, has got the opportunity to pay homage to the tricolour of India at the ramparts of Lal Quila. This is the strength of India’s democracy. This is an invaluable legacy which we have inherited from our architects of the Constitution.

Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. … I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years of age, you are always on the alert … Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going.… impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.

Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?

Have we ever thought what the sex ratio in the country is like? 940 girls are born against per thousand boys. Who is causing this imbalance in the society? Certainly, not God. I request the doctors not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets. I advise mothers and sisters not to sacrifice daughters in the hope of son. This disparity points to female foeticide and the polluted and tainted mind the 21st century has. Girls … contribute to India’s fame and glory. Let’s recognize it. Let’s take them along, shoulder to shoulder.

The first work I started here after formation of government is of cleanliness. Mahatma Gandhi, who gave us freedom …had cleanliness and sanitation closest to his heart.

… we are living in 21st century. Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in open? Is dignity of women is not our collective responsibility? The poor womenfolk of the village wait for the night; until darkness descends, they can’t go out to defecate. What bodily torture they must be feeling, how many diseases that act might engender. Can’t we just make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters? The poor need respect and it begins with cleanliness. I want to make a beginning today itself and that is – all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway.

I clearly believe that India’s foreign policy can be multi-dimensional. Why not get together with all the SAARC nations to plan out the fight against poverty? Let us see at-least for once as to how wonderful is the feeling of being alive instead of killing and getting killed... We are trying to move forward with these dreams to achieve them.

You can find the full text of Modi's speech here: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/news_updates/text-of-pms-address-in-hindi-to-the-nation-from-the-ramparts-of-the-red-fort-on-the-68th-independence-day/


These are edited excerpts of the speeches.
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