Friday, August 15, 2014

An Independence Day Speech

I cannot remember the last time I sat through and heard a Prime Ministers speech on Independence Day - much less remember. The last one I remember was PV Narasimha Rao saying, "Without you, without you, inspite of you, Kashmir is ours."

Yet, today, I was up in the morning, connected my television (which is rarely used), checked if it was all working to hear Narendra Modi speak. Post forming the government, he has not spoken - which was quite unlike the chatty persona he was during election time.

And, he did not disappoint. He spoke extempore (no teleprompter, no text, no nothing) to an audience of millions. He spoke of basic things - after all what are castles, but in the air, when there is no foundation. And unless we get the foundation right, there are no castles.

He spoke about rape, female foeticide, toilets, cleanliness and even admonished parents of boys (ask your boys what they are upto as much you ask your girls). Which other leader has told the population to get their country in order. It takes a rare courage to address basic issues like these at an occasion like this.

The speech was inspiring, exhorting the people to go out and do the right thing. He recalled many a freedom fighter long since forgotten by previous regimes which had viewed even our freedom fighters and gurus through a 'secular' lens. He thanked all previous governments and called out Lal Bahadur Shastri (again a name forgotten by his own party) and his Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.

But, more than that...he laid out a few simple and effective ideas. A Sansad gram yojana  - a Parliament Village scheme - which he said will be outlined soon. The idea is simple. Every legislator creates an 'ideal' village by 2016 and two others by 2019 and from then on - one per year. This idea is disarmingly simple. The government provides metrics and each village gets rated on these parameters. He went on to say, if every legislator of the state houses also did it - it would amount to something substantial. And in my view, keeps poverty mongering NGOs out of the fray as well.

He asked legislators to ensure that every school in their constituency has a toilet- and a separate one for girls and boys. Implemented well, this can be like the mid-day meal scheme in schools - and will ensure that girls continue to be in school.

And he dismantled the Planning Commission - a grand relic from the days of our fascination for Soviet style communism - where a planning commission would plan for the country. The unveiling of this will happen soon, he said, but yes, this is clearly taking down the Nehruvian Socialism edifice brick by brick.

(And a simple question - arent we the ones dirtying our country? If every citizen keeps his locality clean, does not trash it, how will our country be dirty?)

Simple problems - which have remained unsolved for decades - simple ideas and inspiring. Metric driven, target driven. Have we had an inspiring leader like this in our lifetimes?

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