Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fifth and final Independence Day address before the 2019 election was as political as it could get, a precursor to the Lok Sabha election, if you will. The thrust of his speech was – “India has developed only after I took over as Prime Minister.”
Highlighting his government’s reform record, Modi predicted that India will be the engine of growth for the world economy for the next three decades. That from a “sleeping elephant”, it had started to run on the back of structural reforms like GST. In the last four years, he said, India had gone from being a fragile and risky economy to a fast-paced one to emerge as a top global investment destination.
This transformation was brought about by several developments post 2014.
“If we had continued at the same pace at which toilets were being built in 2013 and electrification was taking place, it would taken us decades to achieve these goals. India would not have developed in a hundred years”, he said.
The Three Big Announcements
But politics aside, there were three big announcements –
Ayushman Bharat, the National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) will provide a Rs 5 lakh health insurance cover to 10 crore people. The Prime Minister also announced that many hospitals will also be built in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, adding that it was high time we ensure that the poor of India get access to good quality and affordable healthcare. The scheme will be launched on 25 September, the birth anniversary of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, and will provide a Rs 5 lakh.
2. Manned Space Mission
"India has always advanced in space science but we have decided that by 2022 when India completes 75 years of Independence, or before that, a son or daughter of India will go to space with a tricolour in their hands,” announced the Prime Minister. It will be the most ambitious project the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has ever taken, that too with a deadline of five years. “Preparations for this,” the PM announced, “have already begun.”
3. Permanent Commission for Women in Armed Forces
In another significant announcement, women will now finally be eligile for permanent commission in the armed forces. As per the short service commission, one can serve as a commissioned officer for 10-14 years. At the end of three years, one can opt out, opt for a 4-year extension or opt for a permanent extension. With today’s announcement, women will now be eligible for a term more than 14 years.
Fact-Checking PM Modi’s I-Day Address
In his 80-minute-long speech, the Prime Minister covered a host of issues – clean drinking water, Kashmir, the Solar Alliance, Aadhar, Digital India, fast-tracking of rape cases, farmers, GST, OROP and Triple Talaq.
But there may have been some facts that the Prime Minister may have overstated –
First, the Prime Minister quoted a World Health Organisation (WHO) report to claim that 3 lakh children have been saved due to his government’s ‘Swachhta Abhiyaan’.
“When I announced the Swachh Bharat Mission from the ramparts of this Red Fort in 2014, people laughed at me and said I was wasting my energy, that the government has many other things to do. But a recent WHO report stated that the lives of 3 lakh children were saved due to the Swachh Bharat Mission. Saving the lives of 3 lakh children from poor families is a humanitarian job,” he said.
But the PM was misquoting the report, which states that IF the Swachh Bharat Mission is implemented properly by October 2019, the death of three lakh children can be prevented, which is NOT the same thing as saving 3 lakh children.
On the MUDRA Loan Scheme, the Prime Minister said, “Out of the 12 crore beneficiaries, 28 per cent or 3.25 crore, are first-time entrepreneurs. Also, of the total borrowers, 9 crore - or 74 per cent - are women and 55 per cent belong to the SC/ST and OBC categories. The government extended Rs 2.53 lakh crore credit under the Mudra Yojana in the previous fiscal, while Rs 5.73 lakh crore has been extended in last 3 years.”
He also added that the Mudra Yojana was not just a self-employment scheme, but that it acted as a job multiplier since it created employment with the many new ventures that it has enabled.
While the data itself is not disputed, the real question is – Is the Mudra Yojana really creating employment?
A Finance Ministry response to an RTI query filed by India Today reveals that 93% of the loans disbursed under the scheme were under Rs 50,000 category. These micro-loans are useful mostly for self-owned businesses like a cattle dairy farmer o a vegetable seller. Such small businesses are unlikely to generate employment. So, linking the disbursement of loans under the Mudra Yojana to employment generation is a bit of a stretch.
Third, the PM claimed that had we continued with the UPA's pace of electrification in 2013 , it would’ve taken India decades to achieve 100% electrification.
But according to Fact Check India, the UPA electrified an average of 12,000 villages each year – far more than the NDA’s average of 4,600 villages per year – which means that the UPA would’ve achieved 100% electrification in far less than a decade.
What PM Modi Did Not Address...
It’s understood that the Prime Minister could not possibly accommodate all of the crowd-sourced suggestions, but there were certain issues that the PM Modi did not mention, that raised questions.
1. The falling rupee.
India slipped to its lowest point against the US dollar, but for now, the goverment is allowing the Opposition to do all the talking on this one.
A passing reference was made to the government’s war on black money, but nothing on the D-word.
3. The earlier bravado on China and Pakistan was also conspicuously absent. This, despite repeated transgressions in Doklam and across the Line of Control.
4. And finally, rising incidents of mob violence.
There have been at least 156 incidents of mob attacks fuelled either by cow vigilantes or child lifting rumours since Prime Minister Modi took charge. And yet, there was no mention of the 75 people who have died in these brutal attacks in his fifth and final Independence Day address before 2019.