PM’s I-Day Speech: Art 370 Done. What’s Next — Population Control?

Lauding NDA 2.0 for recent initiatives, has PM Modi hinted population control to be next on his agenda?

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Representational image used to show population control.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his sixth consecutive Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, and expectedly, dwelt on his resolve to work for the good of the people and take the country forward. No one does triumphalism better than the PM.

Modi, who looked sharp in his festive headgear, went on to elaborate on the signal achievements of his government, and conjure up a vision of a 21st century India that was as eloquent as it was alluring.

Hum samasyawon ko taalte bhi nahin hai, paalte bhi nahin hai (We don’t procrastinate on solving problems, nor do we nurse them),” said Modi. In a sense, that pithy declaration encapsulated the spirit of his Independence Day address, evoking as it did the picture of a muscular, can-do prime minister, who doesn’t believe in pussyfooting around thorny issues and goes all out to resolve them.

Modi Justifies Scrapping Article 370, Yet Again

Modi hailed the passage of the law banning the practice of instant triple talaq, and talked at length about the biggest event yet of his second stint as PM — the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. He said Article 370 was a problem that had been festering for the last 70 years.

Where none had had the courage to correct it, his BJP government had set it aside in one swift stroke.

Not surprisingly, Modi reiterated his arguments justifying the abolition of Article 370 and, with it, Article 35A, saying that it would lead to the region’s development, fulfil the aspirations of its people, stamp out extremism and separatism and deal a death blow to dynastic politics.

Equally unsurprisingly, PM Modi ignored the stunning irony of referring to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people when, for the last 11 days, the government has done pretty much everything to silence the voice of the people in the Valley and keep them from expressing their will.

Modi also had a clever rejoinder for his political opponents who are protesting against the scrapping of Article 370. “If it was so important,” he queried rhetorically, almost as if he were on the bully pulpit of an election rally. “If you were so convinced of its necessity, why did you not make the provision permanent? Why did you keep it temporary?”

Needless to say, Modi knows that all that an outnumbered, outsmarted, outgunned Opposition can mumble in response are some more feeble arguments about the “questionable” means rather than the actual end. He also knows that such arguments find zero traction with his enamoured followers who are ululating the government’s action in Kashmir.

“Now we can say, we have ‘one nation, one Constitution,’ ” exulted Modi. A little later, he went on to talk about his push for “one nation, one election,” or the possibility of holding parliamentary and assembly elections simultaneously, which has long been a pet project of the RSS.

Gung-ho Vision Of a Galloping Economy — Defying Reality

The prime minister’s Independence Day speech is also an occasion to outline the roadmap for the country’s future. And today, Modi repeated the government’s stated aim of making India a USD 5 trillion economy in another five years. “If we could have added USD 1 trillion to the economy in the last five years, we can add USD 2 trillion more in the next five. It is achievable,” he said.

Of course, this gung-ho vision of a galloping economy calmly sidesteps the current reality, one where depressing statistics emerge every day — the bellwether auto sector witnessing a sharp decline in sales and shedding over 2 lakh jobs; the growth of eight core sectors down to a four-year low in June this year; RBI revising India’s GDP growth forecast for 2019-20 down to 6.9 percent; unemployment at a four-decade low, and so on.

But when Modi, or anyone else in the government, never admits to any economic distress, why expect him to factor in the reality when he is making his pronouncements on an occasion like Independence Day?

Likewise, only the most cussed among Modi’s opponents will crib that he did not exhort people to live as one and do away with the widening fault lines between communities.

Talks About Population Control: Prelude to a Larger Plan?

Modi went on to list several other important plans: a USD 100 trillion investment in infrastructure projects, spending USD 3.5 trillion on the Jal Shakti Mission to bring piped water to all households, taking measures to break into the top 50 countries in ease-of-doing-business rankings and appointing a chief of defence staff to improve synergy amongst the three defence services. He also announced a campaign to stop the use of single-use plastics.

“The time for incremental progress is over,” he said. “We now have to do a high jump.”

And Modi, who often refers to the ‘niraasha’, the despair of the people prior to 2014, and their alleged hope and energy after his government came to power, declared that citizens would definitely rise to that task.

Modi has often used his Independence Day speeches to announce big-ticket campaigns and schemes. In 2015, it was the Swachh Bharat Mission, and in 2018 he used the occasion to announce the launch date for the Ayushman Bharat medical insurance scheme for the poor. This time, amongst all the other announcements, the PM also talked at length about the problem of population explosion and the necessity of limiting one’s families, and urged people to emulate those who have fewer children.

Could this be a prelude to some aggressive measures for population control in the coming months? Time will tell. 

Just as it will become clear if the unifying refrain of “one nation, one Constitution”, “one nation, one tax”, “one nation, one election” will be ratcheted up to a whole new plane.

(Shuma Raha is a journalist and author based in Delhi. She tweets at @ShumaRaha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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