NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pledged to end the "termite of corruption" and tackle black money issue, and said "Team India" -- a team of 125 crore Indians -- will take the nation to new heights.
Addressing the nation from the 17th century Red Fort, Modi also said in his second Independence Day address that his government was determined to build a new India in which 18,500 villages would get power within 1,000 days.
Dressed in a cream kurta pyjama, beige waist coast and mustard headgear, Modi said his "Swachh Bharat" campaign was the biggest succees of his BJP-led government which took office in May last year.
He, however, disappointed lakhs of ex-service personnel who were awaiting for a concrete announcment on the One-Rank-One-Pension scheme. Apart from saying that the government had accepted in principle the scheme, he did not give any clear roadmap for its adoption.
In a first for August 15, the prime minister did not touch upon foreign policy - despite his numerous trips - and focussed wholly on domestic issues.
Making it clear that there was no place for casteism and communalism in India, he said the country can be free of corruption but we "have to start from the top".
"It can be done... Corruption is eating up our country like termites. If you want to get rid of termites, you have to inject medicine everywhere."
He pointed out that there was no allegation of corruption against his government.
"Corruption had become part of the system. Contractors were running the nation. We have taken steps to correct the system."
As an example of anti-corruption measure, he said coal block auction had been undertaken to earn Rs.3 lakh crore for the government.
Other steps had been taken to tackle black money -- from the appointment of a special probe team to enacting stringent law.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he said, was probing some 800 cases of black money until he took power. Now the CBI was examining 1,800 cases.
Already several thousand crores of rupees had been collected from people who have begun to declare their ill-gotten assets, he said.
In his speech, Modi repeatedly used the word "Team India" - to denote a united nation.
"This is Team India, a team of 125 crore Indians. This is the team that makes the nation and takes our nation to new heights," he said to applause from the thousands who had gathered to hear him on a warm day.
He said the participation of people in governance had been possible via electronic platform or letters from citizens or through his radio address Mann Ki Baat.
Modi described the Swachh Bharat campaign as his government's "biggest achievement", and praised children and the young for being the campaign's "biggest brand ambassador".
Citing another success of his government, Modi said some 17 crore people untouched by any form of financial inclusion now had bank accounts, with deposits of Rs.20,000 crore, thanks to the scheme he announced exactly a year ago called the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
"For the poor, the doors of banks were closed. I said this has to change... Bank accounts are essential for integrating the poor into the financial system. That's what we have done."
He promised to provide electricity to 18,500 power-less villages in the next 1,000 days.
He said when he was told by officials that this could be done only by 2019, he decided such a long wait was not possible. "So Team India pledges today that power will reach these villages within 1,000 days."
Modi announced the agriculture ministry would now be known as the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare -- to better take care of farmers' needs.
The government, he said, had brought down inflation despite poor rainfall, and called for a restructuring of agricultural practices.
But he emphasized the need for reforms in agriculture. "Agricultural land is shrinking, farmers need electricity, water," he said, adding the new motto should be "Save Water, Save Fertilizer" and "Per Drop More Crop".
Modi said he was expecting a "positive outcome" on the talks One-Rank-One-Pension scheme. He said every government promised to implement OROP but nothing was done.
"The trust with which talks are on, we are expecting a positive outcome."