NEW DELHI: Outlining the roadmap for a new and assertive India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced a slew of development programmes, including a landmark Rs. 100 lakh crore "Gatishakti" initiative to boost infrastructure and employment opportunities.
In his eighth consecutive address from the ramparts of Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, Modi called for making the next 25 years glorious for India with "new thresholds, aspirations and dreams" in the run up to the centenary of its independence from British colonial rule.
Modi also said India is fighting the challenges of terrorism and expansionism with great courage and astuteness.
He asserted that India does not hesitate in taking tough decisions and has political will to do so.
"India has given a stern signal to its enemies by conducting surgical and air strikes. This tells us that India is changing and can take the most difficult decisions and isn't reluctant to implement them," he added.
During his nearly 90-minute speech, the prime minister, who wore a traditional kurta and a churidar complemented by a blue jacket and a red-patterned saffron headgear, also called for a review of rules and procedures across the country so that every process that creates a hindrance for people and the country is removed.
"Yahi samay hai, sahi samay hai, Bharat ka anmol samay hai (This is the moment, it is the right moment, It is precious time for India)," he said, reciting a poem at the end of his speech. Modi also added weight to his oft-quoted slogan 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas', by adding a new call -- Sabka Prayas (everyone's effort), saying this would be very important for the achievement of all the country's goals.
Stating that the world acknowledges India's political will for big reforms, he noted that the country has received record foreign investment with its forex reserves at an all-time high.
Drawing a roadmap for the all-round development of India and its people, he said India has to march ahead with new pledges for the next 25 years.
"We have to ensure we meet our goal of building Aatmanirbhar Bharat when we celebrate 100 years of India's Independence."
Modi said the 'Pradhan Mantri Gatishakti National Master Plan' will develop the possibilities of new future economic zones.
The Rs. 100 lakh crore programme will lay the foundation of the overall infrastructure in the country including in transport, reducing travel time and productivity, he said.
The initiative will lead to development of future economic zones.
He also announced the setting up of a National Hydrogen Mission to make India the new global hub of green carbon-free hydrogen fuel and its largest exporter, as he set a target of 2047 for India to achieve self-reliance in energy.
In other announcements, Modi said the government will fortify the rice distributed to the poor via different schemes such as Midday Meal in a bid to address the problem of malnutrition.
He also said 75 'Vande Bharat' trains will connect different parts of the country in 75 weeks to mark the ongoing 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav'.
Stressing that he has full faith in the youth of the country, Modi said this is a "can-do generation" which can achieve every goal.
Giving the slogan of 'Chhota kisan bane desh ki shaan (small farmers should become India's pride)', Modi cited various schemes including transfer of money to assert that his government has prioritised the interest of small farmers who account for more than 80 per cent of the farming community.
Keeping small expenses in mind, the government is implementing the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) under which more than Rs 1.5 lakh crore has been transferred into the bank accounts of over 10 crore farmers, he added.
The prime minister also said reservation is being ensured for Dalits, STs, backwards and general category poor, and emphasised that the hand-holding of deprived communities is necessary.
He also talked about boosting rail connectivity in the northeast region, saying very soon the job of connecting the capital cities of the northeastern states by rail will be completed.
Asserting that the Jal Jeevan Mission aims to provide tap water connections to all rural households by 2024, Modi said over 4.5 crore new households received piped water connection under it in the last two years.
On other issues, he said the development of Jammu and Kashmir is visible on the ground, adding that the delimitation exercise is on and preparations are underway for assembly polls there.
He also said it is unprecedented the way UDAN scheme was connecting far-flung areas of the country and the speed at which new airports are being built.
Describing the New Education Policy as a means to fight poverty, he said it will focus on encouraging teaching in regional languages.
The nature of international relations, Modi said, changed after the Second World War and there is a possibility of a new world order in a post-coronavirus pandemic scenario.
Addressing the gathering held under the shadow of Covid with social distanced seating, Modi stressed that the day should not be merely a ceremony.
People can take pride that the world's largest Covid vaccination programme in going on in the country, he said.
He lauded doctors, nurses as well those involved in vaccine manufacturing and others involved in fighting COVID-19.
The pain of partition was one of the greatest tragedies of the last century, the prime minister said while asserting that August 14 will be remembered as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.
Modi began his address, hailing the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar, among others, in nation building.
He also lauded India's Olympic contingent, which was present at the Red Fort, and said their performance encouraged the youth of the country.