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Modi Indian Independence Day 2020
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View from India: Modi pledges connectivity and self-reliance in Independence Day speech

Image credit: narendamodi.in

India celebrated its 74th Independence Day on 15 August. Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his seventh consecutive Independence Day speech from the majestic ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.

The Prime Minister (PM) announced that India will soon have a new cyber security policy. Besides cyber protection, the spotlight is on Digital India. “Participation of rural India and villages in Digital India is necessary. We are rapidly expanding our optical-fibre network. It will reach every Gram Panchayat within 1,000 days,” said the PM. Gram Panchayats are the local self-government institution at the village level whose head is the focal point of contact between government officers and the village community.  All the six lakh (600,000) villages in India will be connected by an optical-fibre network. Economic clusters will be formed in villages to support the agriculture sector.

Other than rural India, connectivity extends to all parts of the country. A submarine optical cable now connects Andaman and Nicobar Islands with the rest of India digitally. Its residents can look forward to high-speed internet.

The Digital India campaign has been boosted during the times of the pandemic. Almost three lakh crore rupees (3tn rupees, £300bn) have been transacted from BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) UPI (Unified Payment Interface). A payment app, BHIM facilitates simple, easy and quick transactions through UPI. 

A National Digital Health Mission is being launched. This is a health ID, on the lines of the Aadhaar (This is a unique identification 12-digit number for all residents of India). It will store medical test reports, prescriptions and details of diseases. The data, which will be stored in individual hospital servers, can be shared with the citizen’s consent. The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) comes under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY). “From today, a major campaign is being launched in which technology will play a big role. The National Digital Health Mission is being launched today. This will bring a new revolution in India's health sector and it will help reduce problems in getting treatment with the help of technology,” added the PM.

PM in his speech has outlined efforts to promote the infrastructure sector. This vision is being taken forward by investing a sum of over Rs 100 crore (1bn) in the National Infrastructure Pipeline project. The infrastructure outlay has identified 7,000 projects to facilitate the transfer of goods and services.

What makes the infrastructure initiative different from the previous ones is that it eliminates silo operations by encouraging multi-modal connectivity infrastructure. As the projects rollout they will create streams of employment for various people including farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs. These upcoming plans as well as the existing reforms have attracted a sizeable amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow. India has witnessed an 18 per cent jump in FDI even during the pandemic.

The country is readying for the production and distribution of three Covid-19 vaccines that are at various stages of testing. The government has formed an expert committee on the Covid vaccine administration. In many of his past speeches, PM has described Covid as an opportunity. Before the Covid-19, the country had not made N-95 masks, PPE (personal protective equipment) kits and ventilators, but now it is in a position to export such items. “A made in India vaccine will be out soon,” Modi promised.

The Covid vaccine and many other measures align with the PM’s concern for making the country Aatma Nirbhar Bharat or self-reliant. “Becoming ‘Aatma Nirbhar (self-reliant)’ is mandatory. I am confident that India will realise this dream. I am confident of the abilities and potential of my fellow Indians. Once we decide to do something, we do not rest until we achieve that goal,” declared Modi.

Make in India is the grandiose vision of the PM. He has taken this dream forward by persuading people to ‘Make for the World.’ This will raise the bar for quality manufacturing-production, while also generating lakhs of domestic employment and preventing migration. In the process, the focus will be on human resources and skill development. This will make small towns and cities self-reliant and contribute to the economy.

This Independence Day, the accent is on lowering the carbon footprint, and conserving biodiversity. The overall effort is on clean energy and solar power to scale down the per capita carbon footprint. A special campaign is being launched to reduce pollution levels in 100 cities.

Sikkim is an example of being an organic state in northeast India. At another level, efforts are on to make Ladakh a carbon-neutral region. Ladakh, the country’s youngest Union Territory, will be home to a 7,500MW solar park. The proposed solar park is scheduled to be completed by 2023. It is estimated to save 12,750 tonnes of carbon emission annually. The mega project will create livelihood for locals. 

Women’s empowerment is another highlight of this year’s Independence Day. The navy and the air force have absorbed women into the workforce. Women from self-help groups have sustained themselves financially by sewing face masks in these Covid times. The country’s military cadet corps or the National Cadet Corps (NCC) will select 100,000 cadets from coastal and border areas. One third of the new entrants will be females from the 173 districts on the land borders as well as the coastline. They will be trained by the armed forces. Of the 400 million Jan Dhan accounts that have been opened in the country, about 220 million accounts are that of women. Jan Dhan brings the un-banked sections of society into the formal financial system.

Modi paid tributes to freedom fighters, security forces and Corona warriors. Independence Day took off amidst multi-layered security. An anti-drone system was placed at the Red Fort. The anti-drone system has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) which is responsible for the development of technology for use by the military. As per media reports, they can jam the command and control links of micro drones. As well, they can damage the electronics with the help of laser-based directed energy weapons.

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