Independence Day Address
By the Prime Minister of India
August 15, 2004
My dear countrymen, brothers, sisters, and dear children - Greetings to all of
you on this day, the anniversary of our Independence.
This is a day we salute our Tiranga and feel pride and joy in watching it fly
high in the blue sky. This is a day we remember and honour the leaders of our
Freedom Movement for the struggle they waged under the inspiring leadership of
Mahatma Gandhiji and for the victory they won against foreign rule. This is a
day we thank our soldiers and security forces for their bravery and commitment.
We salute them for their dedication and discipline - farmers, workers,
teachers, professionals, scientists and our elected representatives.
In every walk of life, each one of us contributes in our own way to the
building of our dear Bharat. What is that Bharat that we all wish to build?
A Bharat that is just and humane. A Bharat that treats all its citizens as
equals. A Bharat that is prosperous. A Bharat that lives in peace. A Bharat in
which every person is literate and healthy. A Bharat in which everyone who
seeks work is able to find it, and works for a brighter future for all of us.
My greetings to all of you.
As I stand here before you, I am reminded of the words of our first Prime
Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, when he spoke to the Nation on the first
anniversary of our Independence in 1948. At that time I was a young student,
and looked upon the dawn of Independence as the opening up of new vistas of
opportunities to build an India of our dreams. Panditji had then said, "All of
us talk of India and all of us demand many things from India. What do we give
her in return?" Panditji asked, and he said, "India will ultimately give us
what we give her of love and service and productive and creative work. India
will be what we are: our thoughts and actions will shape her."
Friends, I ask each one of you to remember these wise words of Panditji as you
go about doing your work, be it on farms, in factories, in schools, in
colleges, in government offices, in shops, in research laboratories. Our Nation
is what we are. It will become what we make of ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, it is one brick after another that helps make a building.
Millions of bricks go to make a great building. In the same manner, the efforts
of millions of people go into the formation of a nation. The process of nation
building is a great enterprise of adventure and creativity. It requires all of
us to work together, bonded by our love for our Motherland. This love flows
from our identity as Indians. Whatever be our religion, region, language, caste
or culture, we are all Indians and India is ours.
Our strength derives from our unity in diversity. The principles of secularism,
social justice and the equality of all before law are the defining feature of
our nation. Today is a day we re-dedicate ourselves to the service of our
Nation, and of each and every citizen, especially those less fortunate than us.
This day comes for us in the middle of the monsoons. Each year when we meet
here and see the Tiranga being unfurled on the Red Fort, we also look at the
clouds above and wonder whether it would rain. This year too we have looked at
the skies with anxiety.
In Andhra Pradesh I went to understand the problems of farmers, suffering from
the impact of drought, and to hold the hands of the families that had lost
their breadwinner due to the unbearable burden of debt. For miles together I
could see no water. In Assam and Bihar I went to share the concern of people
whose lives have been dislocated by floods. For miles without end I could see
only water. Drought and floods are two fundamental problems that continue to
bring suffering to our rural population. We need concerted action to deal with
these perennial problems.
Our government has already taken some steps to deal with them. We intend to
take more steps in future. We need to insulate our people from the impact of
drought by creating local level water security. We have to mobilize our people
to come forward to take up the challenge of water conservation and management.
We are committed to increasing public investment in irrigation and addressing
the specific problems of each river basin, in an environment and people
Water is a national resource, and we have to take an integrated view of our
country’s water resources, our needs and our policies and water utilization
practices. We need to ensure the equitable use of scarce water resources.
The waters of our sacred rivers have for centuries nurtured our civilization.
They are the threads that run through the fabric of our nation. We cannot allow
these waters to divide us. I urge you and all our political leaders to take a
national and a holistic view of the challenge of managing our water resources.
Dealing with the problem of water is an important commitment we have made as
part of our "New Deal for Rural India". We have also taken steps to address the
problem of availability and access to credit in rural areas. The "New Deal"
that rural India needs must encompass investment in irrigation, credit
delivery, health care, availability of electricity, primary education, rural
roads and the modernization of the infrastructure for agriculture.
We must increasingly use modern science and technology to address the needs of
dry land farming, the diversification of our cropping pattern, micro-irrigation
and the quality of our livestock. Improving rural connectivity and access to
information can enrich the farm community. Here Governmental initiative can be
multiplied by the effort of private enterprise and community action.
Friends, more than three decades ago, Smt. Indira Gandhiji had given the call "Garibi
Hatao". We have reduced the incidence of poverty to some extent, but there is
much more remaining to be done. While liberalizing and modernizing our economy
and enabling individual enterprise to blossom, we must pay special attention to
the elimination of poverty and the empowerment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled
Tribes, Other Backward Castes and minorities. Our development strategies for
tribal areas must be adequately sensitive to their felt needs and aspirations.
The empowerment of women is an important priority and the education of the girl
child is vital to it. Our children are our future. In framing our policies we
must keep the interests of future generations in mind. The Government will
pursue social and economic policies that are conducive to the proper growth and
development of our children, investing in their education, health and
nutrition. A healthy child makes a healthy nation.
Employment generation has not kept pace with demand for jobs. Government will
address this deficiency in the growth process by encouraging the growth of
small and medium enterprises, agro industries and sectors like tourism, where
there is a high job potential. There is also an urgent need to provide
employment in rural areas especially in areas suffering from prolonged drought.
The "Food For Work Programme" will be an important part of our strategy to deal
with this challenge. New investment in the infrastructure sector will also help
generate new jobs.
Our approach has to be one of seeking faster growth while ensuring that the
benefits of growth are more evenly distributed. Our policies for higher
economic growth and modernization will be combined with an emphasis on social
justice, communal harmony, rural development, regional balance and concern for
Dear Countrymen, from the National Common Minimum Programme, I have identified
seven priority sectors for focused attention. These are agriculture, water,
education, health care, employment, urban renewal and infrastructure. These
Seven Sectors (saat sutra) are the pillars of the development bridge we must
cross to ensure higher economic growth and more equitable social and economic
The concerns of most of our citizens revolve around what we do for agriculture,
water, education, health and employment. We recognize that for the development
of the country what we are able to do in the key infrastructure sectors like
power, roads, railways, ports and airports is also critical.
The plans and priorities of our government have been outlined in detail in the
National Common Minimum Programme, in my first address to the nation and in the
Finance Minister’s recent Budget speech. Today, I have no promises to make, but
I have promises to keep.
The real challenge for me and for the Government at all levels is the challenge
of implementation of our stated policies and programmes. Central, State and
local bodies have to work together for Government to be an effective instrument
of development for the benefit of our people. There are areas, in which the
Government has to be actively engaged, like education, health care, roads,
railways, high technology and defence.
However, for Government to be able to deliver results, we must reform the
functioning of government. We have to make officials accountable - make
Government more transparent. We have to make public enterprises more efficient.
Citizens increasingly demand governments that are accountable to them. They
have a concern both for probity and efficiency in public affairs.
Fellow Citizens, the question of ethics in public life has repeatedly agitated
our people and we have tried to find Constitutional, legislative and
administrative devices to deal with the challenge. The time has come for us to
consensually evolve a code of conduct for all political parties, a code of
ethics for all individuals in public life, and a code of best practices for the
Government at all levels. On this solemn occasion let us resolve to work
together to develop such a code of conduct in a consensual way so as to uphold
the values enshrined in our Constitution.
We must also look within our parties, and ourselves and ask ourselves what is
the root cause of the decline in values in public life? How do we reform our
public institutions, our political parties, and our government at various
levels? When we launched economic reforms over a decade ago, we tried to
liberate individual enterprise from the stranglehold of bureaucracy. We will
continue to widen the space available for private enterprise and individual
But governments cannot be wished away, especially in a developing country like
ours where the government has an important role to play. The challenge for
economic reform today is to breathe new life into government so that it can
play a positive role where it must.
But what is government? Government comprises people’s representatives and civil
servants. The reform of government is, therefore, a reform of the way we, the
elected representatives and officials, work in government. It is you, fellow
citizens, as members of the civil society, who must mobilize your enormous
resources in support of such reform. To make democratic institutions more
accountable we are committed to take several steps to strengthen the lowest
tier of panchayats and urban local bodies. We need to build the capacity of
decentralized bodies and their elected representatives and this is best done
through effective transfer of funds and functions to them.
Today if we effectively utilize our decentralised system of governance through
panchayat raj, we can take concerted action for more effective delivery of
basic services such as primary education, public health and health care,
providing safe drinking water and sanitation.
When we talk of reforming government and of Panchayat Raj we are reminded of
Rajiv Gandhi who took pioneering initiatives in both these areas. Also, nearly
twenty years ago, Rajiv Gandhi first drew the nation’s attention to the newly
emerging electronics and computer revolution then underway. The enthusiastic
manner in which the young people of our country have participated in the
information technology revolution, turning India into an "IT super power", is a
tribute to the farsightedness of Rajivji.
It is a matter of satisfaction today that IT is enabling us to improve the
standard of living of ordinary people even in remote areas. We will continue to
explore ways in which modern technology can improve the lives of ordinary
people. We will improve broadband access and enable the required investment in
We live in an age where science and technology have become an important
determinant of power and wealth. For our country to attain its due place in the
21st century, it is necessary to integrate science and technology in to all our
development processes. The promotion of scientific temper must truly become a
massive national movement.
We cannot make higher education a prisoner of either bureaucracy or ideology.
It must develop on the foundations of professional excellence and intellectual
integrity. The pursuit of excellence and concern for social equity must inform
all our educational processes. The revered Dr. Ambedkar recognized very early
the importance of education in the empowerment of the under-privileged. "We may
forego material benefits", observed Dr Ambedkar, "but we cannot forego our
right and opportunities to reap the benefit of the highest education to the
Dear Countrymen, ours is a vast country in which many States are as big as some
countries of the world. For the benefits of development to reach all corners of
the country the Centre and States have to work in a spirit of cooperative
federalism. It is the responsibility of the central government to help States
to realize our common and shared objectives of development. But, there is much
that State and local governments can do to promote growth, social justice and
welfare. They must raise the required resources to the extent feasible. Equally
important, attention must also be paid to the quality and effectiveness of
I am concerned about the slow rate of growth of the backward regions, just as I
am concerned about the economic distress of the less privileged sections of our
We will encourage new investment in less developed regions. We will help in
strengthening developmental institutions there. Special attention must continue
to be paid to governance and development in the North-Eastern States and in
Jammu and Kashmir. The pattern of development must be such as to create new
opportunities for job creation so that the youth of these regions can look to
the future with renewed hope and confidence. These regions of our country can
benefit by improving rail and road connectivity and encouraging new investment.
Both the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir are the most beautiful regions of our
country. If we can work together to create an environment conducive to
development and tourism, these regions will prosper more. Peace, social and
political stability and communal harmony are essential for economic
development. People want such peace and stability so that they can lead safe,
secure and normal lives and go about their work, relax and enjoy life.
We must fight all anti-national and anti-social forces that try to disrupt
normal life. Be they terrorists or communal and other such divisive forces.
Terrorism is a threat to our normal lives and we must all unite in fighting it.
Violence has never helped in the progress and prosperity of any society. We
will fight this menace to civilized existence with determination. There should
be no doubts on this score. However, we are willing to talk to any group
provided they abjure the path of violence.
Friends, today I want each of you to show the same degree of self-confidence
that our freedom fighters showed, when they led our country to freedom, in your
encounters with new markets and new opportunities. We have been an open
society. But, in being open to the world, we have not lost our identity as a
people. Again I remind you of what Gandhiji taught us. That our nation must be
like a house built on firm foundations, whose windows are wide open to let the
winds blow freely in every direction.
"I want the winds from every corner to blow through my house" Gandhiji said,
"but I refuse to be swept off my feet by any of them". That has been our
attitude to the world, culturally and economically, for centuries. We must
continue to adopt that attitude even as we seek to build a more self reliant
and modern economy.
It is such focused attention to development that will address the real concerns
of our people today. It is by strengthening our economy and making our
democracy more inclusive that we can walk tall in the comity of nations. It is
because of our commitment to democracy and development that we also wish to
live in peace in our neighbourhood and with the world as a whole.
As a people we have always lived in peace with our neighbours in Asia and the
Indian Ocean region. For centuries we welcomed with open arms both travellers
and traders from different parts of the world. We ourselves set sail in search
of markets and to spread the philosophies of our wise men. Even today we want
to live in a neighbourhood of peace and prosperity.
I assure our armed forces and security forces our unstinted support to their
welfare and to the modernization of our defences. They have played an admirable
role in the defence of our unity and integrity. Not only have they defended our
frontiers but also at home they have readily helped whenever their services
have been sought in rescue and relief operations and in the protection of the
life and property of fellow Indians.
Even as we devote our attention to defence, we must pay heed to the needs of
development. All our neighbours are, like us, developing countries whose
priority will also have to be the improvement of the quality of life of their
citizens. We are not only bound together by our common borders but also by our
common destiny. The assurance of peace and prosperity in our neighbourhood is
an important priority for us. Our Government will give the highest priority to
building closer political, economic and cultural ties with all our neighbours.
We have always been in favour of a purposive bilateral dialogue with Pakistan
to resolve all outstanding issues. It is our intention to carry forward with
firm resolve and sincerity the composite dialogue process with Pakistan. The
edifice of peace that we wish to build must stand on the twin pillars of mutual
trust and confidence. Of course, trends of cross-border terrorism and violence
make our task more difficult and complex.
As far as our relations with China are concerned, the positive trends which
commenced with Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988, have provided a
sound basis for later trends in our bilateral ties. We are committed to
strengthening and expanding these relations. We shall carry forward the process
of discussion to resolve the boundary question with political vision and a
We value the friendship of all nations, big and small and we will seek closer
economic relations with all countries. As a democratic country of more than a
100 crore people we are destined to play an important and positive role in
world affairs, in structuring a just international order.
As a people, Indians have contributed a great deal to the advancement of
knowledge. We value the positive role that the people of Indian origin have
played in other countries. People of Indian origin are our cultural ambassadors
wherever they live. We value their contribution to the societies they now live
in just as much as we value the contribution they make to India, the land of
their ancestors. Indians abroad are our "Brain Bank". They have shown how
enterprising we Indians can be if the environment is conducive. If the required
infrastructure is provided and individual initiative is rewarded we can be as
good as the best in the world.
At home, this is the challenge for our Government. To create the environment in
which merit is recognized, hard work and creativity are rewarded.
My dear countrymen, brothers and sisters, there are many things we must do in
government to be able to meet your needs and fulfill your aspirations. This is
a responsibility we have taken upon ourselves and as your representatives in
government we are ultimately answerable to you. This is the essence of a
democracy and I have accepted this responsibility with all humility.
The power of the people, however, is infinitely greater than the power of
governments. But, it is by combining the two that we can make our nation truly
great. However, as I have said already, there are limits to how much the
government can do. Part of the solution lies in each one of us, in our
families, in our communities. If we can all cooperate with one another and work
together as a community there is much we can do without looking for
intervention by the government. We have to revive the spirit of community
service and the spirit of nationalism, especially among our youth.
Our national movement is unique in world history because we secured our freedom
through non-violent means and by igniting hope in the minds of ordinary people.
Generations of young people have been inspired by the Mahatma, a frail and
soft-spoken man who shook the foundations of the mighty British Empire.
I want our youth to understand Mahatma Gandhiji’s message that each one of us
has the power to do good for our nation if we are only so determined. Let us
all work together to revive that spirit of idealism, self-sacrifice, discipline
and unity of purpose that characterized our freedom struggle. I am confident
that the people of this great nation have the will, determination and the
resources to meet this challenge. India’s destiny beckons us to pool all our
wisdom, experience and knowledge to make this future happen.
I am confident that this is possible and within our reach. Our government will
do all that lies within its power to convert this dream into a living reality
so that this ancient land of Bharat once again becomes a major powerhouse of
both knowledge and creativity. I commit our government to the fulfillment of
this sacred national task.
Dear Children, join me now and say: Jai Hind! Jai Hind! Jai Hind.
~ Dr. Manmohan Singh