Independence Day Address
By the Prime Minister of India
August 15, 2005
My Dear Countrymen, Brothers and Sisters and Dear Children,
Today is once again a day of joy and happiness when we all gather to celebrate
the anniversary of our Independence. On this sacred occasion, I greet you all.
Fifty-eight years ago, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had unfurled this glorious
tricolour for the first time from this historical place, thus fulfilling the
centuries-old dream of crores of Indians to be independent from foreign rule.
Next year, we will commence the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the
First Battle of Independence. Through the celebrations, we will have a chance
to once again remember the glorious freedom fighters of that great battle who
had laid the foundations for our independence. In 1857, Bahadurshah Zafar had
declared the Battle for Independence from this same historic Red Fort. The
battle cry of Rani of Jhansi Lakshmi Bai, Peshwa Nana Saheb, Tantia Tope and
Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow was - "Delhi Chalo". This cry was renewed with
vigour and force by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and in 1947 this ambition was
fulfilled. Today, we have the opportunity of remembering their sacrifices. We
can also learn from their enthusiasm and self-confidence, a number of traits
which will be useful in facing today's challenges as well.
Today is a day when we feel proud of and celebrate our victory in the struggle
for independence. This is a day of joy and happiness for all Indians,
irrespective of where they reside in any part of the world. It is also a day on
which we remember our valiant soldiers and security forces, thank them for
their bravery and commitment, and hope that they will continue to be alert in
the service of the nation.
Mahatma Gandhiji had also dreamt of the same independence when he launched the
Dandi March 75 years ago. Through that struggle, he shook the foundations of
the greatest and most powerful empire the world had ever seen. Today, we need
to once again remember the sacrifice and commitment of the Father of the Nation
Mahatma Gandhi and also his dreams for an independent nation. We also need to
reflect on how far we have been successful in fulfilling his dreams.
What was the dream Gandhiji had of an independent India? He had said: "I will
work for an India where the poorest of the poor feel that this country and this
nation belongs to them and that they have a major role in its construction. An
India where there is no higher class or lower class among all people. An India
where all communities live in friendship and harmony. An India where women have
the same rights as men." He had also said: "The Swaraj I dream of is a Swaraj
of poor people. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that Swaraj
cannot be complete till the poorest have a guarantee of being provided with the
basic necessities of life."
Have we come anywhere near this dream? In the last one year, our attempt has
been to build the India of Gandhiji's dream. The goal of our Government's
National Common Minimum Programme is also the same. Last year on this very day,
I had said from the Red Fort that I have no promises to make but only promises
to keep. In order to fulfil the promises, we have taken many important steps
and have taken major decisions which will contribute to our nation's progress.
While taking these decisions, the focus of our thoughts and attention has
always been the aam aadmi. The effort of our government has been that while we
continue to make rapid economic progress, the benefits of this progress and
growth must reach all sections of society in a fair manner. Our vision is not
just of economic growth, but also of a growth which would improve the life of
the aam aadmi.
Our country is witnessing unprecedented economic growth at this point in time.
Last year, our economic growth rate was 7 percent and it is likely to be
similar this year as well. Our country has never witnessed such consistently
high growth rates in the past. I am confident that if we maintain this momentum
of growth for the next 5-10 years, then it would be possible for us to
eradicate poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease from our country. This is not
a dream but something that is possible in our times.
It is not only us but the entire world, which is viewing India as an emerging
power of these times. The whole world is eagerly watching the manner in which
India is making rapid economic progress. And this economic growth is happening
within the framework of a liberal democracy. Our country is a multi-cultural,
multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic nation. Nowhere in the world do
we have an example of a country of a 100 crore (one billion) people seeking
their economic and social destiny within the framework of a democracy. It is
because of this that the entire world's attention is riveted on us. It is the
result of our combined hard work that India today has made its mark on the
world stage and we feel proud of our standing in the comity of nations.
Brothers and Sisters, It is my belief that India's future is extremely bright
and that this future is indeed, possible. In order to achieve this, we need to
focus on achieving rapid economic growth and on ensuring social justice. It is
only by walking on these two legs will we be able to ensure that the benefits
of growth reach all sections of society.
Last year, while addressing the nation on this day, I had mentioned that our
growth is critically dependent on seven sectors which I called the 'Saat
Sutras'. These seven sectors were - agriculture, irrigation, education, health,
employment, urban renewal and infrastructure. Today, we can review the progress
made in these seven areas.
Our maximum emphasis has been on agriculture. Farmers are the backbone of our
country and of our economy. It is the result of their tireless efforts that we
do not have any shortage of foodgrains in our country. The entire country is
grateful to them for this.
We must admit that the economic growth we have been referring to earlier has
not yet fully reached every individual in our society. This is particularly
true in our rural areas. The growth in agriculture has not been at the required
pace. Even today, over 60 percent of our population is dependent on agriculture
and every farmer has a right to be a participant in our economic growth
processes. Hence, we have talked about giving a 'new deal' to our farmers. We
have taken a number of steps to alleviate the problems of our farmers, such as
improving and enhancing the flow of agricultural credit, increasing investment
opportunities and storage facilities, launching a National Horticulture Mission
to increase the output and trade in fruits and vegetables, and promoting
research and training in agriculture. It is our goal that by 2007, there should
be a Krishi Vigyan Kendra in every district. Through this, the benefits of
advanced research and training will reach all our rural brethren. Large parts
of our country are still dependent on rainfall and we will focus on removing
the problems of farmers in dry land areas. We are considering setting up a
National Rainfed Area Authority for this purpose. It is our hope that in the
coming years, agricultural growth becomes rapid and we have a new green
revolution. We are fully committed to achieving this.
It is not possible for our rural areas to develop in the absence of basic
infrastructural facilities. In order to improve basic infrastructure in rural
areas, we have conceived an ambitious programme called 'Bharat Nirman'. In
Bharat Nirman, one crore hectares of unirrigated land will be irrigated. All
villages whose population is 1,000 or more, and 500 or more in hilly areas,
will be connected with roads. Two and a half crore houses will be given
electricity connections, and through this, the entire country will be
electrified. Over 60 lakh houses will be built in villages. The remaining
74,000 habitations which do not have access to safe drinking water will be
provided these facilities. Each and every village will have at least one
telephone connection. I am confident that Bharat Nirman will ensure the rapid
economic development of our rural areas.
In all our economic programmes, our policy has been to ensure the participation
of the common man, particularly of those in rural areas. They should feel that
all programmes belong to them. We have believed that the proper institutional
mechanism to ensure their participation in the Panchayat system. Shri Rajiv
Gandhiji had dreamt of Panchayati Raj many years ago. Today, zila, tehsil and
village panchayats have a major responsibility to discharge. Our constitution
has placed the responsibility on panchayats, not only of ensuring economic
development but also delivering social justice. Bharat Nirman provides a unique
opportunity to our panchayats to shoulder this immense responsibility by
effectively implementing this programme. I am confident that panchayats will
ensure Bharat Nirman becomes a milestone in our development process.
We are giving importance not only to our rural areas but also to the economic
conditions in our urban areas. Today, a third of our population lives in urban
areas and keeping in mind the speed at which urbanization is taking place, the
day is not far off when over 50% of India's population will be residing in
urban areas. The foundations of our culture and society were laid thousands of
years ago in the cities on the banks of Indus River.
We taught the world the basic concepts of urban planning. However, today our
cities are often unable to meet the basic needs of their residents on many
counts. We will be investing in urban areas and for this, a National Urban
Renewal Mission has been launched.
We have a large proportion of young people in our population. We will need to
invest in their education and health so that their future prospects are bright.
By doing so, our population will become our biggest asset.
It is necessary for every section of society to be literate and educated so
that they can take advantage of our growth processes. By strengthening Sarva
Shiksha Abhiyan, we are trying to ensure universalisation of primary education.
We are giving special emphasis to the education of the girl child. We need to
make education joyful, interesting and meaningful so that children develop a
desire to go to school. We need to pay particular attention to the education of
first generation learners. We are resolute in our commitment to see that no
child is deprived of the benefit of primary education. It is our hope that in
the near future, women are as literate as men. In order to achieve these goals,
resources shall not be a constraint. We are also committed to providing
education to disabled children as well.
Along with primary education, we also need to pay attention to higher
education. If India is seen around the world as a rising knowledge power, it is
because of our Universities and Research Institutions. If we want to maintain
our rapid economic growth, we need to improve the quality of these institutions
and also create many more such institutions. Let us resolve to achieve
excellence in academic work in the 150th anniversary year of the Universities
of Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.
However educated an individual may be, it is necessary for the person to be
healthy in order to lead a happy life. Through the National Rural Health
Mission, we will provide the best primary health care facilities in each and
every village. We are confident that by providing excellent primary health
care, we will be able to improve the health of young mothers and children which
will then lead to a consequent reduction in our population growth rate.
In the last 50 years, we have been able to control and eliminate many diseases
which have been a scourge in our country. Leprosy has been eliminated in 25
states. Polio and TB are also being gradually brought under control. AIDS is
now becoming a major national problem and we need to tackle this on a
war-footing. We need to have a mass movement to ensure that this disease is
rapidly checked and its growth arrested. We will also ensure that medicines are
available to common people at reasonable prices.
As I had mentioned earlier, the true test of development is the number of
people who have secured employment and the number of families who have
prospered as a result. As long as there is widespread unemployment in the
country, we cannot claim that we are truly independent. It is with this goal in
mind that Indira Gandhi had given the nation the goal of 'Garibi Hatao'. Today,
if we need to remove poverty, we need to create employment "Rozgar Badhao". In
order to ensure that a minimum level of employment is available to everyone in
rural areas, it is necessary to have an employment guarantee. The National
Rural Employment Guarantee Bill has been prepared with this goal in mind. We
hope that this Act will bring about a revolutionary change in the lives of
people in rural India. We are also revamping the Khadi and Village Industries
Commission so that more employment is generated through small and village
In order to ensure that our economic growth does not slow down, it is necessary
to have strong infrastructure. Economic growth is intrinsically linked to the
availability of infrastructure. Railways, roads and electricity are important
elements of infrastructure. In order to improve our railways, a rail
modernization programme has been prepared so that our railways become one of
the best in the world. A dedicated freight corridor is being developed between
Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai by investing over Rs. 25,000 crore rupees. The
development of our national highways is progressing at a rapid pace. We have
begun work on an additional 30,000 km of highways and we will soon be six-laning
the Golden Quadrilateral. There has been tremendous progress in civil aviation.
World class airports are being constructed in many cities. Ports are being
modernized and many new ports are under construction.
Shortage of electricity is still a major inconvenience. Electricity is an
essential ingredient of economic development. We need to ensure that
electricity generation grows rapidly and that power shortages are eliminated.
We need far greater investment in this sector. I have often said that,
excepting for the poorest sections of society, giving electricity free of cost
to other sections will worsen the financial condition of our electric
utilities. We need to get used to paying a reasonable price for electricity
just as we do for petroleum products. Through this, we can ensure supply of
electricity in the right quantity, at the right time and of right quality. In
my visit to the United States, we have managed to reduce some of the
constraints which have been hampering the growth of our nuclear energy
programme and in the next 10 years, in addition to the 1,50,000 MW of capacity
being added in the thermal and hydro sectors, another 40,000 MW could be
generated through nuclear energy.
While rapid economic growth is one facet of our vision for the nation, social
justice and equitable development is the other facet. Last year, our greatest
contribution to the nation has been to bring it back on the path of rapid
economic growth. There is a ray of hope in the lives of all weaker sections of
society. There is an atmosphere of calm, peace and communal harmony all around
the country. We believe that this is an important achievement.
In our country, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes and women
suffer from many disabilities. Many of them have been discriminated against for
centuries. It is essential that they are made stakeholders and participants in
our development processes. We are committed to paying attention to their
education, health and basic necessities. We have taken some steps to improve
their economic and social status. A bill has been introduced in Parliament on
reservation in government employment. It will be our effort now to increase the
opportunities for employment and equal opportunities in employment outside
Our Adivasi brothers have been cultivating land near forests for many
generations. However, they do not have any rights on this land owing to which
they live in constant fear of eviction. Their rights were snatched away from
them 150 years ago during British rule. In order to correct this, we are
bringing a legislation which will benefit Scheduled Tribes living in forests
while at the same time ensuring conservation of our natural heritage. Our
constitution provides for equality of all religions. All religions are safe and
secure within our Republic. It is essential that minorities should have every
opportunity of carrying on their daily activities with a feeling of security
and happiness. This is also our goal. Hence we have repealed POTA. As a result,
many sections of society are able to breathe easy. We have commissioned a
report on the social economic status of minorities. This is being done for the
first time and will be the basis for all our policy interventions for improving
their status. We will also revive and revamp the 15 Point Programme for
Minorities. The New 15 Point Programme will have definite goals which are to be
achieved in a specific time frame.
We are going to start a special development programme which will focus on the
skill enhancement of artisans and weavers, many of whom are minorities. This
will help improve their incomes.
Industrial growth is the result of the sweat and toil of our working classes.
This year, our industrial growth in May-June has exceeded 10 percent. I would
like to congratulate all our workers for this magnificent result. The
government will pay specific attention towards addressing the problems of
workers, particularly those in the unorganized sector. It is our hope that we
will be able to provide a social security net for them so that they do not feel
insecure in times of distress. However, I would like to emphasize that workers
too have a responsibility. Wherever they may be working, in factories or in
firms, they should work in cooperation with the management so that
profitability of enterprises increases and they also benefit from this.
Women are the backbone not only of our homes but also of our nation. We need to
strengthen their hands and empower them fully. We have brought legislation to
prevent domestic violence against women and to secure their property rights. We
will also ensure reservation for women in parliament and legislative
In order to provide an opportunity for our youth and sportspersons to
demonstrate their skills, we will make all possible efforts to ensure that
India once again hosts the Asian Games, the first since 1982.
In this new phase of development, we are acutely aware that all regions of the
country should develop at the same pace. It is unacceptable for us to see any
region of the country left behind other regions in this quest for development.
In every scheme of the Government, we will be making all efforts to ensure that
backward regions are adequately taken care of. This has been ensured in the
Food for Work Programme and the National Rural Health Mission. We will also
focus on the development of our border areas.
We will ensure that these regions are provided basic infrastructure such as
roads, electricity and telephone connectivity in the next 3-4 years. Our rivers
are the lifelines of the country. They are the foundations of our ancient
civilization. Today the demand for water is growing all around. In the 21st
century, water will the most precious commodity and its shortage will be felt
all around. We need to launch a national movement to prevent the wastage of
water and for its efficient use. This is an absolute necessity. It is also
necessary that all states of our country work together in a spirit of give and
take and a spirit of mutual understanding to sort out all contentious issues
amicably so that everyone is benefited.
We also need to pay special attention to our environment. We need to start a
national campaign for cleanliness - so that our cities, towns, villages, roads,
streets and homes are neat and clean. Gandhiji used to emphasise this aspect in
his Ashram as well. We need to stop the pollution of our rivers and atmosphere.
We need to protect our forests and natural heritage. We must remember that we
are only the custodians of our environment and it is our responsibility to
preserve and pass it on to our future generations.
In the recent past, natural calamities have affected many parts of our country
with disastrous effects on people and property. A tsunami in December, snowfall
in January and floods in July. Lot of people have lost their precious lives in
these calamities. The entire nation's sympathies are with the bereaved
families. I am confident that we will face the problems of floods in a united
manner, just we faced the devastation caused by the tsunami. Last month, Mumbai
suffered immense damage and lost many lives because of unprecedented floods. In
these difficult circumstances, the citizens of Mumbai have shown courage
fortitude and patience in dealing with the enormous problems and have
demonstrated the qualities which make Mumbai different from other cities. I
would like to assure that we will provide whatever assistance is required to
ensure that Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka are restored to
normalcy. In order to effectively tackle such natural calamities, we have
constituted a National Disaster Management Authority. Through this, and by
using the latest technologies, we hope to face future calamities in a much
In the country, we still have regions such as Jammu and Kashmir and the
North-East where complete peace and tranquility does not exist. The people in
these regions are the victims of violence and terrorism. Wherever conditions
deteriorate we take the assistance of our Armed Forces. Wherever we have taken
their assistance, they have shown patience and perseverance. Many of them have
lost their lives. In order to ensure that the children of soldiers who have
laid down their lives in the service of the nation get good education, we are
starting a Prime Minister's Scholarship Scheme. Each year, 5,000 children would
be provided scholarships for college education.
However, accidents do happen once in a while. Keeping this in mind and with a
view to protecting human rights, the Government had set up a committee to look
into the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The report of this
committee is being examined in detail and we will take all necessary steps so
that there are no violations of human rights under this act.
As a result of our policy in Jammu and Kashmir, the state is once again on the
path of peace and progress. It is our humanitarian obligation that we assist
the State in all possible ways so that the people there can live in peace and
harmony. Terrorists have never been the friends of the people of Kashmir. As
long as they continue their terrorist attacks, our armed forces will be alert
and give them a fitting response. In this conflict, common citizens may also be
affected at times. I have said before and I am repeating once again, that there
is no issue that cannot be resolved through a process of discussion and
dialogue. Our doors are always open and will continue to be open for anyone
interested in dialogue. I invite everyone to join us to discuss the problems of
the state of Jammu and Kashmir so that its people can lead a life of peace and
dignity. If violence continues, then our response too will be hard. I am aware
that the government of Pakistan has put some checks on the activities of
terrorists from its soil. However, it is not possible to achieve success
through half-hearted efforts. It is necessary that the entire infrastructure of
terrorism is totally dismantled.
In the context of terrorism and extremism, development and security have an
intrinsic relationship. We have managed to face extremism successfully through
a democratic process. However, it is imperative that a democratic government
should be able to differentiate between the genuine problems of people and the
designs of terrorists. Today, there are a number of challenges in our security
environment such as terrorism, communal violence, atrocities on women and
exploitation of Dalits and adivasis. Our security forces have been facing the
daunting task of controlling extremist violence admirably. Extremism is a
challenge which requires a united response from all of us. However, it is also
necessary to look at a political resolution of this problem. Often extremism
has its roots in backwardness and lack of economic development. It is not easy
to handle problem of extremism in violation. However, by addressing it in all
its dimensions - social, political, economic and security - in an integrated
manner, I am confident that we will be successful in checking it.
India has always been a country which loves peace. Its destiny is intrinsically
linked to those of its neighbours. Our goal has always been the prosperity and
happiness of our citizens. Hence, we have always sought the friendship of our
neighbours, although at times, this has not been fully successful. There seems
to be some success in our search for peace and harmony now. Many problems of
South Asia are similar, of which poverty and illiteracy are the most
widespread. It is possible for us to eliminate these in the region by working
The composite dialogue process with Pakistan is continuing. As a result, we
have been able to reopen the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway which was a long
pending demand of the people and restarted the bus service on this route, a
step which has been widely welcomed. Talks are going on to open similar links
from points in other states.
Discussions are also going on a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan.
Once this is completed, we will be able to address a major constraint affecting
It is our sincere hope that we work with all our neighbours in South Asia to
effectively address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and disease. If
India and Pakistan are able to work together, than we will have many
opportunities for making our countries prosperous. I am confident that we will
be able to fulfill this vision.
We have had historic links and relations with Afghanistan. It is our desire to
see Afghanistan prosperous and strong. In a few days, I will be going to
Afghanistan. We will try to strengthen and support democracy and economic
growth in all possible ways.
Our largest neighbour is China with whom we have a centuries old relationship,
a relationship from which both of us have learnt a lot and imbibed a lot. We
are today willing and ready to deepen our trade and cultural relations with
China for the benefit of the two nations. The agreement arrived at between our
two countries in April has paved the way for a closer relationship.
I greet the people of Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives
and Myanmar and assure them with utmost sincerity that India is willing to work
together with them for promoting development, prosperity and peace in the
My visit to the United States has been a major step in promoting friendship
with that country. By deepening our economic and technological relations, we
will be accelerating our own growth. Simultaneously, our two democracies can
work together to strengthen democracy in the world. Russia is an old friend who
has helped us in difficult times. We will deepen our friendly relations with
We also wish to deepen our relations with the countries to the East. The
recently concluded trade agreement with Singapore is a major step in improving
our economic engagement with the region. We will be entering into many more
such agreements in future.
At this point, I would like to emphasize that the contribution of Indians and
persons of Indian origin settled abroad in ensuing that our efforts are
successful is enormous. They have not only traveled to far off lands to achieve
their dreams of prosperity for themselves and their children, but have also
played a stellar role in changing the world's perception of India.
The world today sees India as a major knowledge power whose people are skilled,
competent, hard working and peace loving. Even within our own country, our
scientists, doctors, engineers and scholars have contributed substantially in
the achievements of our nation. We are proud of all of them.
To conclude, I would like to say that the biggest challenge in running a
government is to ensure that development programmes are implemented in an
effective manner. We will ensure that our outlays of expenditure are visible to
citizens as outcomes of progress. The central government, state governments and
Panchayats have to work together so that the expectations of people are
fulfilled. If we have to achieve results, there is a need to change the manner
in which governments function. There is no space in our government or in our
society for corruption and arbitrary action. We are not prepared to tolerate
this at any cost. Government servants must work with a sense of public service
and they should be held accountable to the people. Governments will have to be
made more transparent and accountable. The recently passed Right to Information
Act is a landmark step in this direction.
India is on the road to progress. The whole world is watching us with
expectation. It is possible for us to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease
within our lifetime. This has been made possible by the advances in science and
There comes a time in the history of a nation when it can be said that the time
has come to make history. We are today at the threshold of such an era. The
world wants us to do well and take our rightful place on the world stage. There
are no external constraints on our development. If there are any hurdles, they
We must seize this moment and grab this opportunity. We need to have the
resolve to make our country prosperous. We must have the self-confidence to
realise that we are second to none, that Indians are as good as the best. Our
political system and leadership must show sagacity, wisdom and foresight so
that we are able to make the best of this moment and make India a truly great
nation. Let us come together, as one nation, strengthened by our plurality, to
work shoulder to shoulder and build a new India. An India where there are no
barriers between the government and the people. An India where each and every
Indian can stand proudly and proclaim that he is an Indian. Let us work
together to build such a nation.
Dear children, join me and say "Jai Hind", "Jai Hind", "Jai Hind".
~ Dr. Manmohan Singh