Independence Day Address
By the Prime Minister of India
August 15, 2006
My dear countrymen, brothers, sisters, and dear children
My greetings to all of you on this day, the anniversary of our Independence
Today is an auspicious day for our country. Today we enter the 60th year of our
Independence. Today we re-dedicate ourselves to the progress and prosperity of
our nation. To the welfare of all our people. To the unity and integrity of our
Today we salute our beloved tricolor. We pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and all
those freedom fighters because of whose efforts and sacrifices we secured our
Independence. We remember all those whose hard work and efforts keep our flag
flying high and keep our country on the road to progress. We pay tribute to the
brave members of our armed forces, farmers, teachers, scientists, workers and
the millions of our countrymen who are toiling tirelessly for the progress and
prosperity of our nation.
In the early hours of the 15th of August, 1947, when our nation had just become
Independent, our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke to the nation and
asked us all one important question on the very first day we became a free
country: “Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and
accept the challenge of the future?”
Today, my fellow citizens, I stand here once again and ask you that same
question. Are we ready to face the challenge of the future? Are we brave
enough, to do so, and wise enough, in doing so? Can we rediscover the ideas and
ideals that shaped our freedom struggle, and use them to take our country
forward into the future? Are we willing to show the courage and the wisdom that
Panditji wanted us to show in building a new India in a new world?
My dear countrymen,
The going has never been as good for India in the past as it is now. Our
economy has been growing at an impressive pace of over 8%. Such rapid growth
over three successive years is unprecedented in Indian history. Wherever I go,
I see our nation on the move. Our industry and services sectors are showing
impressive growth. I see a reassuring confidence in our industry in being able
to take on the challenge of the rest of the world. The growth of the
manufacturing industry has touched 11% in the last quarter, generating many
jobs for our youth and workers. I see our service sector competing with the
best and earning valuable foreign exchange.
All around us, we see new roads being built. The railways are expanding their
reach. New power plants are being built. New airports are being planned. Vast
industrial estates and Special Economic Zones are coming up. This dynamism is
the result of the enterprise, creativity and hard work of millions of Indians.
They are boldly taking our country into the future, treading on untrodden
paths. I am sure this will result in far greater prosperity for our people. I
sincerely believe that the most effective way to banish poverty is to generate
growth which in turn will create new opportunities for gainful employment.
Hence, economic growth is of primary importance for us.
It is almost sixty years since Independence. It is but a brief period in the
history of an ancient civilization. But, it is a long time in the life of a
young nation. In these sixty years, the world has been transformed beyond
recognition. The empires of Europe have faded away. New powers have emerged in
Asia. Look at where Japan was and where it is today. Look at where China was
and where it is today. Look at where the countries of South-east Asia were and
where are they today? When I see them, I wonder whether we are living up to our
full potential or not.
India is certainly on the march. Yet, we have miles to go before we can truly
say that we have made our tryst with destiny. Sixty years ago, Panditji told us
that the two challenges before a free India was to end the ancient scourge of
poverty, ignorance and disease and end the inequality of opportunity. India has
marched a great distance forward in these sixty years, but the challenge of
banishing poverty remains with us. We have yet to banish hunger from our land.
We have yet to eradicate illiteracy. We have yet to ensure that every Indian
enjoys good health.
There is visible progress all around. However, when I see this, I have some
worries. And I am aware, that every Indian has similar worries. Even as we move
forward rapidly, to claim our rightful place in the comity of nations, I see
that there are vast segments of our people who are untouched by modernization;
who continue to do backbreaking labour; who continue to suffer from iniquitous
social orders. I see that our farmers in many parts are in a crisis, not
managing to eke out a decent living from their land. When I visited Vidarbha,
the plight of the farmers there made a deep impact on me. The agricultural
crisis that is forcing them to take the desperate step of committing suicide
needs to be resolved. We need to think about how we can provide a decent
livelihood to our farmers?
When I see large development projects coming up, while one rejoices at the
progress that is being made, one worries for those who are displaced, for those
who have lost their land and livelihood. When one sees our cities growing
rapidly, one sees visible progress but at the same time, one worries for the
large number of people who live in their slums. When our industry and services
compete successfully across the globe, we celebrate our success in global
markets; but at the same time, we are buffeted by the same global forces when
oil prices go up because of factors beyond our control. Globalisation certainly
has its benefits; but it can also hurt the common man.
The challenge for us as a nation is to address this duality - to ensure that
while we keep the wheels of progress moving rapidly forward, no section of
society and no part of the country is left behind; to ensure that growth
generates the necessary wealth which can then finance the welfare of
marginalized groups; to ensure that growth generates employment and a bright
future for our youth.
In the past two years, it has been our endeavour to address these concerns. We
have taken many steps to expand employment opportunities and improve the
quality of life in rural and urban areas.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has been enacted to provide income
security for those suffering from extreme poverty. The programmes under this
Act, for which more than 2 crore families have already registered, currently
cover 200 districts and will be expanded gradually to cover the entire country.
This pathbreaking Act is the most important social safety net for our poor. I
am confident that this Act will help us in eradicating poverty.
Bharat Nirman is another programme which will modernize our villages. As our
villages get fully electrified and get connected by roads and telephones, their
economies will prosper. As they get better irrigation facilities, their
agriculture will grow. As drinking water and housing facilities improve, their
living conditions will improve. They will participate in the growth which is
already visible in urban India. I am happy that progress in the first year of
Bharat Nirman has been good and by 2009, I expect to see visible results across
These programmes are our weapons in the “War on Poverty”. The most effective
weapon against poverty is employment. And, higher economic growth is the best
way to generate employment. We must create an environment that encourages
business to grow and create more employment, especially in the manufacturing
sector. We have created a conducive environment for our industrial enterprises
to flourish and the results of this are visible. We are supporting not just
large industries, but also the labour intensive small scale and handloom
sectors through special programmes. Handlooms and textile industries employ
over 3.5 crore people. We are giving cheaper loans to this sector and handloom
cooperatives are being revitalised. I am hopeful that in the coming years,
lakhs of jobs will be generated in these sectors.
My dear countrymen
Two years ago, speaking from the Red Fort, I promised a “New Deal for Rural
India”. There is much we have done, but I know much more needs to be done. We
have kept our word and almost doubled agricultural credit in less than three
years as promised. We are providing short term loans to farmers at 7%. We have
waived interest on over-due loans for debt-stressed farmers in Vidarbha and
will do the same in other suicide affected districts. We are trying to reach
institutional credit to each and every farmer so that they are out of the
clutches of moneylenders. For this, we are reviving the cooperative banking
system for which a Rs 13,000 crore package is being implemented. We have been
paying special attention to horticulture, animal husbandry, cotton, sugarcane
and other crops. A National Fisheries Development Board has been set up for
increasing the livelihood of fishermen. Agricultural research is being improved
and Krishi Vigyan Kendras will soon be functioning in every district of the
country by the year end.
However, I admit that much still needs to be done to improve the prospects for
farmers. Especially in rain-fed areas and for dry-land agriculture. We will
need to work towards ensuring more remunerative prices for our farmers. I am
aware of the acute distress of our farmers who bear the burden of heavy debt.
We have recently constituted an expert group to look into the problem of
agricultural indebtedness. I am confident that in a few months, we will take
concrete measures to help our farmers overcome the burden of crushing debt.
Most importantly, we must ensure that more people get employment in
manufacturing and services so that the disproportionate burden on agriculture
in providing a livelihood to two-thirds of our population gets reduced.
The results of our efforts to improve agriculture are clearly visible in some
places. Farmers are getting better prices for many crops. This helps them earn
a better livelihood. This, on the other hand hurts the common man when the
prices of essential food commodities go up. We need to understand that if we
want better prices for farmers so that they earn a better livelihood, the
prices of what they produce and sell will have to go up! We certainly cannot
grudge our farmers better incomes when incomes of other sections of society are
rising! In order to ensure that the needy and the poor do not get adversely
affected, our government is committed to ensuring adequate availability of
essential commodities at affordable prices to them.
Brothers and Sisters,
I know that each of our families is concerned about the prices of essential
commodities. Let me assure you that we will do whatever is required to keep
prices under check. But I must remind you that two years ago the international
price of oil was just over $30 per barrel. Today it is close to $75. Even
though world oil prices have more than doubled, we have succeeded in insulating
our consumers to a great extent. Prices of kerosene and LPG have not been
raised. But there is a limit to which we can go on subsidizing the consumption
of petroleum products in the face of rising import costs. How much more can the
government treasury bear this burden? At some point, this will affect our
ability to spend on other important development programmes. In order to keep
food prices within the reach of the common man, we have even allowed the import
of some products to meet the shortage in our markets.
Brothers and sisters,
While employment and agriculture are of immediate concern to all, our long term
concern is for the future of our children. They need to be healthy, well
educated, with hope for the future. We launched the National Rural Health
Mission to provide better health care in rural areas. Under this programme,
almost 2 lakh women have been kept as health assistants (ASHAs) at the village
level; 4 lakh more women will be in place soon. Through them, we will wage a
war against malnutrition of children, against malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS
and other diseases. These diseases put a heavy financial burden on our people.
In Vidarbha, I was pained to meet families of farmers who had committed suicide
because they could not repay the loans they had taken to meet the cost of
health care of their loved ones. We will take every possible step to help
people overcome the burden of poverty and disease.
The expanded Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will ensure that all our children go to
school. Under the universal Mid-day Meal Programme, almost 12 crore children
are getting a nutritious meal at school. Through these two programmes, we will
ensure that all our children complete basic schooling. I request every citizen
to ensure that every child of school-going age is enrolled in a school. We will
pay particular attention to the empowerment through education of children
belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Minorities. We will provide
all possible assistance for the all round growth of children suffering from
disabilities or with special needs. We also will care for those who suffer from
disabilities so that they can lead a dignified life in society.
All the initiatives that we have taken to push forward rural development and
ensure farmers’ welfare can be implemented only with the active participation
of our panchayats. For this to happen, our State Governments have to empower
our panchayats. We have to pay more attention to the quality of local
administration – in our villages and districts, in our towns and cities. We
need to rid our municipalities of the cancer of corruption. State governments
have a major role to play in this.
Brothers and sisters,
Cities and towns are centers of growth and generators of employment
opportunities. Our cities need to have a new look for which they need massive
investment and renewal. They need basic amenities like sanitation, drinking
water and proper housing for the poor. They need public transport, parks and
playgrounds. We need cities in which the working poor can live with
self-respect and dignity; cities in which children and women feel safe and
secure. In order to ensure that our cities have better infrastructure and that
they have better living conditions, we launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National
Urban Renewal Mission. This programme and other similar ones have started
showing results. Work has begun on Metro systems in Bangalore and Mumbai. I see
a glorious decade of city development ahead of us.
The challenge before Government is to implement these programmes. We have to
improve the way governments function and deliver public services. How do we do
this? How do we ensure that higher financial outlays translate into better
outcomes? I sincerely hope that the Right to Information Act enacted by our
Government will empower our people who will be able to use their rights to make
government more accountable. We have to work hard to eliminate corruption in
the delivery of public services, in fact eliminate it from all walks of life.
We will work to put in place a system that rewards honesty, probity and
Brothers and sisters
India has contributed extensively to human knowledge. Today, we are at the dawn
of a new millennium which many call the knowledge economy. In this world,
knowledge will determine our progress and the place we occupy in the world. We
must continue to be at the forefront of new research and new thinking,
especially in science and technology. We must build top-class institutions. We
have begun work on three new Indian Institutes of Science, Education and
Research in Kolkata, Pune and Punjab. We have also begun work on 19 medical
institutions of the same standard as AIIMS. We will need to ensure far greater
availability of educational opportunities at the higher education level so that
we have not just a literate youth but a skilled youth, with skills which can
fetch them gainful employment. As our economy booms and as our industry grows,
I hear a pressing complaint about an imminent shortage of skilled employees. As
a country endowed with huge human resources, we cannot let this be a
constraint. We are planning to launch a Mission on Vocational Education so that
the skill deficit in our economy is addressed.
As we expand educational opportunities, we must ensure that these opportunities
are accessible to all marginalized and weaker sections of our society. Our
government is committed to providing reservation in educational institutions
for students from socially backward sections of society. We will do so, while
at the same time expanding educational opportunities for all youth. This is our
solemn commitment. In this manner, we will recognize and reward individual
merit and hard work while working for an inclusive society.
While we are moving fast to develop every region of our country, we have to
take pains to see that this does not adversely affect those who are displaced.
Nor should it affect our environment. Nor should any region of the country get
left behind. Our government will soon put in place a comprehensive
Rehabilitation Policy so that displacement does not lead to impoverishment and
those who lose their land benefit from subsequent economic development. We have
also taken special measures to save our wildlife, including the tiger. We are
taking concrete steps to develop backward regions through the Backward Regions
Grant Fund and will be spending Rs 5000 crores annually in 250 districts.
My dear countrymen
Our other concern is national security. India is facing two major threats to
its internal security. Terrorism and Naxalism. Just over a month ago, Mumbai
witnessed the most inhuman terrorist attack in the recent past, killing and
injuring hundreds of innocent citizens. The entire nation was pained by this
suffering. Mumbai demonstrated its courage and patience and showed its resolve
not to be cowed down by these incidents.
I had said in Mumbai then that it cannot be business as usual for any of us.
Terrorists want to undermine our growing economic strength; destroy our unity;
and provoke communal incidents. We cannot allow this to happen. Our strength
lies in our unity. We will not allow the secular fabric of our country to be
I give my assurance to every citizen that we will do our utmost to preserve our
unity and integrity, to make our country safe and secure for every citizen. We
will modernize, strengthen and properly equip our security forces and our
intelligence agencies. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that
terrorist elements in India are neutralized and smashed. Let those who want to
hurt us by inflicting a thousand cuts remember – no one can break our will, or
unity. No one can make India kneel.
While terrorism has been raising its ugly head time and again, we have also
seen peace having its victories. The people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to
face the wrath of terrorism. But they have also seen new rays of hope for peace
and progress. New links of connectivity have brought people on both sides of
the Line of Control closer – Srinagar to Muzaffarabad, Poonch to Rawalkot.
Through the Round Table Conferences, we have started a dialogue with all
political groups and parties of Jammu and Kashmir. We are jointly exploring new
pathways to build a better tomorrow for its people – a tomorrow where they can
live in peace and dignity, free from fear, want and exploitation.
Today the people of the North-Eastern region look to the future with hope. The
last two years have seen immense progress in the North East in all spheres of
development – better roads, better rail connectivity, the first ever thermal
power projects in the region and better universities. I am hopeful that in the
coming few years, the North-eastern region will gradually catch up with the
rest of the country. However, many states here are still afflicted by
insurgency. There is a great desire among the people of the region for peace
and tranquility. While we are determined to tackle insurgency, we are hopeful
that the dialogue that we have initiated with many disaffected groups will
produce a peace dividend. A life of progress and prosperity with self-respect
and dignity is the right of the people there and we are confident of providing
I want those who have mistakenly taken to Naxalism to understand that in
democratic lndia, power will never flow from the barrel of a gun. Real power
flows from the ballot box. At the same time, our State Governments must pay
special attention to the welfare of our tribals and small and marginal farmers.
It is their distress that Naxalites exploit. The path of violence can never
solve the problems of the poor. Our security forces will respond appropriately
to the violence unleashed by Naxalites.
In the past one month, many parts of the country, particularly Andhra Pradesh,
Surat and Maharashtra, have been badly affected by floods and there has been
extensive loss of life and property. We will provide all possible assistance
for the relief of these regions.
Brothers and Sisters,
Every Indian wants to live in a neighbourhood of peace, stability and
prosperity. People in our neighbouring countries share the same aspirations.
South Asia is a common cultural and economic unit. Our past and destinies are
inter-linked. India, as the largest country in the region, is ready to give our
neighbours a stake in our own prosperity and share the fruits of our growth
with them. However, the dream of a South Asian community, where borders have
ceased to matter and there is an unhindered flow of goods and peoples, culture
and ideas, can hardly be realized if terrorist violence and the politics of
hate and confrontation continue to cast a dark shadow.
We are prepared to work together with all our neighbours to usher in an era of
peace and prosperity for our peoples. We have taken several initiatives in this
regard, in particular with Pakistan. To be successful, these initiatives need
an atmosphere of peace. It is obvious that unless Pakistan takes concrete steps
to implement the solemn assurances it has given to prevent cross-border
terrorism against India from any territory within its control, public opinion
in India, which has supported the peace process, will be undermined. All
countries in our region must recognize that terrorism anywhere is a threat to
peace and prosperity everywhere. It must be confronted with our united efforts.
There is a large constituency for peace and shared prosperity among our people
and we must work together to build on that.
In the past two years, we have succeeded in creating an international
environment which supports our development aspirations. Our relations with the
United States of America, China, Japan, and the European Union, have never been
better and with Russia, we have further strengthened our time-tested
partnership. In South-East Asia, India has been welcomed into the East Asian
Summit. There has been a significant expansion of both our political and
economic links with countries of the Gulf and the Arab world. The continents of
Africa and Latin America are now the new areas of focus for our diplomacy and
India’s engagement has become truly global. We are recognized for the scale of
our achievements since Independence and the world wants India to progress.
My dear countrymen,
India is a young nation. India is a nation of young people. Our youth are ready
to work hard for a bright future. Our former Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi,
was greatly concerned about the prospects for our youth and took many steps for
ensuring a bright future for them.
Even today, the youth of our country are in search of a bright future. They
seek new opportunities and are in search of new possibilities. They are willing
to think in new ways. They have no time for old ideas and ideologies. They want
to build a new India. We must build a new India of their dreams. I want every
one of our youth to walk shoulder to shoulder, and walk forward with us in
building a new India. Every young person must have faith in our future. To know
that this country will create opportunities for all for the full expression of
their talent and skill.
We have a dream of an India in which every woman can feel safe, secure and
empowered. Where our mothers, sisters and daughters are assured a life of
dignity and personal security. We must end the crime of female foeticide. We
must eliminate gender disparities. We must see that every young woman is
educated and skilled and capable of guiding a new generation.
The laws of our land are meant to protect every law abiding citizen. The rule
of law can become a reality only if justice is seen to be delivered. Only if
the rights of law-abiding citizens are protected. We need a more efficient,
humane and responsive police force. We also need a more efficient and effective
judiciary. Our government will work to make this possible.
Today, from this historic Red Fort, I appeal to every one of you to re-dedicate
yourself to build a new India.
- An India that is united in thought, not divided by religion and language.
- An India that is united in our Indianness, not divided by caste and region.
- An India that is united in seeking new opportunities for growth, not divided
- An India that is caring and inclusive.
Our religions may be different. Our castes may be different. Our languages may
be different. But we are all Indians. In our progress lies the progress of the
nation. Our fortunes and our nation’s fortunes are intertwined. And working
together, we can make this fortune a glorious one.
If we have to fulfil our potential, we need a politics that will help us
realize it. We need a politics that will propel us forward. We need a politics
that will guide us to new frontiers, take us to new horizons. I urge all our
political leaders to think deeply about the future of our country. We must shun
the politics of divisiveness and adopt the politics of change and progress. Our
political parties and leaders must learn to work together. To build a consensus
around national issues. If we are able to do so, then I am confident that then
we will soon be able to realize the golden future which millions of our
countrymen are eagerly waiting for.
Let us all join together, hand in hand, to build a new India.
~ Dr. Manmohan Singh