Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not one to miss an opportunity to score a political brownie point, and the Independence Day address was no exception. Parties like the Congress may accuse him of not being statesman-like, but then Mr Modi is Mr Modi, not Nehru or Manmohan Singh, and comparisons of persons or their actions are odious, to say the least.
Mr Modi’s speech should be evaluated for what he had in mind. He wants every Indian to take part in the nation-building process and make India a developed country. That is something on which every person, irrespective of ideological persuasion, can unite. There was a time when India had to depend on the American Public Law 480, under which it received food aid, to satiate the hunger of its teeming millions. Today, it is in a position to emerge as the third largest economy, replacing Japan, in the foreseeable future.
India is not yet a developed nation, but it is one of the few to have attained commanding heights in science and technology. India has the largest number of scientists and technologists and they are the engines that propel many Western multinational companies. Indian businessmen have proved they are second to none when it comes to employing ingenuity to solve seemingly insurmountable problems. If they are given a problem, they are sure to find a solution within the stipulated time. Notwithstanding their recent failure, our space scientists have found cheaper and more effective ways to launch space vehicles and place both large and small payloads in the right orbits. India is already a major player in the satellite business, getting orders even from countries like Israel, known for its nanotechnology.
It is not that everything is hunky-dory on the economic front. We still have a large population of illiterates and semi-literates. The quality of education imparted in schools and institutions of higher learning is not all that confidence-inspiring. Seventy-five years of Independence have seen the hiatus between the rich and the poor growing, with the rich cornering a larger proportion of the national wealth. While the number of billionaires has been growing by leaps and bounds, there has been no corresponding growth in employment opportunities. Unless these two are balanced, there will remain islands of prosperity in a vast desert of poverty. Such inequalities certainly do not redound to the nation’s credit.
A few years ago, Modi had promised that by 2022 every Indian would have a house of their own with water supply and gas connection. Who does not know he failed to deliver on this? However great a prime minister may be, he cannot on his own develop a nation. He needs the support of all the people who should be seen as equals. His job is to ensure there is no discrimination on grounds of gender, caste or religion. Once a level-playing field is ensured, the people will not be found wanting in joining hands with the prime minister to develop India.
Flag as a commodity
As the story goes, a salesman went to an island to sell shoes and returned saying nobody wore shoes there. Another salesman went and found a huge market, for every islander was a potential customer. When on July 22, 1947, the national flag was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, a flag code was created whereby an organisation in Karnataka alone was authorised to make and sell the flags. The code specified that the flag should be made of only khadi. The organisation did business worth a little over Rs 2 crore each year. Of course, it gave employment to some women, who made flags to the exact specification.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s genius lay in the fact that he saw big business in the flag. He first got the code amended to let any cloth — synthetic, cotton or polyester — be used for the making. And when he gave a call for ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’, he unveiled something big for businessmen. And they rose to the occasion! The Confederation of All India Traders has claimed that they made 30 crore flags in less than 20 days, earning Rs 500 crore. The demand was so high that they had to forgo some last-minute business. It is a different matter that Aug 15 also saw the grossest violation of the flag code, as most flags sold were found deficient. For instance, the Ashok Chakra was not in the middle or it touched the green or the saffron strip. Yet, they were sold!