NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Monday to turn India into a developed country in the next 25 years, and vowed to fight against corruption and nepotism, as the nation celebrated its independence day.
India gained independence on Aug. 15, 1947 after more than 200 years of British rule, when the subcontinent was divided into the states of India and Pakistan.
Wearing a turban printed with small stripes that matched the Indian flag, Modi addressed the nation from the 17th-century Red Fort in New Delhi to mark 75 years of independence.
“For the next 25 years, we need to focus on the ‘Panch Pran’ (five pledges). The first is making India a developed country,” he said.
“It is a big pledge and we should work toward this goal with all our might.”
Other pledges include removing any trace of the colonial mindset, strengthening unity, taking pride in India’s legacy, and for everyone to fulfill their duties as citizens.
India is categorized as a lower middle-income economy by the World Bank, a distinction meant for countries with a gross national income per capita of between $1,086 and $4,255. High-income countries, such as the US, have a per capita income of $13,025 or more.
Modi said that India will be guided by ideals of self-reliance, as well as the spirit of international partnership, in order to achieve its development goals. He also identified corruption and nepotism as barriers to growth.
“Corruption is hollowing the country like termites. I want to fight it and seek your support,” he said.
But the premier’s ambitions for a developed India failed to take into account the country’s regression when it comes to minorities, writer Bhagwandas Morwal told Arab News.
“Modi’s speech is without vision, and India cannot become a developed nation by going astray from the path of secularism and pluralism,” Morwal said.
The South Asian nation has witnessed increasing violence targeting its Muslim minority, which makes up about 13 percent of the 1.35 billion population. Many attacks have been carried out by Hindu nationalists emboldened by Modi’s silence about such incidents since taking office in 2014.
“India has slid in its standing among a comity of nations, and in the last eight years of Modi rule it has gone astray from its constitutional commitment to minorities.”
Historian Aditya Mukherjee told Arab News that he is “extremely worried” about the nation’s trajectory.
“We are moving in the opposite direction that the country was set by our freedom fighters,” Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee, director of the Institute of Advanced Study at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University and co-author of “India’s Struggle for Independence,” said that “fundamental ideas,” such as democracy, secularism, sovereignty and pro-poor orientation, “are being completely abandoned.”
“The question is not whether we can become a developed nation after 25 years,” he said. “The question is, will we remain as a nation (considering) the manner in which the divisive agenda is promoted?”