Impassioned speech: Modi addressing the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi. - AP
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned a spate of rapes as a source of shame for India and urged an end to communal violence as he vowed to improve the lives of the nation’s poor in his first Independence Day speech.
Modi, the son of a tea vendor who come to power in May, also delivered a withering assessment of the ruling establishment from the ramparts of New Delhi’s 17th century Red Fort as he addressed often taboo subjects such as sexual violence, foeticide, religious unrest and a lack of toilets.
The right-wing Hindu nationalist also restated his solidarity with the wider South Asian region but held back from mentioning India’s great rival Pakistan which is also celebrating its independence 68 years ago.
In one of the most eye-catching passages of a 45-minute speech yesterday, Modi said levels of rape had shamed India, and he urged parents to take responsibility for the behaviour of their sons rather than put the onus on their daughters.
“When we hear about these rapes our heads hang in shame,” Modi said.
Modi also said India should strive to ensure that every household should have a toilet within the next four years and pledged to ensure that all schools had separate toilet facilities for girls and boys.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, has also been the scene of several recent flare-ups in communal violence between Hindus and minority Muslims.
Before becoming premier, Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat where he was in charge in 2002 during one of the India’s deadliest chapters of communal violence since independence.
But in his speech, Modi said communal violence was “stalling the growth of the nation” and had gone on for “too long“.
While Modi was accused by his opponents during the election of being too business-friendly, he said his government would take action to allow even the poorest members of society to open a bank account. — AFP