Modi sets date to power up India villages in annual address

Indian leader sought to draw attention to his efforts to helping poor, combatting corruption during Independence Day address

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Days after his reform agenda aimed at boosting the economy suffered another major setback in the parliament, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi used an annual speech to bolster his popularity rather by vowing to help poor, tackle corruption and combat poverty.

The Indian leader's tenure started a year ago with big expectations that he will make the necessary changes to revive the economy but some contentious bills such as labour, tax and land legislation faced a stiff resistance in the parliament.

In a 90-minute Independence Day address from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, Modi did not talk about big changes or new plans. He focused on his government's effort to include millions of poor Indians in the banking and insurance systems, protecting farmers and fighting against bureaucracy riddled with “termite-like” graft.

"Farmers need protection. For 60 years very little attention was paid to their welfare. We want to change this approach," he said on the 69th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Modi set a 1,000-day deadline for every village in India to get electricity, urging state governments to link millions of households to the national grid.

"I appeal to the states and all other stakeholders to connect these villages with electricity system within 1,000 days," AFP reported Modi as saying .

The right-wing premier has been accused of damaging the poor by new, big-business friendly policies and is facing a tightly fought election in the rural state of Bihar in a few weeks.

Modi sought to restore confidence in his leadership among the millions who elected him for a better life.

He provided many statistics to display his accomplishments in last 15 months in office, as well as to show the challenges he face, without directly answering criticisms over slower-than-expected reform pace.

In his first speech as prime minister last year, Modi set out his government's broad vision for the country including his "Made in India" project to make India a global manufacturing hub.

This year's address came just after weeks of noisy scenes in the parliament as opposition legislators accused three senior ruling party members of abusing their authority and financial irregularities.  

Modi said during the speech that his government has been involved in no corruption scandals.

TRTWorld and agencies