NISTULA HEBBAR & SOMA BANERJEE NEW DELHI
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in a little over 24 hours,he will have set multiple records.This years address will be his 10th consecutive Independence Day speech,the most by anybody outside the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and an even bigger record considering that its holder is someone long considered a political lightweight.Singhsaddress is expected to focus on the future and have new India as its dominant theme,say people familiar with its contents cleared by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday.But for Singh,this vision for the future looks set to draw comparisons with the past,especially the recent past where the governments image has been more defined by scandals and a moribund economy
I will also not talk about defending our borders or rooting out terrorism or praising India’s secular multicultural, multilingual society. These are obvious things. There’s little point repeating them year after year. Prime ministers might as well talk about the sun rising in the east. Allow me a little mischief here…there’s a prime ministerial candidate who I suspect thinks the sun rises in the west – over Gujarat.
There will also be no subtle, indirect homilies to Nehru-Gandhis in this speech. I respect Sonia-ji and Rahul-ji. They have a tough job – expected as they are to manage complex public affairs. I respect Priyanka-ji – expected as she is to manage Vadra-ji. But my respect for a few individuals should be kept out when I am speaking to the nation.
So, now to my main point. From the ramparts of Red Fort I want to talk to our young citizens. Young as in really young, not ‘young politician’ or ‘young Bollywood hero’. I mean all Indians below 30, the largest cohort in this country.
I know many of you don’t care what I do, many of you don’t know what I do, and many of you don’t know who I am. But that’s alright guys. Many times these last 10 years I didn’t know what I was doing or even who I was.
This is my message to Young India: Yo, chill, things will get better, all of you collectively have so much potential that all of us old politicians put together can’t destroy it even if we tried harder than what we are doing now.
Guys, don’t switch off your TVs, smartphones, tablets, car radios, mobile phone radios, etc. I am not going to read out policies for the youth, as we say in government. I promised not to do that at the beginning. I’ll just make some short, sharp points.
Don’t Break the Law, Break Conventions
1. Guys, please come out and vote…elections are coming. You the young want us the old…politicians like me who’ve been PM for 10 years and politicians like Advani-ji who’ve wanted to be PM for 10 years…to give up our hold. Vote your preferences. Voting is even better than clicking ‘like’ on Facebook – as easy but more satisfying.
2. Guys, ask loudly and repeatedly for quality English teaching courses. Make clear you prefer politicians who support you on this. Knowledge of English or lack of it is the single biggest source of inequality in this country. Only politicians, industrialists and cricket administrators can get away with poor English. But they are not the country – even if many of them think they are.
3. Do the same for cheap and big bandwidth. The faster and cheaper young India can exchange data, the more prosperous and more creative and cool this country will be. You don’t need a government commission to prove this. You know this already; some of you can SMS Jai Hind faster than I can say it.
4. Many of you live in areas with poor roads. Make life hell for your local and your area’s national politicians by insistently demanding good roads in a short time. Trust me, money for building roads is not the problem. We the system is the problem. Roads, as you know, are the data networks of real life.
5. Guys, my last message is perhaps the most important. So, listen carefully dudes. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about your choices. This country hasn’t learnt to value the choices of the young – older people think they know best. Well, gee, look where that has got us today. Guys, don’t let your parents or politicians, mausis or municipalities dictate what you must do. Don’t break the law, of course, but break conventions. If India’s young drive India’s choices, the whole world will click ‘like’ for India. Won’t that be way cool?
My speech is over, it’s less than 800 words, even shorter than newspaper columns. That’s not surprising. Newspaper columnists also don’t know what the young want.
Hope I connected with you guys. Jai Hind. And have fun.
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