It was another laidback national holiday for most Indians, with
not many bothering to switch on their TV to listen to what Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh had to say on Independence Day. However,
most of those who listened in found little to inspire and comfort
in his call to fight corruption simultaneously on all fronts.
While some were appreciative of his candid remarks about the
enormity of the problem of corruption, others felt that his
admission that he did not have a "magic wand" only showed he had
no clear roadmap to weed out this malaise.
In the national capital, rain in the early hours ensured that most
people slept through the prime minister's 35-minute speech that
started around 7.30 am. The city wore a deserted look as many Delhiites had taken off on an extended weekend holiday to nearby
hill stations. Those who listened to the prime minister found in
it little to cheer them in these inflationary times awash with
reports of corruption in high places.
The 21-year-old Talha Ahmed, an undergraduate, encapsulated the
youth's apathy towards politics and public affairs. "I did not
listen to the PM's speech as I woke up at noon. Moreover, what new
could he have spoken? He has got the same set of words for every
occasion, be it the Parliament or Red Fort," Ahmed told IANS.
"I am least interested in PM's speech as I don't want to start my
day with false promises. I am in the mood to celebrate," said
Gurjot Singh Aneja, a 26-year-old software engineer from west
Delhi's Patel Nagar.
In Mumbai, the 50-year-old V. P. Singh watched the PM's speech on
TV, but found it to be lacklustre. "The PM focused on the relevant
issues confronting the nation, especially corruption and poverty,
which was very much on expected lines," said Singh.
Falguni Pandya, a housewife living in Vile Parle suburb, said she
always watched the I-Day function in the Red Fort and found the
prime minister's references to women's reservations and declining
male-female ratio as matters of "concern." However, most school
and college children missed the speech since they were required to
remain present in their respective educational institutions for
Independence Day functions.
In Orissa, many sat glued to their television sets out of habit,
but not many were impressed. Priyanshu Mohapatra, a college
student in Bhubaneswar, was "disappointed," and said that the
prime minister did not assure that the government will accept the
suggestions made in Jan Lok Pal bill by Anna Hazare and his team.
Cynicism about promises made and not kept cuts across different
In Chennai, J. Muralidharan, a manager with a public sector unit,
said he did not listen to Manmohan Singh's speech and rued that
there was "no independence for middle class from the rising prices
of essential items."
In Meghalaya, R G Lyngdoh, a former home minister of the state,
said sceptically: "I didn't even switch on the TV. I don't really
listen to empty promises."
However, not everyone was cynical about what he said."We really
need to praise him this time as it appeared from his speech that
he was willing to invite political parties to strategise ways to
combat corruption," said Ram Narayan, a retired scientist in
The prime minister's exhortation that fasts are not the way to end
corruption elicited sharp criticism. "He said he has no magic wand
for corruption, and at the same time he targeted Anna Hazare
saying fasting will not solve any problem," said Shabnam Saif
Khan, a manager at Hotel Green Horizon in Ranchi. "The initial
part of his speech was totally dedicated to saving the face of his
government. Are the people more important or politics?" he asked.
In Jaipur, Premprakash Swami, a senior accountant, said he "has
not directly come up with a solution to corruption in the speech."
The prime minister's promise of enacting food security bill came
in for praise. Pragya Mehta, a fashion design student in Jaipur,
welcomed the government's efforts for the welfare of women, poor
people and farmers in the country. "Food security bill will prove
a major help for those who struggle to survive on day-to-day
basis," said Pragya.