NEW DELHI —
Amid the recent spotlight on sexual violence in India, the Indian prime minister has called on the country to pay more attention to how its raises its sons. In an Independence Day address to the nation, he also urged an end to communal violence as he vowed to defeat poverty.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in the Indian capital Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country had been shamed by a series of rape cases.
He said while the law will take its course, it was also the social responsibility of parents to teach boys the difference between right and wrong.
Modi said parents ask daughters many questions when they go out, but never question sons about their actions. Pointing out that the rapist is someone’s son, he said parents should take care to stop boys from going down the wrong path.
Expressing dismay at the country’s skewed sex ratio, Modi said there should be greater recognition of women’s contribution to society. India has fewer girls than boys, a situation blamed on the practice of aborting girl fetuses by parents who prefer to have sons. It was Prime Minister Modi’s first Independence Day address to the nation since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won power.
Some critics had voiced fears that a BJP government could fan a communal divide, citing the 2002 religious riots that wracked Gujarat state, which Modi governed before becoming prime minister.
In his speech, Modi appealed to people to end caste and communal violence in India, saying only unity and peace will make it possible for India to move ahead.
He said that if people look back, they will realize that such divisions have achieved nothing. He appealed to the country to leave behind all divisions based on caste, class, or community because they are stalling the country's growth.
The Indian leader also pledged to defeat poverty in a country where millions of people live on less than $2 a day. To help low-income people who have no access to banks, he announced a scheme for financial and insurance services for the poorest.
The Indian prime minister reiterated his vision for working with his neighbors, saying he needs cooperation from neighboring South Asian countries to jointly tackle poverty.
Modi also spoke of his surprise at encountering discord and infighting in government departments in the federal government, saying these were barriers to good governance, which he is trying to break.
Modi was swept into power on promises of bringing development and improving governance at a time when the previous government was wracked by corruption allegations and economic growth had stalled.
In an address on the eve of Independence Day, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said there are signs of economic recovery.