Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday asserted that free education and healthcare are not freebies and access to these services can make India rich and eliminate the country's poverty in one generation.
At the Delhi government's Independence Day event at Chhatrasal Stadium here, he also emphasised that school education and healthcare in the entire country can be revamped in five years, as this has happened in the national capital.
There has been political acrimony over the issue of freebies, with the BJP accusing Kejriwal of using it as a "bait" to trap people for power, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month cautioned people against what he called the "revdi culture" of offering freebies for votes.
Explaining his vision for India of the future, the chief minister laid stress on education and health, citing the two words 50 and 30 times, respectively, in his 40-minute speech.
At the event where thousands of children were invited, Kejriwal said the country's 130 crore people need to come together and resolve to make India the number one country in the world. "We came together and chased the Britishers out. Today, if we come together, we can make India the top country in the world," he said.
Lamenting that many nations like Singapore that got independence after India or were destroyed during Second World War have surpassed it, the Delhi chief minister reiterated that education and healthcare are key to becoming a rich country.
"How did countries like the US, Canada, Germany, and Denmark become rich? They arranged for good education and healthcare facilities for their citizens. We will also make India the number one country in the world as there are all the resources and Indians are most intelligent people," he said.
There is no shortcut to providing good education and health and it can be made possible in just five years, he said.
"If India has to become rich and number one country in the world, then free education for every child and good free healthcare for every Indian will have to be arranged. This could happen in five years. If children received good education, poverty will be eradicated in one generation," Kejriwal said.
Citing his government's Business Blasters programme for students, Kejriwal also said unemployment in the country can be finished in 3-4 years if around two crore passing out students every year are equipped with business ideas so they do not look for government jobs and become job creators instead.
"We can survive by sacrificing one meal a day if there were lack of funds but we should not budge from achieving the goal of education at any cost," Kejriwal said and added that 39 countries like the US, UK, Denmark and Canada offered free education to the children.
Talking about the Aam Aadmi Party dispensation's achievements in Delhi, he said the education system and health facilities in the city have been reformed by his government.
"The government schools were in shambles earlier, with children sitting on carpets and getting no education. But we reformed the government schools and today, a poor child studying in a state-run school can also dream of becoming a lawyer or engineer," the Delhi chief minister said.
He claimed even well off people now have started sending their children to government schools, citing 4 lakh students going there from private schools in Delhi. The credit for this revolution goes to parents, teachers, principals and students, not to Kejriwal or Sisodia, he said.
The chief minister also said the government has ramped up healthcare infrastructure and irrespective of their financial status, people have access to free hospital care in Delhi.
"On average, we are spending Rs 2,000 for the healthcare of every Delhiite. We can arrange for good healthcare facilities in Rs 2.5 lakh crore for 130 crore Indians. We can open world-class mohalla clinics and hospitals in five years," he added.
Paying homage to all freedom fighters and those who struggled for the growth and progress of the country, he noted that it is time to celebrate progress in various fields. "But we need to think over challenges and our future course. Many are asking why many countries got past (us) in 75 years," he said.
He concluded his address by singing 'Hum Honge Kamyaab' (We shall overcome).
The chief minister hoisted the tricolour at the function. He also presented President's medals for meritorious service to Delhi prisons staff and Fire Services personnel.
(With PTI Inputs)