Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged the nation to develop hatred towards corruption and those indulging in that vice, and towards nepotism to move towards a new India with a firm resolve.
Addressing the nation for the ninth consecutive time from the ramparts of the Red Fort after hoisting the tricolour on the 76th Independence Day, Modi, 71, also urged people to take five pledges in the next 25 years -- making India a developed nation, removing every trace of bondage, taking pride in the country's heritage, unity, and fulfilling their duties.
In his 82-minute address, Modi said gender equality is the key to a united India as he stressed the need to extend support to 'Nari Shakti', adding respect for women is an important pillar for India's growth. It is important that in speech and conduct "we do nothing that lowers the dignity of women", he said.
"A distortion has crept in our conduct and we at times insult women," he said, and asked, "Can we take a pledge to get rid of this from our behaviour and values?"
A made-in-India gun was used for the first time in 75 years for the ceremonial 21-shot salute at the historic Red Fort on Independence Day. So far, British guns have been used for the ceremonial salute.
"If there are crores of problems there are crores of solutions. When 130 crore people take one step ahead, the nation moves 130 crore steps," he said, and identified corruption and nepotism as two key issues that need to be dealt with head on.
"Another evil we need to come together against is nepotism. We need to give opportunities to those who are talented and will work towards the progress of the nation. Talent will be the basis of a New India," he added.
"To cleanse every institute of India, let's shift our mentality from nepotism and dynasty and give opportunity to citizens who deserve it."
The prime minister said the completion of 75 years of Independence was a time to step towards a new direction with a new resolve.
He said in this 'Amrit Kaal', every Indian is aspiring to see the fast progress of a new India with enthusiasm and impatience.
"Our nation has proved that we have an inherent strength from our diversity and the common thread of patriotism makes India unshakeable," Modi said, as he termed India the "mother of democracy".
"My understanding of the spirit of India, made me realise that for the growth of New India we needed to ensure inclusive development across the nation, a vision that was held dear by Mahatma Gandhi," the prime minister said.
An aspirational society is important for any nation. Today, "we are proud that these aspirations are present in every household in India. Every citizen is enthusiastic, impatient for the fast progress of New India," he said.
"By the 100th year of Independence, we have to work with the vision of accomplishing what our freedom fighters dreamt of," he said, as Modi urged people to focus their energy on the five pledges listed by him for the next 25 years.
"I urge the youth to dedicate the next 25 years of their lives to the development of the nation. We will work towards even the development of the entire humanity. That is the strength of India."
Modi said India will have to move ahead with big goals to fulfil the vision of a developed India in the centenary year of its Independence.
"For the next 25 years we need to focus on the five resolves - developed India, removing every trace of bondage from our mind, taking pride in our glorious heritage, unity, and fulfilling our duties," he said.
"We need to now move with a renewed focus and resolve for the next 25 years, and this can be made possible through the strength and determination of 130 crore Indians."
Modi said the world looked at India with pride and hope, and as a problem-solver. "The world looks at India as a destination where aspirations are met."
Modi began his address offering tributes to a galaxy of freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Veer Savarkar, Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru among others.
"During our freedom struggle, there was not one year where our freedom fighters did not face brutality and cruelty. Today is the day when, as we pay them our respects, we need to remember their vision and dream for India," Modi said.
"It is a day to step towards a new direction with a new resolve," Modi said in the presence of a host of dignitaries including union ministers, Supreme Court judges and senior diplomats.
"We salute not only those who fought for freedom, but also the architects of free India such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Ram Manohar Lohia and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, amongst the many others," he added.
In line with the "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav" celebrations, Modi, who wore the traditional kurta and churidar paired with a blue jacket and black shoes, chose to wear a white safa with tricolour stripes and a long trail for his 76th Independence Day look.
The safa trail also had similar tricolour stripes as the headgear Modi wore on the occasion. Modi said in the last few days, "we have seen an increase in the common consciousness of the love for the nation".
The 'Har Ghar Tiranga' campaign has been an example of the entire nation coming together to celebrate the spirit of this glorious country, he said.
"This Amrit Kaal is providing us a golden opportunity to fulfil the dreams and goals of this aspirational society."
(with inputs from PTI)