NEW DELHI, Aug 15 (IANS): 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 states.
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 Lucknow.
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.