Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In his 10th consecutive Independence Day address and his
last before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday addressed the nation from Red Fort.
On the occasion of 67th Independence Day, the PM spoke on various issues ranging from inspiring growth in the country to killings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control.
The Indian government will take "all possible steps" to prevent further killings of its soldiers by Pakistani troops in Indian territory, the PM said. Referring to the recent "dastardly attack on our jawans on the Line of Control with Pakistan" in Jammu and Kashmir, the PM said, "We will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in future."
Pakistan has to prevent the use of its territory for "any anti-India activity", PM Singh said.
"However, for relations with Pakistan to improve, it is essential that they prevent the use of their territory and territory under their control for any anti-India activity."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the nation that the Indian economy will again witness rapid growth, thanks to the steps taken in recent months for speedier industry clearances, building infrastructure and boosting inflow of overseas capital.
"I believe this phase of slow growth in India will not last long. In the last nine years, our economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.9 percent. This pace of development is the highest in any decade so far," the Prime Minister said in his Independence Day address here.
He said several steps had been taken in recent months to ensure removal of bottlenecks for infrastructure development, speed up clearances for industry and attract further foreign investment with enhanced sector-specific caps.
The PM promised a host of new infrastructure projects and assured removal of bottlenecks for big-ticket clearances and said these will nurse India back to high growth.
"We will start work on a number of new infrastructure projects in the coming months. This includes two new ports, eight new airports, new industrial corridors and rail projects," the Prime Minister said.
According to the Prime Minister, there was some good progress in the past nine years in infrastructure sector, notably in areas such as roads, railways, power, civil aviation, ports and telecommunications. The Prime Minister especially expressed concern over inadequate coal supplies, saying it was a major hurdle in increasing electricity generation. "But this has been resolved to a large extent," he said.
Food Security Bill
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoped that the Food Security Bill will soon be passed by Parliament.
"We have recently issued an ordinance towards food security law. The Food Security Bill is now before Parliament and we hope it will be passed shortly. This law will benefit 75 percent of our rural population and half of our urban population," Manmohan Singh said.
INS Sindhurakshak fire
The PM expressed "deep pain" on the loss of INS Sindurakshak, saying that 18 sailors are feared to have lost their lives when the submarine sank.
"We are also deeply pained that we lost the submarine, INS Sindurakshak in an accident yesterday," the Prime Minister said from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
"We pay homage to the brave hearts we have lost. We also congratulate the Navy on its successes," the Prime Minister added.
The PM expressed sympathies to the people of Uttarakhand and said that the entire country is with them in the moment of crisis.
"Our deepest sympathies are with all the families that suffered loss of life or property. I want to assure the people of Uttarakhand today that the whole country stands with them in this moment of crisis," he said.
Rural health mission
Dr Singh said the national rural health mission had started showing good results and helped bring down both maternal and infant mortality rates.
He said: "A much larger proportion of children is now born in hospitals. There has also been a large increase in the proportion of children being inoculated."
Scheme to reward youth
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a new scheme soon, targeting some one million beneficiaries, under which trained youth will get financial assistance.
"We have established the National Skill Development Authority a few months back. We will shortly launch a new scheme under which those who have successfully acquired new skills will be given a grant of about Rs 10,000," the Prime Minister said. "This scheme will benefit about 10 lakh (one million) young men and women in the next 12 months."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India cannot achieve its goal of making its villages prosperous without rapid agricultural growth. “We have constantly endeavoured to increase production and to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. In the last nine years, support prices for various crops have been enhanced as never before,” he said. India`s food-grain production reached 25.9 crore tonne in 2011-12.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act frequently brings irregularities and corruption to light and "opens the door" for improvements, PM Singh said. "This legislation is being used on a large scale at all levels. The act frequently brings to light irregularities and corruption and opens the door for improvements. I am sure that the RTI will lead to further improvements in the way the government functions," he added.
There is no place for narrow and sectarian ideologies in a modern, progressive and secular country like India, PM Singh said. "Such ideologies divide our society and weaken our democracy," he said in his Independence Day speech. "We should prevent them from growing...We need to strengthen those traditions of our country which teach us to promote tolerance and respect for thought processes different from ours." The Prime Minister admitted that the government had not been successful in preventing Maoist attacks "that happen from time to time".
Mid-day meal scheme
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme needed to be improved to ensure that the tragedy in Bihar in which 23 schoolchildren died was not repeated "anywhere in the country". "About 11 crore children are being provided afternoon meals every day in schools under the mid-day meal scheme. This programme is of immense benefit for both education and nutrition of children," Manmohan Singh said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there was need to improve the quality of education and much still remained to be done to reform India`s educational system. "Many of our schools still lack drinking water facilities, toilets and other necessary infrastructure," Manmohan Singh said.
The PM said the government has strengthened the law dealing with offences against women to ensure their greater safety. "For ensuring better safety and security for women, we have strengthened the law dealing with offences against women," he said.
India has been able to eradicate polio which used to cause disability to lakhs of people, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. "No case of polio has been detected in the country in the last two years. We have been able to eradicate a disease which used to cause disability to lakhs of people," he said.
(With IANS inputs)