New Delhi : Following is the speech delivered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while releasing the annual Report to the People on the third anniversary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government here Tuesday:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are gathered here, once again, to present our annual Report to the People, highlighting the important programmes and policies implemented by our Government. Friends, this annual exercise in accountability and transparency has set a new benchmark for governance in our country. It is my sincere hope that the contents of this report are widely disseminated and are discussed by our people.
I would like to take this opportunity to place on record my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the UPA chairperson, respected Soniaji, to all the leaders of all the parties constituting the UPA and to our Left allies. It is their support that has given us the strength to try and redeem our pledge to our people to the best of our ability.
I have been fortunate in having the unstinted support and cooperation of respected Soniaji. She is a source of great inspiration for us all, particularly for all poor people across the length and breadth of our country. Under her leadership, the UPA has worked hard to implement the National Common Minimum Programme. It is my sincere hope and firm belief that by the end of our tenure in Government we would have delivered more than we had promised.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The main objective of our Government in the past three years has been to ensure that, while sustaining higher rates of economic growth, the improved performance of the economy contributes to employment generation, poverty reduction and human development. In this 60th year of our Independence, the country should have the satisfaction of recording for the fifth year in succession, a rate of economic growth of over 8.5 percent. The recent acceleration of growth to 9 percent has been made possible by an unprecedented increase in the rate of investment which is at an all-time high of around 35% of national income. Higher rates of investment and growth have helped generate employment and reduce poverty.
However, we recognize that high national income growth alone does not address the challenge of employment promotion, poverty reduction and balanced regional development. Nor does growth in itself improve human development. The National Common Minimum Programme is based on the recognition that economic growth must be socially inclusive and regionally balanced. This has been the guiding principle of our Government's policies in the past three years.
Taken together, all the major initiatives of our Government, in agriculture and rural development, in industry and urban development, in infrastructure and services, in education and health care and in every other facet of life, are aimed at promoting "inclusive growth".
The key components of our "strategy of inclusive growth" have been to: (a) step up investment in rural areas, in rural infrastructure and agriculture; (b) increase credit availability to farmers and offer them remunerative prices for their crops; (c) increase rural employment, providing a unique social safety net in the shape of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme; (d) increase public spending on education and health care, including strengthening the mid-day meal programme and offering scholarships to the needy; (e) invest in urban renewal, improving the quality of life for the urban poor; (f) socially, economically and educationally empower scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities, women and children; and (g) ensure that, through public investment, the growth process spreads to backward regions and districts.
Inclusive growth also means empowering the disadvantaged. This we have done through a variety of legislative interventions. We have empowered women, empowered tribals and dalits, empowered the minorities and other backward classes. We have vastly increased student scholarships and expanded the scope of the mid-day meal programme. A New 15 Point Programme has been introduced for the welfare of minorities, the results of which would flow in years to come.
In the last year, the growth processes we have unleashed have put some pressure on prices. We have been faced with galloping demand for many products. This has resulted in inflation becoming a cause for concern, particularly in the case of some essential commodities. This has been compounded by a shortfall in production of these commodities. We have taken credible steps to control inflation and will continue to be vigilant on this front so that the poor and vulnerable sections of society do not suffer unduly. We have made arrangements to augment supplies wherever feasible and hope to keep prices in check. All reasonable measures will be adopted to accelerate the tempo of agricultural production and to strengthen the public distribution system.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In a democracy, people's aspirations become the goals that the governments have to measure up to. Measured against the rising aspirations of a billion plus people – which is a sixth of humanity – any government would fall short. This is as it should be because governments need to constantly struggle to keep pace with people's aspirations. We have taken pragmatic steps to fulfill our people's aspirations for a society free from disharmony. There is a sense of relief that dialogue and debate in the country are now focused on development and issues affecting the lives of the people. This has largely been because of the UPA's firm commitment to a secular and pluralist agenda.
Fulfilling people's aspirations for correcting the bias in our growth process to build in greater inclusion has been the struggle that we have been engaged in through our programmes like Bharat Nirman. To cite just one example, we have been able to electrify 39,000 villages in the last two years as against 30,000 villages in the 10 years of the Eighth and Ninth Plans. We have substantially increased public investment in the rural sector given the fact that a decline in public investment had adversely affected agriculture. The magnitude of increase in spending on the social sectors and rural development is indeed extraordinary. Through such massive fiscal support, undertaken even as we have reduced the fiscal and revenue deficits and improved public finances, we have spread the benefits of growth more widely. It is our hope that the massive shift that we have effected towards development of rural India in terms of public investment and in building the capabilities of our people through increased facilities for education, health and employment, will begin to deliver results soon.
In the next two years, we will focus on ensuring that important flagship programmes we have launched are properly implemented. We will ensure that the enormous resources that are being invested fetch the desired results.
At the same time, there are many more challenges we need to face and areas which need greater attention and new initiatives. We need to resolve the problem posed by the relatively poor performance of the agriculture sector in the nineties. In the next ten days, we will be unveiling a major initiative which will not only enhance the total public investment in agriculture but will also enable states to resolve problems of agriculture through comprehensive, localized plans. We need to replicate the success of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in the Secondary Education Sector and will unroll a major programme for universalizing secondary education. This, along with the Vocational Education Mission and our plans for a rapid expansion of the University system, should enable every Indian to be equipped with the necessary skills for securing gainful employment and a livelihood in our rapidly growing economy. We also need to meet the rapid rise in demand for power and will engage all Chief Ministers in a dialogue to move to a power surplus position by 2012. Credible steps will be taken to improve the public health system and to provide a social safety net for workers in the unorganized sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Government has also worked to create a more supportive external environment for India's economic development. We have improved our relations with all major powers and all our neighbours. Never before has the external political and economic environment been more benign and supportive of our developmental aspirations. The world wants India to do well and it is up to us to take up the challenge and opportunity at hand.
I hope this Report inspires our people to greater effort. There is much we have done in these three years, but much more that we need to do to win the war against poverty, ignorance and disease, and the fight against extremism, communalism and terrorism. We have an unfinished agenda of development and empowerment and it is our solemn commitment to our people that we will work with dedication and renewed energy to build a new India, a caring India, an inclusive India, an India of our dreams.