Text of PM's address to Nation

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New Delhi, Jun 4 (UNI) Following is the text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the nation today.

''My Fellow Citizens, It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to speak to you. In the time that has gone by, our country has marched forward as one of the world's fastest growing economies. This has enabled us to generate revenues that have been invested for the welfare of our people - in employment generating programmes, in farmer's welfare and in building our social and economic infrastructure.

As I speak to you today, I feel confident that the people of India will continue to demonstrate their creativity and potential for high growth. I assure you that our Government will continue to pursue policies that will make our growth process more socially inclusive; more meaningful to all sections of society; more beneficial to our farmers, artisans, and industrial workers.

In the past four years, we have vastly expanded programmes which directly affect the poor and marginalized sections of society. We now have a universal rural employment guarantee of 100 days which is a unique social safety net for the rural poor. Farmers and agriculture are getting attention unprecedented in the last two decades. The result is that agricultural production is rising much faster now than a decade ago. The education system has been has been expanded at all levels and we have tried to ensure that the nutritional status of our children improves through a universal mid-day meal programme. Bharat Nirman and the National Rural Health Mission and the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission aim to provide better infrastructure and health care facilities in rural and urban areas. I am sure that all these efforts have started to bear fruit and no one can deny that we are moving in the right direction to eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease.

My Fellow Citizens, However, I fully share with all of you your concern that in recent months, higher growth has been accompanied by higher inflation. Our government has taken several measures to insulate the less privileged in our society from the full impact of higher inflation.

You are all aware that two important external factors have been responsible for higher inflation. First, rising food and commodity prices around the world and second, rising world oil prices.

Our government has taken many steps to increase food production and procurement, limit food exports and strengthen the Public Distribution System. All these steps, along with positive expectations of a normal monsoon, have already had a positive impact on food price inflation. I am confident that in months to come there will be further stabilisation in food prices.

Our economy is largely self-sufficient in food. We produce enough to meet our needs. For this, we salute our farming community. Our government will continue to empower our farmers and enhance their welfare. We will continue to give a fair price to our farmers for their produce. This will certainly lead to some rise in prices of foodgrains but this is the only way in which we can incentivise higher production and assure the food security of our people.

However, in the case of oil, nature has not blessed us in the same manner. We remain dependent on imports. We are, therefore, vulnerable to global trends in oil prices. When our government came to power in May 2004, we faced a price of US$ 39 per barrel for crude oil. Today, that price has gone up to over US$ 130 per barrel - an increase of over three times.

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