Highlights of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Independence Day speech

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New Delhi, Aug 15 (ANI): A confident Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh sent out a positive Independence Day message that he wants to resolve differences with Pakistan through dialogue, but much progress cannot be made unless terrorism emanating from its territory ends.

Following are the highlights of his speech delivered on the occasion of India's 64th Independence Day on Sunday:

The rate of our economic growth has been better than most other countries in the world. This shows the strength of our economy.

Today, India stands among the fastest growing economies of the world. As the world's largest democracy, we have become an example for many other countries to emulate.

Our citizens have the right to make their voice heard. Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora.

The hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today. I specially salute our soldiers whose bravery ensures the safety of our borders.

We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity.

An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected.

In the last few years, we have taken many significant steps. Every person living in rural areas now has the assurance of 100 days of employment through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The Right to Information Act is helping our citizens to become more aware.

This year our Government has enacted the Right to Education which will help every Indian to share in the benefits of the country's economic progress and also to contribute to it.

To ensure equal partnership of women in our progress, we have taken initiative for reservation for women in Parliament and in State legislatures. Apart from this, reservation for women has been increased to 50 per cent in local bodies.

Despite our many strengths, we face some serious challenges. Our society often gets divided in the name of religion, State, caste or language. We should resolve that we will not allow divisions in our society under any circumstance.

Tolerance and generosity have been a part of our traditions. We should strengthen these traditions. As we progress economically our society should also become more sensitive. We should be modern and progressive in our outlook.

The growth rate of our agriculture has increased substantially in the last few years. But we are still far from achieving our goal. We need to increase the agricultural growth rate to 4 per cent per annum.

Our Government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry. This requires enhanced agricultural production which is possible only by increasing productivity.

We need technology, which would address the needs of dry land agriculture. In addition, our agriculture should also be able to deal with new challenges like climate change, falling levels of ground water and deteriorating quality of soil.

I am happy to announce that the Borlaug Institute of South Asia is being established in India. This institute would facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and new technology to the farmers of India and other countries of South Asia.

We have always taken care to provide remunerative prices to farmers so that they are encouraged to increase production. But one effect of providing higher prices to farmers is that food prices in the open market also increase.

I know that in the last few months high inflation has caused you difficulties. Today, I do not want to go into the detailed reasons for high inflation. But, I would certainly like to say that we are making every possible effort to tackle this problem. I am also confident that we will succeed in these efforts.

It is our responsibility that we manage our economy with prudence so that our development is not affected adversely in the future because of high debt.

The subsidy on petroleum products has been increasing every year. It had become necessary therefore to increase the prices of petroleum products. If this had not been done, it would not have been possible for our budget to bear the burden of subsidy and our programmes for education, health and employment of the poor would have been adversely affected.

We want the fruits of development to reach the common man. We still stand committed to the welfare of the poor, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and other backward sections of our society.

Today we do not need many new programmes to achieve our goals. However, we do need to implement the schemes we have already started more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money. We want to achieve this in partnership with the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions and civil society groups.

Our Government is committed to maintain communal peace and harmony. We also consider it our duty to protect the minorities and provide for their special needs. This is why we have started many new programmes - We will vigorously take this work forward.

We have been giving special attention to education and health in the last six years. It is our endeavour that every child, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor and which section of the society he belongs to, should be given an education that enables him to realize his potential and makes him a responsible citizen of our country.

We will soon bring a Bill to Parliament for constitution of two separate councils in higher education and health respectively so that reforms in these two areas can be accelerated.

Nutritious food and good health services are necessary but not enough for ensuring good health of our citizens. We also need cleanliness and good sanitation in our villages, towns and cities.

I would like our children to be taught the importance of cleanliness and hygiene in schools from the very beginning under a campaign for a Clean India. I appeal to the State Governments, Panchayat Raj Institutions, civil society groups and common citizens to make this campaign successful.

We need to use our natural resources with care and prudence. Our government will endeavour to take care of environmental concerns in our projects for economic development.

There is a large deficit in our physical infrastructure which affects our economic development adversely. The resources required to create good physical infrastructure are difficult for the Government alone to mobilize. Therefore, we have endeavoured to involve the private sector in our efforts. About one and half a months back, I dedicated a new terminal of the Delhi airport to the nation. This is an excellent terminal which has been completed in record time. We will continue to make such efforts to improve our physical infrastructure.

Naxalism is a serious challenge to our internal security. We will deal firmly with those who resort to violence. We will provide all possible help to State Governments to maintain the rule of law in areas affected by naxalism.

I once again appeal to naxalites to abjure violence, come for talks with the Government and join hands with us to accelerate social and economic development.

It is imperative that Centre and States work together to meet the challenge of naxalism. It would be very difficult for any State to tackle this problem without cooperation from the Centre and coordination between States. We all need to rise above our personal and political interests to meet this challenge.

As I have stated earlier, most naxalite affected areas lag behind in developmentWe want to end the neglect of these areas. I have asked the Planning Commission to formulate a comprehensive scheme towards this end, which we would implement fully.

It is also our endeavour that our adivasi brothers and sisters join the mainstream of development. Apart from adequate compensation for land which is acquired from them, we should also ensure that our adivasi brothers and sisters have a stake in the developmental project being undertaken.

We have a special responsibility towards the States of the North East. I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of State or tribe can only harm all of us. Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues. As far as the Central Government is concerned, we are ready to take forward every process of talks which could lead to progress in resolution of problems.

A few days back, many precious lives were lost in Laddakh due to a cloud burst. In this hour of grief, the whole country stands with the people of Laddakh. It is my assurance that the Central Government will do everything possible for rehabilitation of the affected people.

In Jammu and Kashmir, we are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence. Kashmir is an integral part of India. Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance their welfare.

India's democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country. I recently participated in a meeting with political parties from Jammu and Kashmir. We will endeavour to take this process forward. I would like to convey to our countrymen, especially our citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North East, that they should adopt democratic means to join hands with us for their and country's welfare.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, we expect from them that they would not let their territory be used for acts of terrorism against India. We have been emphasizing this in all our discussions with the Pakistan Government. If this is not done, we cannot progress far in our dialogue with Pakistan.

The Commonwealth Games will start in Delhi after about one and a half months. I am convinced that all our countrymen will treat the Games as a national festival and will leave no stone unturned to make them a success. (ANI)

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