New Delhi, Aug 15: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the nation on Thursday on the occasion of the 67th Independence Day at the Red Fort here. Here are some of the high points of his speech:
Secularism and sectarian ideologies
Singh spoke against narrow and sectarian ideologies, saying they have no place in a modern, progressive and secular country like India.
"Such ideologies divide our society and weaken our democracy," he said in his Independence Day speech from the Red Fort. "We should prevent them from growing.
"I would appeal to all political parties, all sections of our society and the public at large to work in this direction."
Right to Information (RTI) Act
Singh said the RTI frequently exposes irregularities and corruption and "opens the door" for improvements.
"Through the RTI Act, the common man now gets more information than ever before about the work of the government," 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.
Security for women
Singh said the government has strengthened the law dealing with crimes against women to ensure their greater security. His government had drawn a massive ire in the wake of a brutal gangrape and murder of a young woman in the national capital last December. "For ensuring better safety and security for women, we have strengthened the law dealing with offences against women," the prime minister said.
Quality of education
Singh said there is a requirement to improve the quality of education and much needs to be done to reform the country's education system. "Many of our schools still lack drinking water facilities, toilets and other necessary infrastructure," he said, "There is a need to improve the quality of education. To achieve this, it is necessary to lay more emphasis on training of teachers."
Skill development for youth
Singh promised a new scheme soon, targeting around one million beneficiaries. Trained youth will get financial assistance under the scheme.
"In the area of skill development, we could not initially achieve as much progress as we wanted. But now the pace has picked up," the prime minister said.
"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," Singh added.
"This scheme will benefit about 10 lakh (one million) young men and women in the next 12 months."
Expresses shock over INS Sindhurakshak explosion
Prime Minister Singh expressed his shock over Wednesday's submarine tragedy in Mumbai in which 18 sailors are feared to have died. "We are deeply pained that we lost the submarine, INS Sindurakshak in an accident yesterday. Eighteen brave sailors are feared to have lost their lives," he said.
"The accident is all the more painful because the Navy had recently achieved two major successes in the form of its first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant and the aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant," Singh added.
"We pay homage to the brave hearts we have lost. We also congratulate the Navy on its successes," the prime minister added.
National Rural Health Mission
Singh said the national rural health mission has started good results and helped bring down both maternal and infant mortality rates.
"We had launched the National Rural Health Mission in 2005. (It) has started showing good results. Both maternal and infant mortality rates have come down sharply," he said in his Independence Day speech.
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."
New infrastructure projects
Singh promised a slew of infrastructure projects and assured removal of bottlenecks to ensure a high growth for the country. "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," he said.
Singh said India's economy will again see a rapid growth owing to the steps taken in recent months for faster industry clearances, stress on infrastructure and encourage inflow of foreign 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," he said, adding that this pace has been the highest in any decade so far.
Pakistan and other neighbours
Singh said Pakistan must stop using its soil for "anti-India activity". He said India has always tried to have friendly relation with its neighbours.
"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," he said.
Food security bill
The prime minister hoped that the much-talked about 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," Singh said in his address.
Killing of Indian soldiers
The Indian government will take all kinds of steps to prevent further killings of its soldiers by Pakistani troops in the Indian territory, Singh said.
Durting his speech, the prime minister referred to the recent "dastardly attack on our jawans on the Line of Control with Pakistan" in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani troops infiltrated into the Poonch region in Kashmir and shot dead five Indian soldiers earlier this month.
Uttarakhand natural disaster
Singh Thursday sympathised with the people of Uttarakhand and said the entire nation stood by them in the moment of crisis.
"Today is certainly a day of joy for us. But on this celebration of Independence we also feel pain in our hearts that our brothers and sisters in Uttarakhand had to face devastation about two months back," Singh said.
"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.
(With agency inputs)