Bhiwani, Nov 28: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today asserted that the UPA government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, overcame big challenges to take the country to new heights of progress and development. ''When the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh took over in 2004, it faced big challenges. But the government overcame them to touch new heights of progress and development in all fields,'' Ms Gandhi said while speaking at the 'Smriti rally' organised here on the occasion of the birth anniversary of late Haryana Minister Surinder Singh, son of former state Chief Minister Bansi Lal.
Ms Gandhi said the government also took several initiatives for the uplift of women, dalits, backward classes and minorities.
The UPA at the Centre and the Hooda government in Haryana were specially responsive towards poor, the backward sections and the women.
Describing farmers as the 'lifeline'' of the country's economy, she said the UPA government was committed towards their welfare and the recent increase in the Minimum Support Prices of wheat and paddy was a step in that direction.
She hailed the remarkable contribution of farmers of Haryana and Punjab towards the central grain pool. ''We are proud of them''.
Ms Gandhi, however, expressed concern over the incidents of female foeticide in Punjab and Haryana and called upon the women of these states to put a check on this social menace. She appreciated the Haryana government's various schemes for the welfare of the girl child which had resulted in the improvement of the sex ratio in the state which earlier showed low female birth rate.
She exhorted the people of Haryana to lead the nation in dealing with this social evil and promised UPA government's full support in this regard.
Ms Gandhi also showered praise the Hooda government for launching several welfare schemes for the poor, dalits, farmers and dalits.
She said the high rate of compensation for acquisition of agricultural land fixed by the Hooda government was an example for the other states to follow.
Steps like allotment of plots to landless and dalits and appointment of safai karmcharis in villages also proved that the Congress government was committed to the welfare of poor and downtrodden.
Ms Gandhi asserted that Haryana had made progress only during the Congress regime. ''Whenever Haryana was ruled by the Congress the state took fast strides towards development.'' Paying rich tributes to late Surender Singh, she said he was a dynamic leader who worked tirelessly for the development of Haryana. She specifically mentioned his initiative for the computerisation of revenue records in the state when he was the Agriculture and Revenue Minister.
She said his death, in a helicopter crash in 2005, had left a void which could not be fulfilled.
She earlier unveiled a statue of late leader in the Surender Singh Memorial Park. She also visited his ailing mother Vidya Devi to enquire about her health.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said whenever, Ms Sonia Gandhi visited Haryana, the developmental activities in the state received a boost.
Mr Hooda said his government had spent Rs 2100 crore for development works in Bhiwani district during the past two-and-a-half years.
He also announced to set up a Rs 20 crore polytechnic college in Bhiwani and an ITI in Tosham.
Haryana Forests and Tourism Minister Kiran Choudhry, wife of late Surender Singh, expressed her gratitude to Ms Gandhi for extending moral support to her family.
Prominent among others who attended the rally were sinior Congress leader Margaret Alva, Union ministers Kumari Selja and Rao Inderjit Singh, state Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana, working president Kuldeep Sharma, MP Naveen Jindal, local MLA Shiv Shankar Bhardwaj and Shruti Sharma, the daughter of late Surender Singh.