I join all other Members of this august House in conveying our very sincere
thanks to the Respected
Rashtrapatiji for a very thought-provoking Address. I would also like to
take this opportunity to thank the Leader of the Opposition, Shri L. K. Advani,
other senior Leaders including Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shri Lalu Prasad and
many other distinguished personalities who have spoken on the Address of the
I sense an underlying sense of unity is what our Republic is about. What are
the tasks that lie ahead and how we should go about in achieving those
objectives? Shri Advani had said that we should all work to make the 21st
Century India's Century. This is an idea that I have been stating for quite
some time. I said as early as 1991 quoting Victor Hugo : "That no power on
earth can stop an idea whose time has come" and I sincerely believe that the
emergence of India as a major power house of the global economy and the global
polity happens to be one such idea whose time has come. It is our privilege to
contribute to the realisation of this cherished goal of our country.
The tone of speeches on all sides has been highly constructive, and I think
this augurs well for our country starting with the unanimous election of Hon.
Speaker followed by unanimous election of Hon. Deputy Speaker. We have made a
new beginning. It is my hope and prayer that we maintain that spirit of
bipartisanship when it comes to dealing with the large number of National
problems and concerns, which we face as a country.
The conduct of free and fair elections and the subsequent formation of the government
are indeed a triumph for Indian democracy. We can take legitimate pride in our
achievements. There were many people who believed that Parliamentary democracy
cannot succeed in a country as poor as India, and that Parliamentary democracy
cannot succeed in a country where the voters are illiterate to such an extent as
is the case with our country. We have seen people writing about it. I recall
that way back in the 1960s a correspondent of the New York Times Selig S.
Harrison, who was based in India, went back and wrote a book, namely, "India :
The Most Dangerous Decades", predicting the demise of the Indian Union by the
end of the 1970s.
We have proved all these prophets of doom and gloom wrong, and our Republic
has shown the resilience to march ahead.
I sincerely believe that social and economic transformation of India in the
framework of a democratic polity, an open society committed to the rule of law,
committed to respect for all fundamental human rights, is a development in world
history which, if it succeeds, will have profound consequences for the processes
of development in all countries of the third world.
People marvel at a country of a billion people characterized by the vast
diversity of languages spoken, characterized by the diversity of religious
beliefs and caste tensions, yet moving forward together. This is something which
has earned our country deep admiration. At least, that is what I have sensed in
my five years as Prime Minister as I travelled to various parts of the world.
It is our privilege and it is our bounden duty to strengthen the democratic
foundations of our magnificent Republic.
There are tensions in the system, and while we congratulate ourselves, we
must not lose sight of some manifest weaknesses – the growing use of money
power in elections, muscle power. I think these are developments which need to
be tackled, if we have to maintain the health of our democratic polity.
Also, if we have to succeed, it is necessary for us to take a firm pledge
that we will not encourage groups and individuals who wish to divide our country
on the basis of religion or caste.
We should deal firmly with people who believe violence is the only way to
achieve their objectives. I believe we must all be solemnly committed to
ensuring that social and economic development, which is a must for a poor
country, must benefit all sections of society, all States of the Union, all
communities and all persons.
I heard, Laluji refer to the special problems of Bihar. I assure him and I
assure the Hon. Members that the backward regions of our country, those which
have been left behind in the race for development, will claim our priority
attention as we deal with the challenges of development.
There is one thing more that I wish to say. Democracy is a beautiful tree,
but all modern democracies, under the pressure of competitive politics, tend to
adopt a short-term perspective; very often, longer term concern and issues do
not get the attention that they deserve. We must have this long-term vision, if
India is to realize its development objectives. I sincerely hope that we will
have that vision, that will and the courage to address some of these longer term
concerns as a befitting tribute to the founding fathers of our Republic who gave
us the magnificent Constitution of India.
The mandate that our government has received, and we accept it in all
humility, leaves no scope for bragging about. We recognise that this mandate
casts a heavy responsibility on all of us to give our country a strong,
purposeful government, a stable government, a government committed to the
pursuit of an inclusive development process. As the President herself has
acknowledged in her gracious Address, this is an agenda which will keep us all
busy every day of the next five years. The mandate, therefore, is a mandate for
stability, of change with continuity, commitment to inclusive growth, equitable
development and commitment to the preservation and protection of a secular and
We will consolidate our efforts on each of these fronts and the President's
speech has outlined the direction we intend to pursue. We will further
strengthen our flagship programmes for employment, education, rural and
agricultural development, health, and improve the delivery of public services
through greater transparency and accountability. We are aware that though much
ground has been covered, a lot more remains to be done. We will spare no effort
in accelerating the speed of our work.
In this gigantic task I recognise that no development agenda can succeed if
the Centre and the States, and now the third tier of Panchayati Raj
institutions, do not work in a spirit of collaboration, in a spirit of harmony.
you have my assurance that in dealing with States, in dealing with Panchayati
Raj institutions, we will operate strictly on the basis of objectivity. No
discrimination will be done against any State which may not be governed by
parties which are in power in Delhi. This is a commitment I give. I call upon
all Chief Ministers to work together in the National Development Council to
earnestly implement the vast development and inclusive development agenda that
the President has placed before our people.
I should say a few words about the strategies and programmes that President
in her speech has referred to. What is our fundamental task as a government? I
have always believed and here I draw inspiration from the founding fathers of
our Republic Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlalji, Indiraji, Rajivji who have always
emphasised that our freedom will be incomplete so long as there is mass poverty
in our country.
It was the dream of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi to wipe out
tears from the eyes of each and every individual in our country. That is an
ambition which we may not be able to fulfil but that is the inspiration which
should and which will guide our government in its quest for giving our people a
life of dignity and self-respect.
Development is meaningless if our people suffer from ill-health, if our
people are illiterate, if environment protection measures are not in place, if
the degradation of land and water resources of our country and the river
resources of our country goes unchecked. Therefore, we commit ourselves to this
inclusive vision for development where the fruits of development would be
equitably shared, where all individuals in our magnificent Republic would get an
equal chance to fulfil their ambitions. It is not easy but I am convinced that
education, health and environment protection are the means through which we can
help our people to improve the quality of their living. But all this requires
resources and money does not grow on trees. If we have to invest in our flagship
programmes, then we need a lot more resources and an expanding pool of
resources. Fortunately, in the last five years, our economy managed to grow at
the rate of 8.6 per cent. That benefited our revenues enormously. We were able
to expand the resource flows for agriculture, for rural development, for
education, for health and for environment protection.
More recently, particularly in the last one year, because of the
international slow down our economy has been affected. Our growth rate which was
about 9 per cent in the previous four years has declined to about 7 per cent. We
live in an increasingly inter-dependent world economy and I cannot promise you
that we will not be affected by global events. But I am convinced that since our
savings rate is as high as 35 per cent, given the collective will, if all of us
work together, we can achieve a growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent even if the world
economy does not do well. This shows we will maintain, at least, 7 per cent
growth rate. In the short run, we cannot do better but this is not good enough.
Therefore, the ambition that our government has is that notwithstanding
developments in the global economy, our country must have the resilience to so
manage its affairs that it grows at the annual rate of 8 to 9 per cent. I am
convinced this can be done with the cooperation of all sections of this august
House. That will be the direction in which we will be moving.
I recognise that our fiscal system is under strain. The fiscal deficit has
increased but I do believe that in the short run, even then we have
manoeuvrability to spend more resource on our flagship programmes. I sincerely
believe that Hon. Finance Minister, when he presents his Budget, will unfold the
government's strategy in this regard.
But as I said, we cannot spend our way into prosperity. In the present
situation there is considerable scope to increase public expenditure,
particularly on infrastructure projects and that would not lead to inflation,
that would only add to our development growth potential and I reckon that is the
right way to deal with international slow down that has affected many countries
in the world.
The world economy is inter-linked with the management of a vast country like
India. There are international factors which affect us. There are also
developments in security matters which also can derail the development process.
If terrorism is uncontrolled, if Left Wing extremism continues to flourish in
important parts of our country which have tremendous natural resources of
minerals and other precious things, that will certainly affect the climate for
investment. Therefore, as a government we are committed to doing all that is in
our power to ensure that terrorist elements are brought under control. That is
why the Hon. President talked about `Zero Tolerance' from terrorism. In the
same way, in dealing with Left Wing extremism we have to convince our misguided
youth that violence of the gun is no way of solving any problems and that our
democratic polity gives them the scope through the ballot to express their
concerns and we have seen in the past that rebels of yesterday have ended up as
being rulers. That is the beauty of our Republic; the beauty of our democratic
polity. So, we have to operate on two fronts in dealing with these extremist
elements. We cannot allow violence to be used as an instrument of getting
results. At the same time we recognise that there is a climate in which violence
flourishes and it should be our objective to ensure that people are not carried
away by economic and social discontent to join the ranks of the affected people.
That is why walking on two legs and a firm resolve to see that law and order is
maintained and simultaneously a firm commitment to ensure that the gains of
development do reach the disadvantaged sections of our society, particularly
those living in the tribal areas as required.
I am conscious of the fact that the tribal population in our country has not
got a fair deal. The way we administer the tribal areas; the way we send
officers who are disinterested to work in these difficult tribal areas, the flow
of resources is not properly monitored and there is no proper guidance in the
spending of resources. I think, the whole development strategy for tribal areas
in Central India at least requires a fresh look.
I promise that our government will do all that is possible to bring the
tribal communities of our country into the national mainstream. We have taken
some steps in the last five years. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional
Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, which confers rights on
forest dwellers, is a step in that direction. But I do recognise much more needs
to be done on the economic and social fronts to contain the discontentment in
the tribal areas which often leads to naxalism or left-wing extremism.
In his speech, the hon. Leader of the Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani, mentioned
that the Centre has been blamed for certain lapses by the Commission of Inquiry
set up by the Maharashtra government in connection with the terrorist attack in
Mumbai on November 26. As Members of Parliament are aware, the government of
Maharashtra had set up a two-member Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the
events of that day and the manner in which the State government had responded to
the attack. I understand that the Commission of Inquiry has submitted its Report
to the State government. The State government would, no doubt, be tabling the
Report in the Maharashtra Legislature, together possibly with an Action Taken
Report. It is not possible, therefore, to comment at this stage on the contents
of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry before the Report is formally tabled
on the floor of the State Legislature. I shall, therefore, refrain from
commenting on the inferences drawn by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition about a
Report that is yet to be placed on the floor of the State Assembly.
I would, however, like to inform the House about the several steps that have
been taken since November 2008 to further tighten the vigil against future
terrorist attacks of this nature. As Members are aware, the perpetrators of the
November 26 attack came by sea. We were all aware of our vulnerability to such
attacks from this quarter and had taken already a number of steps, but obviously
these were inadequate. A massive effort has hence been taken to streamline our
maritime security which included the setting up of a Maritime Command under the
Coast Guard with overall responsibility vested with our Navy.
We have increased the number of Marine Police Stations to supplement the
efforts of the Coast Guard and the Navy. There have been several other steps
that have been taken. But I shall enumerate only a few. Improvements in
intelligence sharing is one. The Multi Agency Centre has been fully energised
and Subsidiary Multi Agency Centres constituted in more States. The process will
be completed shortly. The Net-Centric Information Command structure is being put
in place to achieve online transfer of all actionable intelligence in a
streamlined manner. Generation of actionable intelligence has simultaneously
been given priority and measures put in place for this purpose. Technical
innovation and technical support to intelligence production has been given the
highest priority. Steps have also been taken to improve the quality of
intelligence analysis. Investigation into serious terrorist offences will, from
now on, be the responsibility of the newly-constituted National Investigation
Additional legal measures taken include - apart from the new NIA Act -
significant amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Home
Minister is in constant dialogue with Chief Ministers of States keeping them
informed of the specific aspects of the two new pieces of legislation.
Following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26th November, 2008, the
imperative necessity to have dedicated counter terrorist forces has been further
reinforced. The National Security Guard is the principal counter terrorist force
in the country. A major effort has been made to improve its capability,
improving better mobility and state-of-the-art equipment. At least, four new NSG
hubs have been set up in different parts of the country. In addition, certain
other dedicated counter terrorist forces are sought to be created.
It goes without saying that both the challenges of the troubled times that we
live in terms of security of our nation and the unique opportunities within our
reach for the well being of our people, enjoin us to work together for common
goals. I am grateful to the hon. leaders of the Opposition who offered their
support on both these counts. I consider it the duty of my government to build
further unity of purpose. I have always felt that our differences will melt away
when we consider the overwhelming nature of the challenge that our country
I would like to say a few words about our relations with our neighbours. We
are living in a neighbourhood of great turbulence. I have believed India cannot
realize its ambitions unless there is peace and prosperity in South Asia as a
whole and if our neighbourhood is suffering from instability, turbulence that
has direct bearing on our own evolution as a democratic polity committed to
sustained growth and development. I have, therefore, a vision for a transformed
South Asia where, with the cooperation of all our neighbours, we move from
poverty to prosperity, from ignorance to a knowledge society and from insecurity
to lasting peace. What is at stake is the future of one-and-a-half billion
people living in South Asia. I sincerely believe it is in our vital interest
therefore to try again to make peace with Pakistan. I recognise, it takes two
hands to clap. There are some disturbing trends, but I do hope that the government
of Pakistan will create an atmosphere in which we can realize this vision. I
expect the government of Pakistan to take strong, effective and sustained action
to prevent the use of their territory for the commission of acts of terrorism in
India, or against Indian interests, and use every means at their disposal to
bring to justice those who have committed these crimes in the past, including
the attack on Mumbai. I believe that such actions will be welcomed by the people
of both countries.
If the leaders of Pakistan have the courage, the determination and the
statesmanship to take this road to peace, I wish to assure them that we will
meet them more than half way.
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