Saturday, Oct 01, 2022

'There Are Bound To Be Differences'

The PM speaks onboard special flight during return from Pretoria -- on a host of issues, from managing the UPA cabinet to price rise, Mr Advani's rath yatra, Telangana, to RTI

PM’s media interaction onboard special flight during return from Pretoria on October 19, 2011, as transcribed by the ministry of external affairs

Impact of the visit and how are we going to gain

We had a very satisfactory meeting. As I said in my opening speech, we are three democracies, three developing countries, trying to bring about synergy of interests, we are trying to promote new pathways to promote economic cooperation between India and Africa and India and Latin America. The trade volumes are moving in the right direction. We are confident of reaching the target of 25 billion dollars of trilateral trade by the year 2015. What is more important is the people to people contacts, the various working groups, the foras which have been set up, they bring together civil society actors, women’s groups, science and technology group, agriculture groups, health group, and out of that I think, a new atmosphere, that we have a great deal to learn from each other, that the developing countries exchange can itself enrich all the participant countries. This is the message of this Conference.

On tackling poverty, unemployment and other chronic ills ailing our country

Getting rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions and millions of people in our country is the most important task and to achieve that goal we have to walk on several legs. We have to ensure that the country’s economy grows fast enough and the 12th Five Year Plan has the target of about 9 percent growth rate. It is difficult in the present world situation but we believe it is achievable, and if we simultaneously lay lot more emphasis on infrastructure, on education, on health, on skill development, we will create an environment where the youthful population profile that we have, will create not only higher growth rates but also create jobs of productive quality for young men and young women who would be joining the labour force.

On attacks on Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal, and if these were signs of growing intolerance

Well there is no place for violence in our democracy, therefore any act of violence is to be condemned, on that point I am absolutely clear that nothing is gained by pursuit of violence, howsoever angry one may feel, there are more civilised ways of expressing one’s anger and frustration.

On Mr. Advani’s ability to lead the nation given things like distribution of money at his yatra and intemperate remarks by him

Well it is for the people of India to decide and on a foreign soil I am not going to criticise any national leader. I wish Mr. Advani a successful yatra and I would hope that he would not use language, at times, which appears to be intemperate. I think in politics it is better to avoid harsh words.

On meeting on price rise convened by PM and what could the common man expect in the coming days

Well the purpose of that meeting was to explore the ways and means, on how we can bring about a moderation in the rate of inflation. As you know we have several instruments, the monetary policy instruments, the fiscal policy instrument, public distribution instruments. We have to use all these instruments together to bring about a credible price behaviour and the purpose of that meeting was to understand from the experts in the Government of India, the various forces which are at work, which have been fuelling inflation, and how we can bring inflation under control.

When do you expect some positive results?

Well I am confident by the end of the year you would see some positive results.

On severe attacks from allies on government and impact thereof

Well we are a coalition government and there are bound to be differences, the real test is to see that these differences do not undermine the cohesiveness of the government. You have my assurance that despite different perspectives that the various members of our coalition may have, managing the UPA cabinet has never been a difficult task. Our government functions with the coherence it needs to carry out its mandate given by the people.

On RBI Governor’s comment that inflation in India was primarily due to variables on the supply not demand side

It would not be proper for me to comment on the monetary policy of the RBI, that’s the preserve of the Reserve Bank but there is no doubt that there are both, factors on the side of demand and on the side of supply to create an inflationary environment. The international environment has also not been very helpful because of the energy price rise, and the fact that the exchange rate has recently depreciated, that complicates the task of controlling prices.

On ‘inaction’ on Telangana issue and how govt plans to address it

Well there is no inaction, efforts are being made to find a solution, which would bring about a broad based consensus, among all the various stakeholders. There are difficulties in arriving at quick decisions. There is a long history of the Telangana movement, it is not a new movement, it has been there since the mid fifties, and given the complications involved in settlement, it will take some time and that’s why we have been engaged in wide spread dialogue and discussions with all the stake holders. And it is our hope that out of that will emerge a solution which is a win-win for all concerned.

On rising threat perception from China and plans to tackle it

India and China are neighbours, we have problems. The border problem is a long standing problem, but its my sincere hope that is possible for us to find ways and means by which the two neighbours can live in peace and amity. Despite the persistence of the border problem our both countries have agreed that peace and tranquillity should be maintained along the border. Therefore despite, sometimes something appearing in the newspapers in our country, something appearing in the newspapers in China, that I think invites comments, but overall our relations are quite good. I have good working relations with President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and I am convinced that the top leadership of China wants peaceful resolution of all problems that exist between India and China.

On Finance Ministry note to PMO

Well I think that’s a closed chapter, the Finance Minister and the Home Minister have already spoken on that matter and I think that should be the end of that subject.

On perception that Center is not treating Orissa fairly

Well, I think there is no basis of the persistence of any feeling that our government discriminates against non-Congress or non-UPA governments. Our government’s policy has been to treat all states of the union as worthy members of our national, federal polity. And therefore, whenever a Chief Minister has raised any issue with me, we have tried to give a strong satisfactory answer.

On possible steps to protect Indian economy given economic downturn in Europe

Well we have to ensure that the ill winds from abroad do not affect the growth processes in our country adversely, and for that it is very essential that we maintain the tempo of investment, particularly investment in the infrastructure sector, investment in agriculture, investment in energy saving technologies. And I am confident that just as in the year 2008 we showed to the world that we can swim against the wind blowing from abroad, it is still possible for India to maintain a healthy growth rate of about 8 to 8.5 percent, despite the adversity of the international environment.

On Ministerial comments on judicial intervention in policy making

Well, as I said, we are a functioning democracy, and therefore Ministers sometimes take advantage of that to express opinions. But as a government we have high respect and high regard for judiciary and it is my sincere belief that the constitution has laid down the path which the executive, the legislature, the judiciary should follow. And if all of us follow the constitutional dharma, I think things would turn out to be all right.

On CAG’s view that the Iran frame is developing cracks

I don’t know. I have not seen his statement and therefore I am unable to comment on that.

What does India look forward to at the G20 in Cannes

Well you would have seen the communiqué issued yesterday. We expect the developed countries, particularly the Eurozone countries to come up with credible measures to resolve the crisis of the sovereign debt which now is becoming a major global concern.

On reorganization of states and formation of another states reorganisation commission

Well, if you are talking about the establishment of states reorganization commission, that has been under discussion for several years. There have been proposals from several sources that there is scope redrawing the federal map of India, but we have not taken a view on this matter.

On need for investments and law minister’s comment that keeping businessmen in jail is hurting sentiment

Well, it would not be proper for me to comment on the stray thoughts of what my Minister has said. Well, there are legal remedies available in our system whenever anybody gets on the wrong side of the law, and he or she is put behind bars, there are legal ways to get redress. We have a functioning democracy in which all the three wings of the establishment- the executive, the judiciary, the legislature have a well defined role to play.

On Tamil Nadu CM’s comment that she did not receive PM’s letter on Kudankulam

Well I am sorry. I have seen that comment. I had sent a letter. When I go back I will look at my office as to why the letter which was sent did not reach her in time. But I do feel that we can give reasonable satisfaction to all the stakeholders who are worried about the safety of the atomic energy plant at Koodankulam. And for that matter I have offered to the chief minister that we will set up a high level group to interact with the state government, to interact with the local population. That will be set up today or tomorrow.

On Bihar’s request for being considered as special category

Answer: Well the answer is quite simple. The categorization of the states, the special categories states, is something which is to be decided in the National Development Council. Bihar’s case is also being examined by the Planning Commission. If a decision is to be taken, that can be taken only in the National Development Council.

Whether corruption is an inevitable fall out of development

Answer: I don’t think it is an inevitable fallout. We cannot take that view – that would be a very complacent viewpoint. I think, corruption hurts the development process, corruption hurts the poor and corruption affects the quality of governance and for all these reasons we cannot say that corruption is something which is inevitable in our society. I think the recent debate over corruption has served its purpose. It has awakened our country to the harmful consequences of corruption which is eating into the political, economic and social fabric of our society and our government is committed to all that is necessary to clean up the system.

Wall Street movement and similar protests spilling into India

Peaceful protests are allowed, and are part of functioning of any democratic polity. And there are reasons why people are protesting. People are protesting in Wall Street, in Europe about the fat salaries that the bankers are getting when people are being asked to tighten their belts. There is problem of growing unemployment in United States. There is worry in Europe also. So, these are problems which the system must have credible answers to take them on board. I think democracy that way, provides outlet for people’s frustrations, which I think is a very timely warning, for all those who are in charge of the processes of governance.

On whether Team Anna is unfair to government and PM personally

Well I would not like to criticize any one individual, I think Anna Hazare ji’s movement has served its purpose. I think we are all working to ensure that we have in place, before long an effective Lok Pal Bill in Parliament and that it is our expectation that Parliament will move for an effective Bill, which will be assurance to the people at large that corruption cannot flourish as a way of life in our country.

Any clarification on RTI law dilution

I never said that there should be any dilution. I think there are certain ways in which things can be done. All I had said was that we should reflect how to achieve in totality the purposes for which RTI has been set up. I have never said that we are going to change the RTI