It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this function to mark the completion of the third year of the second UPA government.
I believe that the annual Report to the People that we are releasing today presents an objective statement of what we have achieved in office over the past year. I welcome an informed and constructive debate on our performance.
We will be the first to say we need to do better. But let no one doubt that we have achieved much.
Despite an adverse international environment, the economy grew by about 7 percent in 2011-12, which is amongst the highest in the world. Sustained high rates of growth during the UPA government's tenure have enabled us to pursue our agenda of inclusive and equitable growth.
I will highlight some of the achievements of our policies that aim to bring succour to the aam aadmi.
Poverty has declined at twice the rate that it did before the UPA Government's tenure.
There have been notable successes in agriculture. The agricultural growth rate has risen to 3.3% per annum in the 11th Five Year Plan as against 2.3% per annum in the 10th Five Year Plan. Rural wages also have increased. Farmers have been given handsome prices for their crops. This year has seen record foodgrain production, crossing 250 million tonnes for the first time in our history.
More than Rs. 2 lakh crores was disbursed to 2.75 crore marginal and small farmers as loans.
Primary school enrolment has become near universal. We have opened 51,000 schools and appointed 6.8 lakh teachers in the last two years.
India has been declared polio-free.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme now reaches one out of five households in the country.
India was the second fastest growing telecom market in the world. We added nearly 10 crore new telephone connections last year, including more than 4 crore in rural areas.
We added new power generation capacity of 20,000 MW last year which is almost equal to the capacity added during the entire 10th Five Year Plan Period. We provided 35 lakh new electricity connections in rural India last year.
Affirmative measures to help expand opportunities for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women are a top priority for the UPA government. These efforts are being intensified.
Last year saw the flawless test launch of the Agni-5 long range ballistic missile and the successful fabrication and launch of the RISAT-1 satellite which can take images even in cloudy weather. I congratulate our scientists for these great achievements.
The internal security scenario has by and large been satisfactory. The peaceful conduct of Panchayat elections in Kashmir and the high voter turnout show that things are changing in the State. The scourge of Naxalism however continues to be a major problem and I seek the cooperation of the concerned State Governments to tackle this menace.
In foreign policy, there were significant developments in our relations with neighbours, notably with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. The success of the BRICS Summit held in New Delhi reflects India's growing presence on the world stage. As a responsible member of the United Nations Security Council and other international fora, we have made important contributions in addressing global issues.
Despite these real achievements, there are uncertainties and a large unfinished agenda before us.
Difficult decisions have to be taken on both spending and revenue mobilisation. Both the Centre and the States have to be fiscally responsible. We also have to remove implementation bottlenecks that are preventing large projects from getting off the ground. We have to quicken the pace of implementation of our policies of inclusive growth, particularly in the areas of health and education. We need to improve coordination between the Centre and States on important issues that face the country.
Some people have questioned the sustainability of our growth process. I recognise that we face pressures on our balance of payments and that the fiscal situation needs careful management. Determined measures are needed to boost the climate for industrial investment, both domestic and foreign. An urgent priority is to resolve issues relating to land acquisition, resettlement and the environment. We need to strengthen our food security system by building more storage capacity. We must address the scourge of malnutrition through multi-dimensional interventions. We need to scale up our skill development programme.
We know there is public frustration and anger on the issue of corruption. I wish to assure our people that we are working sincerely to address this issue through both legislative and administrative measures. Legislation is before Parliament to establish a Lokpal, ensure time-bound delivery of goods and services and judicial accountability.
We are trying to ensure exemplary punishment to the guilty while also ensuring that public servants feel secure in taking bona fide decisions that are in the national interest.
I am confident that the resilience and hard work of our people, supported by actions of our government, will ensure that our economy bounces back.
I pledge that the UPA government will work with renewed determination to pursue these tasks.
I urge all political parties to rise above partisan considerations and strengthen our hands so that India can face the uncertain global environment with greater confidence and rise united to the challenges we face as a nation.
As we enter our ninth year in office, I reiterate the commitment of our Government to the values, the objectives and the policies that have brought new hope to millions of our fellow citizens. Jai Hind.