PREVIOUS HOUR

SC/4.00/3B

ָ ֤ ִֻ (֟) : ֿ , ߋ ָָ ָ ֮ և ״׮Ù 0 , ו֮ ꌟָ֤ ӳֻ֟ ִ ߸ ָ ָ ׸֟ ֮ ֵ ֋ , ׻ ß֮ ֣ ֵֻ , 㰟--֮ߤ , ִ ֮ ֲ֤ß ߅ ֟ߕ ß֮ ֤ ָ ֻ ָ ֮ ֛ ֟֓ߟ ֛߅ - ֤ ֋, ֋, ٻִֵ׸֮ ֋, ٻִֵ׸֮ ֋, ߲ ֋, ߲ ֋ ֻֻ , ֮ ֮ ֟֓ߟ օ ױ ֲ ֤ ֟ , ִ-߸ ߲ ֮ ׻֋ ß ֋, ß֮-ß֮ ߲ ֮ ׻֋

( ֳ֯ן ߚ߮ )

և ״׮Ù 㕕ֱֲ֤ ן֟ օ ִ ָ ׮ֵ Ӭ ֵ ן֟ օ ß֮ ß֮ ֋, ß֮ ß֮ ֋ ָ Ӕ ִֻ כӛ Ӕ ֻ ß ֋ ß ׻֋ ָ ׮ֵ Ӭ ֵ ֮ , ß֮ ֋ , ׸߾ օ ִ֟ ָ ָָ ן ֮ ָ ־֕ , ׻֋ ׮ֵ֟ ֺ ָ, ׸֟ ָ ֌ ֻ ֮ , ָ ֮ , ֲ ן , ֮ , ֕ --ֻ ֤ - ָ ׻ ֕ 0 ִ֮ ֤ ֌ ֻ֟ ߲ ֮ ָ ֻ ֛ ׻֋ ֤ ֛ ֺ ָ ܟ׻ֱ ֻ֟ ָ ß֮ 60 ֻ ֵ ؕͤ ָ ܟ׻ֱ ֻ֟ ̸ , ׿֟ ̸ ܟ׻ֱ ֕ , ߲ וִ , ִֻ֮, և , ֕ ִֵ ָ , ָ ӛ ֕ ָ ӓ ֕ ָ Ӥ ô-ô ־ֻ֟ ֟ , ֓㋿֮ ֻև ֟ ױ ִ֟ ׻֋ ֤ ָ ֤ ִ , ֛ פ , ֆ ִ և ׻֋ ֮ ָ ֤ ֮֕ ָ ־֕ ֵ , ִ֟ ֌ ָ ߅ ߛ ָ ָ ֮ ֻܵ֟ ָ ִ֟ ײֻ--ָ߱ , ײֻ--֟և ϟ֯ ̸֕ :

֮֮ߵ ֤õ, ֵ

 
և ־ ָ, ,

֟ ߅

פ ֋ ֮ ֮ ,

֕ ̤֮֕

֕ ֣ օ

(ִ֯)

(3 ָ ֿ:)

-SSS/NBR-MP/3C/4.05.

THE PRIME MINISTER (DR. MANMOHAN SINGH): Mr. Chairman, Sir, I join all the hon. Members of this House in expressing our deep sense of gratitude to the respected Rashtrapathiji for his inspiring Address which sets out the broad strategies, policies and programmes of our Government, the challenges that lie ahead and the manner in which those challenges can be met to transform them into opportunities for building a new India, free from the fear of want and exploitation. Sir, it does not require much explanation to say that our foremost task is to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict large segments of our population. Great many efforts have been made in the post-Independence period. We have been able to soften the extreme edges of mass poverty. But, it cannot be denied that a task is still incomplete and we have a long way to go before we can get rid of this mass poverty which has been the scourge of our society for centuries. To do so, we require a rapidly expanding economy. Without a rapidly expanding economy, we cannot find meaningful solutions to the problems of poverty, ignorance and disease. Fortunately, the last three years have seen a significant step up in the overall performance of our economy. I will be the last one to say that growth rate is everything that it sums up all the features of our complex polity. But it is also a fact that without rapid growth, particularly without rapid growth in manufacturing, we cannot find resources which we need if we have to devote them, in ever increasing amount, to problems of rural development, to problems of educational backwardness, to problems of ill-health. It is because our economy, in the last three years, has grown at a handsome rate of 8.3 per cent. We have, today, a situation where gross tax revenue of the Central Government can go up by as much as 27 per cent. That has given us a new maneuverability in devoting more resources to education, to health, to rural development and for building social safety nets to protect women and vulnerable sections of our society against uncertainties that characterize modern life. Sir, as I said, I will be the last one to say that growth by itself is a sufficient condition for removal of poverty. We need growth. It is a necessary condition. But, we need much more than that. There must be a purposeful pursuit of policies to focus, particularly on the empowerment of the weaker sections of our society, be they SCs/STs, OBCs, minorities, women and children. We need policies and programmes to empower these sections of our society to become effective partners and effective participants in processes of economic development. We need to focus much more sharply on reducing the regional disparities in levels of development, so that all regions of our country are effective partners in processes of development.

Sir, it goes without saying that in the country where 65 per cent of its population lives in rural areas, the performance of agriculture has a profound bearing on what happens to the average livelihood strategies of the ordinary people. I do recognize that in recent years, the performance of our agricultural economy has not been up to the mark. It is certainly not in line with what we need if we have to sustain a growth path which lifts all our people along the route to sustained development. I will touch upon that in a few moments.

Also, Sir, I do recognize that inflation hurts people and it hurts the poor people more than any other segment of population. We need, therefore, effective strategies to protect our people against inflation. We need effective strategies to see that inflation do not become a cumulative problem as it has become in Latin American countries, in some African countries. We are fortunately not anywhere in that line.

(CONTD. BY VP "3D")

VP/4.10/3D

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): But, we have to be vigilant. We need to do a lot more for agriculture. We need to do a lot more in order to ensure that inflation remains under control. And, the House has my assurance that we will work with determination to ensure that our agricultural economy gets the required momentum. We will make every effort to ensure that inflation is brought under control.

Sir, having said that, I should also like to say that in the long run, in a country like ours, with traditions of settled agriculture for nearly 5000 years and with the growing pressure of population on land, a situation has arisen where the per capita size of agricultural holdings is getting smaller and smaller. There is considerable scope for improving agricultural productivity through application of modern science and technology and we must use that knowledge to harness the latent agricultural potential. But, there are limits to which we can increase agricultural income and agricultural productivity, given the small size of our holdings. And, that is why, right from Panditji's times, even before Independence, the National Planning Committee over which Panditji presided, and after Independence the strategy of the successive Plans has been to project a vision of dynamic industrialisation which would evolve a progressive diversification of the occupation pattern; more people getting out of agriculture into modern industry and modern manufacturing and, thereby, helping to raise the standard of living, both in agriculture and providing gainful employment opportunities outside agriculture. Therefore, we must not lose sight of walking on two legs. Panditji used to say, "Everything else can wait but agriculture cannot wait." And, I endorse that sentiment more so at a time when the growth of our agricultural economy has been a problem for us. But, we must not lose sight of the long-term vision that meaningful solutions to the problems of unemployment, underemployment in a predominantly agrarian economy like ours can be found only in the framework of a rapidly expanding industrial economy. It is this vision, I think, my friend, the Chief Minister of West Bengal has been trying to project. I think, we must not lose sight of it. There may be particular problems about particular projects, but without rapid industrialisation, I think, India cannot realise its manifest destiny. This is the background, Sir, which I would like to state before this House and this is the background against which our policies and programmes have been formulated.

Sir, I started by saying that the performance of our agricultural economy has not been up to the mark. It is not a problem of one year or two years or three years. Since 1996, the growth rate of the agricultural economy has been declining sharply, and this is a matter of serious concern. The House would, therefore, like to ask me as to what I propose to do to deal with this menace. Sir, it is obvious that if we have to make accelerated progress in agriculture, we need to pay a lot more attention to the problems of water management. We have to pay more attention to expansion of the area under irrigation. Sir, the House has my assurance that this will be an important focus of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, which is going to begin in a few weeks. Sir, we need a technological breakthrough to improve the productivity of dry land agriculture. (Continued by PK/3E)

PK/3E/4.15

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): It is only about 35 per cent of the area under cultivation which has the benefit of irrigation. Even when we expand the irrigation, I am told it will not be possible to raise the proportion of area under irrigation to beyond 45 per cent. Therefore, the strategy for the development of dryland agriculture has to be the kingpin of the new agricultural strategy, and, for that, we have to harness the modern science and technology, particularly, the bio-technology advances to realise our growth potential in the areas of dryland agriculture. In this context, I would like to mention to the House that recently established National Rainfed Area Authority will attend to the task of revitalisation of dryland agricultural economy of our country on a priority basis. Sir, the House has, many times, discussed the need for expansion of rural credit. The House has my assurance that the need for rapid expansion of institutional credit for our agriculture will be attended to with determination. I recognise that in some parts of our country, indebtedness of farmers constitutes a major problem. I have myself visited some of these distress-prone areas. We have appointed an expert group under Dr. Radhakrishnan to look into this matter on a priority basis. I am waiting for the report of that expert group. We will take speedy action, once that report is available.

Sir, modernisation of agricultural research and extension services should and will receive greater attention than ever before. Districts characterised by agricultural distress have already been identified. Area-specific strategies have been put in place to deal with the problems of these districts. In addition, all these districts, from April 1st, will now be covered by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme which will provide a valuable social safety net for the rural poor and the deprived sections of our rural population.

Sir, as the House knows, this programme will now cover 330 districts, that is, more than half the districts in our country. In the Eleventh Plan, our intention is to cover all rural districts of our country. In the scheme, Bharat Nirman, a programme designed to develop rural infrastructure with emphasis on irrigation, rural roads, rural electrification, safe drinking water and rural housing will also make a major contribution to improving the quality of rural infrastructure in the next five years. We have since the current year launched a Backward Regions Grant Fund which will focus on improving the quality of rural infrastructure in 250 backward districts of our country. Sir, my own feeling is that if the programmes that we have identified are well implemented, they will make a handsome contribution to softening the harsh ages of extreme poverty which characterise these districts which are prone to this thing. Great responsibility rests both on the Central Government and the State Governments in improving the quality of governance and to plug loopholes in the implementation of these programmes.

Coming, Sir, to the problem of inflation, I am convinced -- Janeshwar Mishraji and Sitaram Yechuryji referred to this problem, and I share their concern -- but I am convinced that the measures that we have now put in place, both on the demand and the supply sides, will help us to moderate inflationary pressures in the months to come. Already, since the House met, the inflation index has moved in the right direction and it has, I think, declined by about one percentage point. I would like the House, however, to appreciate that we are trying to curb inflationary pressures without adversely affecting the strong growth impulses which now characterise our economy. (Contd. by 3F/PB)

PB/3F/4.20

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): We have never had an investment rate as big as 34 per cent of our GDP. We never had achieved a savings rate as high as 32 per cent. There is today a big investment boom going in the economy and if we sustain that boom for the next decade or so, I am quite sure, this will transform the scene, the economic and social scene, in our country beyond recognition. So, our challenge is to tackle problems of inflation without hurting the animus spirits of our entrepreneurs, without curbing the great impulses and, that therefore, it gives the impression, some time, that the Government is hesitant in dealing with inflation. Some time, it gives the impression that we have taken action, but taken action with delay. Yesterday, I heard my esteemed friend, Shri Arjun Sengupta, to say that there has been mismanagement. Without going into any of those things, I do wish to assure the House that the Government is very serious about bringing inflation under control. We are very conscious of the harmful effect that inflation has on the living strategies of the poorer sections of our society, and that even in the past we have made every effort to protect this section. That effort will continue.

The last three years that our Government has been in office, we have not raised the prices of foodgrains from the Public Distribution System applicable to people below the poverty line. Despite a sharp increase in petroleum prices from about 22-23 dollars to 60-75 dollars, we have not allowed the poor consumers of kerosene to suffer. We had tried to protect to the extent possible those who use diesel in their operation and it will be our effort that in devising effective anti-inflationary strategy, the needs of the poor sections of our society will be kept fully in mind. And also, the best policy to deal with inflation, of course, is to address the question of the rate of inflation and I do believe that we will succeed in getting mastery over the inflationary impulses that have, I think, in recent months, somewhat got out of hand.

The House should appreciate that supply side shortages can be relieved through imports. But there is a particular difficulty in such a grave situation where not only petroleum prices are rising but also the prices of primary commodities like foodgrains, vegetable oils and other commodities are also rising. Our effort has been to bring in these imports without affecting the profitability of the domestic agriculture. It is true that looking back if we had decided to import the five and a half million tonnes of wheat that we imported last year a littler earlier, it would have helped to moderate inflationary impulses. But we were torn between, I think, two conflicting considerations. There was one thing that we shouldn't do anything to curb the profitability of domestic agriculture and there was the other one, of course, to stabilise the prices. In the process, some delay took place. But that I think is a thing of the past. The House should appreciate when international prices of wheat, maize and vegetable oils have gone up, partly due to crop failures and crop shortfalls elsewhere and partly because of increased demand for use in production of bio-diesel, there are limitations to what extent we can use the increased imports in reducing the domestic inflationary pressure. And the House should know that in recent months, dealing with the problems of petroleum shortage, more and more countries are turning to bio-diesel. (Contd. by 3g/SKC)

3g/4.25/skc

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): If more and more bio-mass is being used to produce bio-diesel, that will put pressure on prices of foodgrains, that will put pressure on prices of feedstock, that will in turn have effect on the world prices of poultry, the world prices of animal husbandry products. But that is a distant prospect. As of now, I am convinced that the monetary measures taken by the Reserve Bank will moderate growth of money supply. The measures announced by the Finance Minister to reduce customs duties on essential commodities and arrangements being made to augment domestic supplies through imports will have desired stabilising effect. In the medium term, of course, we must evolve a more effective strategy to increase production of foodgrains, vegetable oils and pulses. Shri Jaswant Singhji asked me why I should write to Chief Ministers for controlling the inflation. The answer is quite obvious. If we have to devise anti-inflationary strategies, the States have a very important role to play. Agriculture is by and large in the State sector. If we want more foodgrains, if we want more production of pulses, if we want more production of oilseeds, we require the cooperation of the States. Moreover, if the Public Distribution System is to be strengthened to protect the weak and vulnerable sections of our population, who else but the State Governments should I turn to? If dehoarding operations have to be launched, who else should I turn to, but the State Government? I think the Central and State Governments are active partners in managing the economy and it is this concern which led me to write to the State Chief Ministers, inviting their attention, inviting their cooperation, in ensuring that we jointly succeed in controlling the inflationary impulses in the economy. I have set up, in the Cabinet Secretariat, under the Chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary a monitoring group which monitors the evolving price situation on a day to day basis and it is constantly in check with various State Governments. Wherever shortages appear, effective action is being taken to deal with the shortage.

Sir, in the medium term, I have said the solution to problems of wage-bred inflation lies in improving the productivity of our foodgrain economy, productivity of our oilseeds economy, the economy of the production of pulses in our country. I am asking the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture to work out region-wise, agro-climatic zone-wise plans and programmes to revitalise our agricultural economy, particularly laying emphasis on foodgrains economy, oilseeds economy and pulses economy. A meeting of the National Development Council will be called to discuss precisely what jointly States and the Centre could do to revitalise our agricultural economy, so as to find a durable solution to this problem of agricultural stagnation.

Sir, I should also mention that in the 21st century, water is going to emerge as probably the most severe constraint on processes of development. Therefore, rational use of our water resources is of critical importance for sustaining the growth momentum of our economy. Therefore, the management of our water resources and putting in place viable and effective arrangements for the resolution of inter-State water dispute is critical for sustained development of agriculture and of industry in the years to come. I call upon all political parties to treat water as a national resource and work together in a spirit of national unity and harmony to resolve these difficult issues. (Contd. by 3h)

HK/3h/4.30

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): Sir, I should say a few words about internal security as some hon. Members have referred to this issue. The hon. Leader of the Opposition, Shri Jaswant Singh, commented that the President's Address has not paid enough attention to this. Sir, he may have been satisfied with more words, but let me assure him and other hon. Members that in terms of real hard work on the ground our Government and our Home Minister have an enviable record to show much better than that of the previous Government. Be it the North-Eastern Region, be it Jammu and Kashmir and be it the naxalite-affected districts, the overall internal security situation is far better than what we saw during the previous regime. Even when we have had terrorist incidents, like the ones we saw during the NDA rule, we have not had a breakdown of law and order and communal violence of the type we saw in the aftermath of Godhra in Gujarat. Compare the violence after Godhra incident in Gujarat to the situation in Maharashtra after Mumbai blast. Mr. Chairman, Sir, I agree that we could have waxed eloquent through the President's Address about all the work being done to minimise the loss to human lives after such terrible terrorist action. That would have added several paragraphs to the speech! But let me take this opportunity to compliment our security and police forces for the exemplary manner in which they handled the situation, be it in Mumbai, be it in Malegaon, be it in Assam or be it in Nagpur, where a plan to attack RSS headquarter was foiled. More importantly, our Government ensured that there was no communal violence as a consequence of such terrorist attacks. Rather, in Mumbai we saw the inspiring example of people coming out in thousands to stand up for peace and communal harmony. Sir, we have been working in tandem with State Governments to tackle threats to national security, be they from terrorist elements, be they from naxalite elements. I myself have held a conference with Chief Ministers on this matter and committed Central support to any action by State Governments to improve their security situation. I think the hon. Leader of the Opposition himself asked the hon. Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh how much effort we have made to enable the State Government to cope with the problems of naxalite violence. As far as naxalism goes -- and this is the most widespread internal security threat as seen in the recent shooting of a sitting Member of Parliament -- we have consistently followed a two-pronged approach to tackling this menace. On one front, we have been resolutely supporting the States in improving the performance of security and police forces taking up anti-naxal action. We are supporting them in cash and kind. We are supporting them through training, intelligence sharing. We are promoting greater coordination between States. At the same time, we are not ignoring the deep-rooted causes giving rise to disaffection among tribals and other sections in some parts of our country. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the conferment of land rights on tribals in forest areas, the Backward Regions Grant Fund -- all contribute to improving the economic lot of people living in naxal-affected regions. The aim is to ensure that they too benefit from the positive effects of the growth processes taking place in the rest of the country and avoid straying into the path of violence. Mr. Chairman, Sir, Shri Jaswant Singhji stated that the President's Address had underplayed ULFA. I have always condemned violence and extremism in Assam and elsewhere and I have never hesitated to say that we can negotiate only with those who want peace, not with those who kill the innocent people.

(Contd. 3j/KSK)

KSK/4.35/3J

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD): We will never hesitate to sit down and talk to a fellow Indian if such conversation can bring peace to our people. But, we will never compromise the unity and integrity of our country or allow those who kill innocent people to go unpunished. It is with this in view that we began a dialogue with the People's Consultative Groups so that it may gradually extend to ULFA as well. As talks did not make headway, we continued with action by security forces. Mere mention of one insurgent group or the other will not serve any purpose. What is required is the will and resolve to maintain peace and order and defeat any terrorist designs. We shall fulfil this. Sir, there has also been a mention by Shri Jaswant Singhji and Shrimati Sushma Swaraj that by repealing POTA, we have made an error and that this was nothing but abject surrender to terror. Shri Jaswant Singhji used the phrase, 'terrorist should be terrorised'. While tough talking sounds good, what is important is the ground reality. I believe, Sir, it is important that while we fight terrorism with all the instruments at our command, we must not brute lives, our polity and our society. The extent of misuse of POTA is known to all and by repealing it, we have respected the sentiments of the ordinary people. Sir, in any case, I wonder how POTA had helped the previous Government prevent incidents at Akshardham, Jammu or elsewhere. Effective policing and anti-terrorist action can be done even under existing laws. We are doing this and we will continue to do it.

Sir, my esteemed friend, Shri Sitaram Yechury, and many hon. Members wanted greater attention to be paid to invest in the capabilities of our people. I should like to mention that the Finance Minister, in his Budget Speech, has already clarified that in addition to the outlays that are shown in the Budget paper, in the course of the year, he will find, at least, Rs. 7000 crores additional resources to be put into the development plan and this will go essentially to social development - education, health and rural development. Therefore, the feeling that we had not done enough for the social sector -- I think if you take into account that particular statement -- would, to that extent, get modified. Sir, it is our commitment we have made under the Common Minimum Programme that we will work to raise the allocation for education to 6 per cent, that we will work to raise the allocation for health to 2-3 per cent of our GDP. It cannot be done in a single year, but that is a commitment, by which we stand and I am confident that if the Indian economy continues to grow at the rate of 8 to 9 or 10 per cent per annum, we will over-fulfil our commitment. Sir, this is our social development, the empowerment of the disfranchised sections through education, through health, through vocationalisation of education. This is the way we believe we can empower our weaker sections to become partners in processes of economic growth and this is at the core of the new architecture of development that we are trying to put in place. The expansion of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid Day Meal Prgramme, the ICDS, the National Rural Health Mission, the proposed National Vocational Education Mission, the Means-cum-Merit Scholarship at the secondary level announced in the Finance Minister's Budget - these are the initiatives which seek to invest in the capabilities of our people. Our goal of inclusive growth is focussed on creating conditions of rapid growth as well as growth of capabilities in our people to benefit from this growth. I am not going into a debate on the issue of allocation by sectors, however the phenomenal growth in revenues -- I compliment the Finance Minister for this -- has enabled a quantum jump in investment in our priority flagship programme. (continued by 3k - gsp)

GSP/3K/4.40

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (Contd.): This year alone, they have an additional Rs. 33,000 crores. Education allocations have been more than tripled in three years from less than Rs. 10,000 crores to Rs. 33,000 crores. We are now going to rapidly expand secondary and higher education. The allocations for health, education and rural development are at levels, both in absolute terms and relatively, which were unthinkable just three years ago. We are committed to doing more in these areas and we will do so.

My esteemed friend, Dr. Karan Singh mentioned that we have not made any mention of family planning or population stabilisation in the President's Address. That does not mean that we do not recognise the important of population stabilisation. Our sincere belief is that it is not through coercive policies but by educating our people, by investing our people, by ensuring that all our children, particularly, the girl child, are in school and get quality education, that we will empower them to take charge of their own destinies and that is the best environment which will promote effective family planning through voluntary acceptance of the small family norms. So, the holistic approach to health care that we have, through the National Rural Health Mission, I am sure, will make a material contribution to population stabilisation without involving any coercion in the process of implementation.

Sir, some hon. Members, particularly, Shri Sitaram Yechury and Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, have referred to the Special Economic Zone policy. I have already mentioned, Sir, India needs to industrialise in a big way, if we have to realise our manifest economic and social destiny. We are living in a world, whether we like or not, a globalised world, where both capital and skilled labour are today increasingly mobile, both nationally and internationally. Therefore, we have to put in place an incentive system, which would make India an attractive destination for investment and this is a philosophy, which has led to the creation of this concept of Special Economic Zones. We are a large country. It is not possible to modernise our infrastructure, physical and social infrastructure, all over the country in one go. That experience of China also suggests that even when you have ample resources, it is not possible to spread them too thinly, and, therefore, it was felt that maybe, in the short run to medium term, it is necessary to devise a new concept of Special Economic Zone, whose primary attraction will be the provision of modern infrastructure to attract investment.

In the process, certain other issues have arisen, whether we have overdone with regard to the tax incentives, what about the settlement and rehabilitation of people whose lands are taken away. Those are legitimate concerns. I am myself sensitive to some of these concerns. My senior colleague, Shri Pranab Mukherjee is heading a Group of Ministers, which is looking into this matter, and, I assure the House that whatever anomalies may have crept into this scheme, will be taken care of.

Sir, it goes without saying that an increased spending is only one part of the equation of getting our country moving on the road to accelerated growth. (Contd. by 3L-ysr)

-GSP/YSR/4.45/3L

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): We have simultaneously to ensure that the resources that are allocated are well spent. Therefore, the great importance of improving the quality of governance. And that is the point that my esteemed friend, Dr. Karan Singh, emphasised in his opening speech.

I share the concern which several hon. Members have expressed about the quality of governance. We need to have much better leakage-free implementation of programmes if we have to achieve the desired outcomes from the increased spending. That we are undertaking goes without saying. The thousands of crores of rupees that are being funnelled into development programmes will not bear fruits unless they are spent wisely and ethically. State Governments and local bodies have a major role in ensuring this. The Right to Information Act goes to some extent in bringing in accountability into governance process. At the same time, Sir, we need a change in mindsets if we have to root out corruption. Our Government will work with States in ensuring that development outcomes match our outlays.

Sir, Shri Sitaram Yechury referred to the problem of communalism and pointed out that the President's Address did not draw attention to this very important issue. Sir, I assure him that the resurgence of communalism and the growing signs of intolerence in some parts of our country do worry us. The UPA Government came to power because the people of our country rejected the forces of communalism and sectarianism. Our inclusive culture and our inclusive civilisational inheritance have no space for such intolerance.

Sir, we are an open society. Some ask whether we are becoming an open society with a closed mind. I certainly hope it will never happen. Sir, The UPA Government will never allow anyone to weaken our democratic traditions. At the same time, we will never allow any force to break the unity of our people. We remain committed to our constitutional and national values of secularism and pluralism.

I share the concern expressed by hon. Members about signs of communalism resurgence and sectarian intolerence. We too receive such reports from some parts of our country. I assure all Members and every citizen of our country that we will fight communalism and sectarianism in all their forms and manifestations. We will defend the secular and pluralistic basis of our democratic Republic.

Sir, I should say a few words about the Sachar committee. Sir, hon. Members have referred to the need to ensure that minorities too benefit from our growth processes and to ensure that they are not left behind. The Sachar Committee has brought out the stark reality about the conditions of Muslim minority community in our country. The new 15-point Programme is therefore focussed on ensuring an equitable sharing of the benefits of crucial development programme in health and education. We are also designing targeted programmes for minority concentration districts and we make no apology about it. In the long run, as all communities catch up in their social indicators, there would, of course, be no need for such programmes. But given the current disparities, it is imperative that we carry all sections along. All sections of our community should have the feeling that they are partners in processes of development.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I should say a few words about the Foreign Policy. Issues have been raised by several hon. Members. I feel satisfied that we have been able to forge a broad national consensus on our foreign policy orientation. As I have often said, our policy reflects our 'enlightened national interest.' We regard our national security and the need to create a global environment conducive to our rapid economic development as the key defining elements of our Foreign Policy. We also regard peace and stability in our region as a key objective of our Foreign Policy. (Contd. by VKK/3M)

-YSR/VKK/3m/4.50

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): The goal of our foreign policy is to expand the developmental options that are available to us, to expand the possibilities for our citizens to exhibit their inherent enterprise and creativity and to facilitate the creation of a progressive, equitable and inclusive nation living in harmony with its immediate and wider neighbourhood. If our foreign policy initiatives are seen through this prism, it would be apparent that there is consistency in our approaches in every sphere.

In the last two years, our relations with Russia, the United States, the European Union, China, Japan and the ASEAN have all grown. We have expanded relations to cover many new areas and in all these regions, there is a growing realisation of the importance of India in world affairs. There is a realisation that the success of India as a nation has deep implications and lessons for the world at large. Our success is a success of democracy, inclusiveness, harmony, openness and tolerance for diversity. It is this realisation that makes India a regular destination for all major world leaders. At the same time, our traditional relations with the Non-Aligned Movement, Africa and West Asia have also deepened and our Government proposes to expand these further in he coming years. The benefits of this extensive improvement in our relation has had tangible benefit for our people -- in improving our trade, in increasing opportunities for employment, in expanding the reach of our businesses. I believe that we have crossed a significant point in our economic history where we are now seen as important partners in the evolving global economic and social order.

Sir, in our immediate neighbourhood, we are looking forward to hosting the SAARC Summit early next month. India seeks a neighbourhood of peace, prosperity and mutually beneficial economic and social development in our vast sub-continent. I have often said that the destinies of the nations of South Asia are interlinked. We have not slackened in our efforts to promote peace and stability in this region. As the incoming Chairman of SAARC, we will expand the scope of our relations with all nations of the SAARC region. I am sure, Sir, the House will join me in expressing the hope that the SAARC Summit will be purposeful and productive and contribute to the progress and well-being of the people of South Asia as a whole.

Sir, we have been working purposefully for the all round improvement of our relations with Pakistan. This has borne fruit on certain fronts. We need to establish long-lasting peace, friendship and amity between our two countries. We will work resolutely in that direction. I am sure that through dialogue, we will be able to resolve all outstanding issues. And I have great hope in what the future holds for our two nations, for our progress and for our prosperity.

Sir, some hon. Members have said, Shri Jaswant Singh was the one who said, that we have lost the strategic initiative in a dialogue with Pakistan and that we have no coherence in our approach. I wonder what 'coherence' means. Coming as it does from someone whose Government mobilised and put the Army on the border for almost a year with no results or gains whatsoever. We will not neglect the security dimension under any circumstances. But, we will also not go down the beaten track of sabre-rattling to no purpose. We will work for long-lasting peace and stability in our region. I do agree that in the enlarged neighbourhood, there are many uncertainties and underlying tensions. Without wishing to pontificate, I can only say that these are all nations whose polity and society are rapidly changing and we all have to cope with the evolving situation to the best of our abilities keeping in mind our long-term goals. (Contd. by RSS/3n)

RSS/MCM/3n/4.55

DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): Sir, I should also like to say a few words about Women's Reservation Bill. This is a matter which has figured in the debate; it figured in the debate in this House in the morning during Question Hour, and, Sir, I once again repeat that our Government is committed, the Common Minimum Programme commits us to work towards the reservation of seats for women in our State Legislatures and in our Parliament. I mentioned in the morning that I have been working very hard along with the Chairperson of the UPA, Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, to evolve a broad-based consensus. Some months ago, it appeared that we have succeeded, and therefore, in fact, I had announced that I look forward to bring in a Bill in the Parliament in the Session which has just come by, but that did not materialise. This does not imply any lack of interest. I will work for a broad-based consensus and ensure that we can secure such a consensus to bring this Bill to both Houses of Parliament as early as possible. This is the commitment which, as I said, figures in our Common Minimum Programme, and this is a commitment which I am committed to honour.

Sir, finally, in thanking the President for his Address to both the Houses of Parliament, I once again express my gratitude to all the hon. Members for their thoughtful comments on various issues of national, international and global concern. I respect the sentiments behind many of the cut motions tabled. Our Government will pay heed to each and every one of the valuable suggestion made and concerns expressed. With these words, Sir, I thank you.

(Ends)

(DEPUTY CHAIRMAN in the Chair)

THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: We shall now take up the amendments for consideration. Amendment Nos. 49 to 55 by Shrimati Sushma Swaraj. Sushma Ji, are you pressing the amendments?

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