Asserting that India was an "open book" and an "open society" with a "well functioning" democracy having full respect for freedom and human rights, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said there were effective checks to address whenever aberrations - whether of civil rights or human rights
- come to notice.
Citing the incident of the recent gangrape of a young girl in Delhi, he said it mobilised tremendous amount of India's civil society resources and resulted in the enactment of the necessary legislation to deal with such ghastly incidents.
"India is a well functioning democracy with full respect of fundamental human freedoms and human rights of the population and that in our system of government there is a very important place for civil society actors to influence government policies, to criticise government policies, and to agitate in a peaceful manner for the resolution of any problems that they may choose to emphasize," he said.
Singh was addressing a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was asked why Germany is not critical of India's human rights record, malnutrition and starvation deaths as it was against other countries such as Russia and China.
Merkel said, "of course, we talked today and yesterday over dinner, the role of women and situation of women and I believe, for one, that the Prime Minister is more than aware of the challenges India is facing here.
"As a consequence of our development cooperation, Germany is part of major endeavour to assist India on this very difficult path taking it from an agricultural country, with the traditions and circumstances to modern country...
"Of course, we are talking about it is also aware of the efforts India was making to tackle it. Germany wants to be a good, sometimes perhaps critical, but also helpful partner to India".
On his part Singh said poverty is India's greatest problem.
He said that social evils associated with poverty cannot be dealt with effectively in a short period of time.
"And we are making very conscious efforts to raise the level of living by a policy of sustained growth at 7 to 8% per annum for the last decade, at the same time to ensure that the fruits of this development are distributed equitably among the poorer sections of the population particularly our women deserve a better deal.
"But I will be the last one to deny that at times there are, I think, development which are not what we would like them to be," he said.
"Whenever aberrations - whether they are civil rights, human rights, or other deficiencies - come to notice our democracy provides effective checks in ensuring that these aberrations will not go unchecked," he said.
"You have my assurance that India is an open book. India is a open society committed to all the rules of a functioning democracy even though functioning as democracy at times is not easy when you are dealing with per capita incomes as low as that of India," Singh added.
Talking about the gangrape case, he said the Government of India reacted with speed.
"We set up a committee under a former Chief Justice of India to come with remedial legislative measures if the Committee felt that there were lacunae in the existing legal framework.
"The committee came with a report within one month. We sat and we have succeeded in persuading our Parliament to enact the necessary legislation."
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