On completion of four years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, released 'Report to the People, 2008'.
The following is the text of his speech on the occasion:
“Four years ago the people of India charted a new course for themselves. They wanted a Government that would be a unifying expression of the collective will of all the people of India. They sought the politics of inclusion and the economics of inclusiveness. They wanted a Government that every Indian, irrespective of region, language, caste, community or creed, could say here is “Our Government”.
Such are the values that the Indian National Congress has always espoused and represented. The United Progressive Alliance under the inspiring leadership of Smt. Sonia Gandhi was based and built on the foundation of such values. It is these values that gained us the trust of our people. We adopted a National Common Minimum Programme that has since guided both thinking and action in our Government. In these past four years, our Government has sincerely sought to implement the National Common Minimum Programme, and in fact, try and do more when possible.
I am proud of the fact that for the first time in the history of governance in our country, our Government has come forward every year to present a Report to the People, placing on record what we have tried to do while in office. This annual Report of the UPA Government has set a new standard for accountability and transparency in governance. These reports also show that the UPA Government has so far been able to implement substantially the commitments made to the people in the NCMP.
Building on the Flagship Programmes we launched, viz, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, the National Rural Health Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Bharat Nirman, the expanded Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Mid-Day Meal Programme, the Food Security Mission and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, our Government has put in place an “architecture for inclusive growth”.
We have put in place legislation to protect the livelihoods and land rights of tribal families living in forest areas. The Plan also seeks to ensure more regionally balanced development, with a special focus on the accelerated development of backward districts. Development of minority concentrated regions is getting due attention and importance. We are placing special emphasis on the welfare, health, education, personal and economic security and empowerment of women and the girl child. We have made determined efforts to confront the challenge of child malnutrition and ensuring child rights. The ICDS and the mid-day meal program have been vastly expanded.
Our Government has given high priority to the revitalization of agriculture, the empowerment of our farmers and the modernization of the rural economy of our country. Several initiatives listed in this Report have been taken to reverse the decade long neglect of agriculture since the mid-1990s. We have improved the terms of trade for our farmers, most importantly by increasing the minimum support prices payble for foodgrains. We have increased investment in irrigation, agricultural research and rural infrastructure and have launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana with an allocation of Rs. 25,000 crores for the 11th Five Year Plan. These initiatives along with the National Food Security Mission and the Rs 60,000 crore farmers debt relief package announced by the Finance Minister in this year’s Union Budget, will facilitate a turnaround of our agricultural economy.
Our Government has made determined efforts to accelerate the pace of development while maintaining reasonable price stability. Control of inflation has been a priority concern. The UPA Government ensured that the rate of inflation was brought down from around 6% in 2003-2004 to a little over 3% in the years 2004-05 and 2005-06. An upward pressure on prices since 2007 has been wholly on account of the steep increase in global commodity prices, especially oil and food prices. It has also affected inflation expectations.
The sharp escalation in global oil prices, the price of steel and the price of food crops has impacted our domestic economy. The Government has taken several measures to deal with this challenge. Restrictions have been imposed on commodity exports, tariffs have been reduced to encourage cheaper imports, fiscal and monetary policy initiatives have been taken by our authorities and, wherever needed, administrative measures are being taken to discourage speculation and hoarding. While supply side and demand side measures will have their salutary impact on the price level, a normal monsoon and public recognition of the Government’s determination to reverse the recent spurt in inflation should also help alter the state of expectations. So far, the reports of the rabi crop are good and the predictions of a good monsoon give us hope and confidence that the steps we have taken so far will enable us to return to a regime of moderate inflation in 8-10 weeks’ time.
The Indian economy is on a growth trajectory which can keep it growing at 8-9% p.a. At this rate, we will be able to rid our nation of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which has been the fate of millions of our countrymen for centuries. I am confident that we will be able to increase production and satisfy the growing demands of our people and generate more employment. Our Government is committed to ensuring that our growth process is socially and regionally inclusive. We take pride in the fact that we have been able to increase public investment in social welfare programmes, in education, in health care, in irrigation and agricultural research, in infrastructure, including rural infrastructure.
The 11th Five Year Plan has a special focus on education. India is a nation of young people. I sincerely hope the initiatives we have taken in the field of education at all levels will unleash the creative potential of our people particularly our your people. We have increased investment in education with the twin objectives of widening access to education and promoting excellence. Special emphasis is being laid on the education of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minority communities and women. Our Government has also taken important initiatives in the fields of health care, urban development and the modernization of infrastructure. All these have been mentioned in detail in this Report.
I am also happy that during this year, we have universalized the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme by covering all rural districts of our country. This historic programme will make a major contribution to softening the harsh edges of extreme poverty in rural India. I urge all State Governments to ensure effective and transparent implementation of the NREGA.
The UPA Government has worked hard to make our growth process socially inclusive and regionally balanced. The North Eastern region, Jammu & Kashmir and other backward regions have received special attention, and will continue to do so. Taking the benefits of development to such areas is also the key to overcoming some of the challenges to internal security we face. We are firm in our resolve to strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions as a means of promoting accountability, decentralization and equitable development.
Terrorist and other subversive elements have continued to cause concern on the internal security front. Their aim is to spread disaffection and distrust among our people. The people of India will never allow these element them to succeed, standing as one and united in our great diversity. The UPA Government has taken firm measures to improve the overall internal security situation and it will remain ever vigilant against any threats to the unity and integrity of our sacred Republic. We will not hesitate to take resolute and firm action against such forces wherever necessary and will work with state governments to counter these threats.
Our Government has raised the global standing of our country in these past four years. Today, the world looks at India - and the enterprising people of India - with respect and admiration. By creating an environment in which the creativity and genius of the Indian people has been able to find freer expression, we have strengthened India’s global standing. The external profile of our country has become more robust and this in turn has also contributed to an improvement in India’s global standing. It has also enabled us to reach out to our neighbours and increase economic cooperation with the countries of South Asia, South East Asia, the Indian Ocean Region and Africa. We welcome the new wave of democracy in our immediate neighbourhood and look forward to strengthening our bilateral relations with all our neighbours.
India today enjoys an enhanced profile in the international arena as a model of a stable, liberal, plural and secular democracy and a rapidly growing economy with the ability and capability to play a larger international role. However, there are great challenges ahead of us. We enter more uncertain times, as the global economy slows down and global economic and political trends pose new challenges for us.
We cannot remain complacent in the fact that the past four years have been good years for our country. The steep rise in global petroleum and foodgrain prices pose difficult challenges. We must tighten our belts, manage our resources and finances more prudently, and work together to steer the ship of this great country through turbulent waters.
I assure you that these will be our guiding principles as we enter the final year of this term. We reiterate our commitment of the UPA Government to the principles and the goals of the National Common Minimum Programme. I sincerely hope, ladies and gentlemen, this Annual Report to the People will be read by one and all to get a better understanding of the work being done by our Government. Thank you.