Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said his government was committed to "transforming rural India" and the results have already begun showing with a turnaround of the agricultural economy for the first time.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort as India celebrated the 61st anniversary of its independence from British rule, Manmohan Singh said he had delivered his first Independence Day address from the same platform four years ago with the commitment to give a "new deal to rural India."
And this was being achieved, he said.
"Our effort at increasing investment in rural areas and reducing the debt burden of farmers has turned our agricultural economy around. After almost a decade of stagnation especially from 1998 to 2004, investment in agriculture is increasing and there has been a revival in this area.
"We have had record production of foodgrains, cotton and sugar in 2007-08," the prime minister said amid cheers from the thousands of people assembled on the rain-washed greens in front of the Red Fort in the old city.
"Our farms are once again green. Our godowns are once again filling up. Our farmers are once again hopeful about their future and their welfare."
The prime minister said that through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (National Agricultural Development Plan), the government was investing Rs.25,000 crore (Rs250,000 million/$6 billion) in agriculture.
He said that to provide relief to debt-distressed farmers, banks loans to the tune of about Rs.71000 crore (Rs.710,000 million/$8 billion) had been waived.
In the past four years, he said, the government had increased bank credit for agricultural sector from Rs.81,000 crore to Rs.225,000 crore and reduced the interest rates for farm loans.
And in order to improve the economic conditions of farmers the government had increased the procurement prices for food grains - 50 percent for wheat and 30 percent for paddy. The National Food Security Mission had been set up to enhance production of rice, wheat and pulses.
Irrigation, watershed development, rain fed areas development, and flood management had received special attention.
The National Rural Health Mission had been expanding public health facilities and services in rural areas.
He described the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme as a "historic initiative" that is providing minimum livelihood support to the millions of needy rural poor and was "aimed to soften the sharp edges of poverty".
Saying that he had spent the first 10 years of his life in a village that had no electricity, no drinking water supply, no doctor, no roads and no phones, he said though after independence there had been considerable development in rural areas, "yet many of our citizens still live a life that I lived in my childhood".
That is why when our government took over, we launched Bharat Nirman - a project to build rural infrastructure.
"Our government is committed to transforming rural India. In these four years we have taken important initiatives. I am confident that a new and prosperous India will be built due to our efforts," he declared.