Returning to a high-growth trajectory is the greatest challenge facing India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his speech to mark the 63rd Independence Day on Saturday.
He also held out hope that the economy will improve by the year-end.
Addressing the nation in the shadow of heightened security threats, an economic slowdown, fears of swine flu and one of the worst droughts in recent years, Singh outlined the challenges facing the country and his road map, peppering his speech with optimism that India was headed to a “new glory”.
From terrorism and Naxalism to the drought that has covered more than one-fourth of the country, Singh emphasised his government’s ability to deal with the situation “effectively”.
Clad in his trademark white kurta-pyjama, half-jacket and blue turban, the PM also took the debate over climate change to the people.
“If we don’t take the necessary steps in time, our glaciers will melt and our rivers will go dry. The problems of droughts and flood will grow in seriousness,” he said, calling for a new culture of energy and water conservation and a second Green Revolution to increase production. ‘Save Water’, he said, should be a national slogan.
Singh promised to make “every necessary effort” to push India’s economic growth trajectory: increasing capital flows into the country, encouraging exports, and raising public investment and expenditure.
He asked states to act against hoarders but acknowledged that monsoon deficiency would have an “adverse impact” on crops. “But I’m sure we’ll be able to meet the situation quite well,” he said in his first Red Fort speech since being voted back to office in May. Singh promised farmers all possible assistance to deal with drought.
The PM made no reference to Pakistan by name in his I-Day speech, a rarity. “We want peace with our neighbours,” he said. “We want to create an environment that will benefit the entire South Asia.”