Debating India

Manmohan Sing(h)s a new tune of reforms

Thursday 20 May 2004

NEW DELHI: In his first press conference after he was invited to form the government, Manmohan Singh spelt out the priorities for his government on Thursday.

Singh, the architect of economic reforms, said the country needed a strong private sector but added profit-making PSUs like ONGC and GAIL will not be privatised.

"We are not pursuing privatisation as part of our ideological commitment. India needs a strong private sector as also a public sector," he said.

"PSUs like GAIL and ONGC will remain in the public sector. There is no intention to privatise them. Similarly there are nationalised banks which will remain in public sector. These will not be privatised," he said.

In what will be music to Left leaders, he said: "We will not do anything which will throw large pool of workers jobless".

Singh was confident his government would last full five years.

"I am sure all allies and supporting partners will strengthen out bonds and we will provide a stable government for five years," he added.

He alleged that divisive forces were allowed "free play" during the outgoing government’s tenure.

"I do not want to begin my career by accusing the previous governments but divisive forces were allowed a free play which I believe is extremely injurious to orderly development," he said.

He said that violent incidents like the anti-Sikh riots and Gujarat should never recur in India.

"We are all anguished by such violence," he said at a press conference when asked about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Commenting about Supreme Court’s comments on the functioning of the judiciary in Gujarat, Singh said, "We are very concerned about the functioning of the judicial system in Gujarat. These are areas of grave concern. We will pay adequate attention to all these issues."

Singh refused to comment if the Centre would use Article 356 to dismiss the Gujarat government. "This is not an occasion to answer such questions. Centre-state relations are a delicate issue. It will be our effort to devise cooperative Centre-state relations. I have not thought through the issue."

He said India was an ancient civilization and the essence of Hinduism is tolerance and that Indian polity cannot be divided on the basis of race and religion.

"We are the most tolerant civilization and we cannot divide people on the basis of religion and race," he said.

Touching upon the Indo-Pak peace process initiated by the Vajpayee government, Singh said, "We must find ways and means to solve all the problems between India and Pakistan peacefully".

"Who had thought that the Berlin wall would melt? If those impossible things can happen, why can’t it be in our case," he said.

He said it would be the endeavour of the new government to more forward in building relations with Pakistan without compromising on national security.

"As far as the J&K policy is concerned, our party is in favour of discussion with all interested groups. We will explore all possible opportunities to bring peace and prosperity to this vital state of the nation," Singh said.

Singh said India will talk to all parties, including separatist Hurriyat Conference, to bring permanent peace to Jammu and Kashmir.

Manmohan Singh added there won’t be two power centres. "Sonia Gandhi will remain a guiding force for us," Singh said, adding: "This is a coalition government and I do not see any problem.”

On the Ayodhya issue, Manmohan Singh said that the law of the land should prevail in the settlement of the Ayodhya issue but if there are any serious negotiations among the contesting parties and if it has the sanction of the courts then it could be pursued.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Thursday, May 20, 2004.

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