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World is watching us, it’s time to make history : PM

Monday 15 August 2005

Asserting that the time had come for India to make history, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday pledged to work towards an economically powerful India where everyone can share the fruits of development amid peace and harmony.

In an inspiring speech delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the country’s 59th Independence Day, his second since he came to power in May last year, Singh covered a wide canvass, touching upon the country’s glorious past and invoking visions of a just and equitable India.

India, he said, was witnessing unprecedented economic growth and it would be able to banish poverty if the growth momentum was kept up for five to 10 years.

The Prime Minister dealt with issues ranging from corruption to diplomacy and from economy and cleanliness in his hour-long speech he delivered in Hindi. The thousands gathered at the historic venue, including government functionaries, diplomats and ordinary people in particular school children dressed in the colours of the Indian Tri-colour, repeatedly applauded him.

Manmohan Singh, who has received wide praise for his style of governance, declared that his Congress-led coalition government was willing to talk to "anyone" for the sake of peace in Jammu and Kashmir but warned it would never put up with terrorism. He also asked Pakistan to go beyond "half-hearted efforts" to destroy the terrorist infrastructure on its soil.

"I have said this before and I am repeating once again, that there is no issue that cannot be resolved through a process of discussion and dialogue. Our doors are always open and will continue to be open for anyone interested in dialogue.

"I invite everyone to join us to discuss the problems of the state of Jammu and Kashmir so that its people can lead a life of peace and dignity. If violence continues, then our response too will be hard."

Much of what Singh spoke was devoted to India’s internal affairs, and he made a particular reference to the manner in which the people of Mumbai courageously and with fortitude faced the menacing floods in the city in July. "There are no external constraints on our development. If there are any hurdles, they are internal."

The Prime Minister said India was witnessing unprecedented economic growth but underlined the importance of achieving simultaneous social progress.

"Last year our economic growth rate was 7 per cent and it is likely to be similar this year as well. Our country has never witnessed such consistently high growth rates in the past.

"I am confident that if we maintain this momentum of growth for the next 5-10 years, then it would be possible for us to eradicate poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease from our country. This is not a dream but something that is possible in our times."

He said the entire world was viewing India as an emerging power of these times and "eagerly watching the manner in which India is making rapid economic progress.

"And this economic growth is happening within the framework of a liberal democracy... It is because of this that the world’s attention is riveted on us."

Singh, who as Finance Minister in 1991 unleashed India’s sweeping economic reforms, said: "We must admit that the economic growth we have been referring to earlier has not yet fully reached every individual in our society. This is particularly true in our rural areas."

It was precisely for this reason, he said, that the Congress-led government’s policy had been to ensure the participation of the common man, particularly those in rural areas. "They should feel that all programmes belong to them."

Striking a very positive note, the Prime Minister said: "There comes a time in the history of a nation when it can be said that the time has come to make history. We are today at the threshold of such an era. The world wants us to do well and take our rightful place on the world stage.

"We must seize this moment and grab this opportunity. We need to have the resolve to make our country prosperous. We must have the self-confidence to realise that we are second to none, that Indians are as good as the best.

"Our political system and leadership must show sagacity, wisdom and foresight so that we are able to make the best of this moment and make India a truly great nation."

The Prime Minister admitted shortcomings in agriculture growth, electricity shortages and lack of adequate infrastructure. He called for measures to step up achievements in the fields of education, farm sector and industry, and called for expanding employment avenues. ’Rozgar Badhao’ (increase employment), he said, would be the slogan of the day just as then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave a stirring ’Garibi Hatao’ (banish poverty) slogan in 1969.

Singh said: "Let us come together, as one nation, strengthened by our plurality, to work shoulder to shoulder and build a new India. An India where there are no barriers between the government and the people. An India where each and every Indian can stand proudly and proclaim that he is an Indian. Let us work together to build such a nation."

See online : The Hindustan Times

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