Saturday, August 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PM invites Pak for walk on peace road
*Offers sops to farmers *Assures return of J&K Pandits
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 15
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today invited Pakistan to walk with India on the road to peace, stressing that New Delhi’s frequent peace initiatives were not a sign of weakness but a test of Islamabad’s sincerity.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of the 57th Independence Day in Delhi
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of the 57th Independence Day in Delhi on Friday. — PTI photo

Delivering his sixth Independence Day address to the nation from the historic ramparts of the Red Fort, Mr Vajpayee asked rulers in Islamabad to abjure the anti-India outlook as the people of the two countries wanted to live in peace.

“We believe in resolving all disputes peacefully. Our frequent initiatives to normalise relations with Pakistan are not a sign of our weakness; rather, they are an indication of our commitment to peace,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the test of Islamabad’s sincerity lay in whether it was “prepared to stop cross-border terrorism totally”.

Undeterred by the rain, Mr Vajpayee continued with his speech. He announced that mobile telephony would be launched in Jammu and Kashmir next week and that India would send its own spacecraft ‘Chandrayaan one’ to the moon by 2008.

Stating that as a multi-religious nation it was against India’s nature and culture to practise discrimination or to do injustice to anybody on grounds of faith, Mr Vajpayee said, “We should always care for the minorities and be attentive towards their welfare.”

Asking political parties to give a try to the proposal for 33 per cent double member seats to get out of the logjam on the Women’s Reservation Bill, Mr Vajpayee offered that if there was any other suggestion on which a consensus was possible, the same could be implemented.

Sounding upbeat on the economic front, he announced a number of sops, including cheaper credit for farmers, weavers and artisans and called for a ‘food chain revolution’ on the lines of the Green and White revolutions to increase the farmers’ income by 2010.

The Prime Minister took pride that the NDA coalition had completed five years at the Centre but remarked that in the current polity, there was a growing trend towards working together on one hand and “a scenario of disarray” on the other.

He said there was a tremendous hunger for development among people. “They want such a stable government which is both determined to improve their living conditions and capable of doing so,” Mr Vajpayee said.

On the issue of relations with states, the Prime Minister said, “The Centre has established cooperative relations with them. Political discrimination on account of ideological differences is unacceptable to us.”

Expressing satisfaction over the changing situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee said he would again visit Srinagar later this month.

He said after the “free and fair” Assembly poll, the situation in the restive state had improved vastly and the people wanted peace. A record 100,000 persons visited the Valley this year and more than 6,000 students from different parts of the country were studying in Jammu and Kashmir, he pointed out.

“Free and fair elections have again demonstrated that Jammu and Kashmir is part of India and the people want to remain with it,” he said.

Stating that those talking of self-determination wanted to communalise the situation in India, the Prime Minister said the government was determined to ensure the dignified return of displaced persons to their home.

Announcing the setting up of a national farmers’ commission soon, he exhorted the scientific community to bring about a food revolution for doubling the average income of agriculturists and said a National Horticulture Mission would soon be launched to address the need of crop diversification and doubling the country’s horticulture production by 2010.

The mission, he said, would give a further impetus to the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices.

With an aim to providing social and financial security to farmers, Mr Vajpayee also announced an insurance scheme for them.

The work on linking the Ken and Betwa rivers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and also the Parvati, Kalisindh and Chambal rivers in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan would begin before the end of this year. Within the next six months, modernisation and expansion of Delhi and Mumbai airports through public private partnerships would be taken up. All bottlenecks in the construction of the Greenfield Bangalore airport project had been cleared and the implementation could now commence immediately.

With a view to achieving rapid capacity expansion and modernisation of ports along India’s west and east coasts, a project called “Sagar Mala” would be launched as a first step and the integrated development of Nhava and Kochi ports, at a cost of Rs 7,500 crore, would begin by March 2004.

Mr Vajpayee announced a Technology Mission for Railway Safety. Before the end of this year, the work of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) would begin at Kanyakumari, Silchar and Porbandhar. Four-laning and upgradation of additional 10,000 km of highways, outside the ambit of the NHDP, would begin before March, 2004.

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