Dismantle terror network, PM tells Pak
New Delhi, August 15
At the same time, Dr Singh assured the nation that the government would give a befitting response if violence continued in Jammu and Kashmir.
“If violence continues, then our response will be hard...extremism is a challenge which requires a united response from all of us,” he asserted while delivering his second Independence Day address from the ramparts of Red Fort.
The Prime Minister, however, followed up this stern message with a commitment to find a political resolution to the festering problem in Jammu and Kashmir, saying his government was ready to talk to anyone interested in a dialogue. “There is no issue which cannot be resolved though the process of discussion and dialogue,” he said.
Besides this reference to Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan, the Prime Minister’s 50-minute speech dwelt at length on how far his government had gone in fulfilling its promises, especially in the areas of of agriculture, employment, health, education and infrastructure. He painted an optimistic picture of a resurgent India, urging people to seize this moment and show to the world that Indians were as good as the best.
Taking a cue from the Congress party’s election manifesto and the UPA government’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP), the speech remained firmly focussed on the “aam aadmi” as Dr Singh detailed the various measures it had already initiated for them and enumerated a host of new ones.
Today, he coined a new slogan “Rozgar Badhao” to underline his government’s commitment to generate more jobs, particularly in the rural areas. As the Prime Minister himself admitted that this slogan was a follow up on Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s call for “Garibi Hatao” in 1969.
In order to remove poverty, he explained, one had to create employment, asserting that it was, therefore, necessary to have an “employment guarantee” to ensure that a minimum level of employment was available to everyone in rural areas. In this connection, he referred to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill which, he said, had been prepared with this goal in mind.
Outlining other social welfare initiatives, Dr. Singh announced a hike in the pension for freedom fighters and unveiled a Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme for children of ex-servicemen and security personnel under which 5,000 children would benefit.
In addition, the Prime Minister announced a new 15-point programme for welfare and empowerment of minorities and empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which would involve enhanced investments in their education, assure them tribal rights and employment.
Reiterating his government’s emphasis on infrastructure development, the Prime Minister said the Golden Quadrilateral highway project would be six-laned and a high-speed rail freight corridor connecting Mumbai-Delhi-Kolkata would be undertaken. An urban renewal fund is being established, he said, with special emphasis on the development of Mumbai, recently ravaged by floods, and other rapidly-expanding towns.
Referring to India’s relations with its neighbours, Dr. Singh said they had achieved some success on this front. The composite dialogue with Pakistan, he pointed out, was continuing as a result of which they had been able to reopen the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway and started a bus service on this route. Talks were on to open similar links from other states, he promised. The Prime Minister also reiterated India’s commitment to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. He spoke of India’s continuing efforts to improve relations with other neighbours, including Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Bangladesh and its deepening ties with the United States and Russia.
Among those present at this morning’s function included UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh, I.K. Gujral and H.D. Deve Gowda, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and several Cabinet Ministers.