M A I N   N E W S

20-point programme relevant, says Sonia
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, October 30
Congress president Sonia Gandhi here today stressed the need for revival of the 20-point programme launched by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as it was aimed at bettering the lot of the underprivileged and deprived sections of society.

Addressing a mammoth public meeting here today at the police ground, Ms Sonia Gandhi said in view of the social situation obtaining today, the 20-point programme was more relevant and it would be implemented whole-heartedly after due appraisal.

As the responsive crowd lustily cheered and raised slogans of 'Sonia Gandhi zindabad', the UPA chairperson underlined the need for more focus of women's education and training.

She lauded the progress made by Himachal Pradesh in building up educational infrastructure at the school level and said that now was the time to create job opportunities for the educated youth.

Ms Sonia Gandhi said she had been given to understand that people of Kangra region had a feeling of being ignored and assured that there would be no disparity in treatment given to different regions of the state.

She expressed optimism that implementation of development works would become easier since the Congress was the ruling party both at the Centre and in Himachal Pradesh.

"In any case, we treat even non-government ruled states equally and there is no discrimination," she said.

She gave a clarion call to the state government to take initiative in setting up power plants as Himachal had tremendous hydropower generation potential. The state can, she observed, fulfil the demand of several other states as well if it tapped it hydro resources. In the process, it would also bring more prosperity to the state.

She called upon the Himachal government to implement different schemes for strengthening the agricultural economy by implementing a string of Centrally sponsored schemes for the welfare of farmers.

Listing the achievements of the state government, the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said the state had taken rapid strides after it attained statehood in 1971.

He raised the demand of broad-gauge rail line and better air-connectivity in Himachal Pradesh to promote industry and tourism. He said most of the existing rail lines were laid during the British rule and less than 30 kilometers had been added post-independence.

He further said that the Prime Minister had assured that a rail route from Bhanupuri- Bilaspur via Mandi and Kangra would be taken up as a national project He requested Ms Gandhi that the directions be given so that the project materialises soon.

The Chief Minister said the state now had stronger emotional bonding and the attempts of the opposition to divide the people on the basis of caste and region would never succeed. "Issues of regionalism is raised when the other parties are left with no better issues," he said.

State Congress president Ms Viplove Thakur demanded that the Rozgar Guarantee Scheme, which was being implemented in Sirmour and Chamba districts be extended to Kangra district as well and the rail link be broad-gauged in view of setting up of Special Economic Zones in Himachal.

She also raised the issue of Pong Dam oustees, who have not been properly rehabilitated in Rajasthan and demanded that the quota for Himachal in defence forces be increased.

Ms Gandhi assured that these demands would be considered sympathetically. The Rozgar Guarantee Scheme would soon be implemented in all the 600-odd districts of the country.

Mr Kuldeep Singh Rathore, State Congress general secretary, Major Vijai Singh Mankotia, MLA and Mr BBL Butail, district Congress president and MLA and Ms Chandresh Kumari, local MLA, also spoke on the occasion.

Earlier, Ms Gandhi unveiled a 13-feet high statue of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Government Ayurvedic College in Paprola in Baijnath sub-division.

The college students gave her a memorandum, demanding that the college be upgraded as a deemed university and steps be taken for providing job security to the undergraduate and post-graduates passing out from the college.

The AICC president honoured the sculptor who made the statue, Ms Latika Kat.



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