PM promises inclusive growth and secular India (Roundup)

June 9th, 2009 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday promised sustained but inclusive economic growth and vowed to protect the country’s secular and plural ethos as he unveiled the agenda of his new government after its return to power with a larger mandate.
Delivering his first major policy address since the election victory in May, Manmohan Singh covered a range of issues in which he pressed Pakistan to dismantle its terror “infrastructure” if it wanted India’s friendship and dubbed as racist the continuing attacks on Indian students in Australia.

The prime minister was speaking in the Lok Sabha following a debate by members on President Pratibha Patil’s earlier address to members from both the houses.

He described the renewed vote for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance as “a mandate for stability, change with continuity, commitment to inclusive growth, equitable development, and commitment to the preservation and protection of a secular and plural India”.

In a 45-minute address that was heard with attention, Manmohan Singh pledged to strengthen his government’s flagship policies to improve the lot of the poor and pay more attention to rural development, health and improved public services through greater transparency.

As MPs occasionally thumped their desks in appreciation, the prime minister underlined that the need of the hour was to battle India’s “mass poverty” so that the poor earn dignity and self-respect.

He also expressed concern that Maoist guerrilla continued to flourish in tribal areas in particular because of “social and economic discontent”.

“There is a climate where violence flourishes. It should be our objective to ensure that people are not carried away with social and economic discontent and join the ranks of the extremists.” He sought a fresh look to the development strategy in tribal areas.

Returning to one of his favourite themes, Manmohan Singh said the social and economic transformation of India within a framework of an open society and democracy would have profound consequences on the world.

An economist turned politician, Manmohan Singh voiced confidence that India could achieve an economic growth of at least 7 percent this fiscal despite the global slowdown.

“In the last one year our economy was affected and our growth rate declined to about 7 percent,” he said. But due to high savings, New Delhi would manage 8-9 percent growth even if the world did not, he said.

One of India’s most respected politicians, Manmohan Singh expressed concern over the use of money and muscle power in elections and said these needed to be curbed.

“The growing use of money power in elections, muscle power, these are developments which need to be tackled if we have to maintain the health of our democratic polity.”

He also urged everyone not to encourage groups and individuals who seek to divide the country in the name of religion and caste.

Speaking on the growing attacks on Indians studying in Australia, the prime minister said his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd had promised to “strongly deal with” racial attacks on Indians. He called the attacks “senseless” and “racially motivated”.

Arguing that India could not enjoy the fruits of development if there was

“great turbulence” in its neighbourhood, Manmohan Singh said India wanted peace with Pakistan. “But it takes two hands to clap.”

He pressed Pakistan to take action against terrorists who have committed or commit crimes against India, including those who raided Mumbai and killed more than 170 people in November last year. If this was done, the prime minister said, India would Pakistan “more than half way”.

“If the leaders of Pakistan have the courage, determination and statesmanship to take this road to peace, we will meet them more than half way.”

He also urged Sri Lanka to “show imagination and courage” to meet Tamil concerns following the crushing defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

India, he said, had “a deep and abiding interest in the well being of the Tamil people in that country”. The Tamil problem, he pointed out, is larger than the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“I sincerely hope the Sri Lankan government will show imagination and courage in meeting the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Tamil people to lead their lives as equal citizens and with dignity and respect.”

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