brothers and sisters,
I consider myself
fortunate to once again have the opportunity to address you on this
sacred day of 15th August. On this auspicious occasion, I extend my
hearty greetings to all of you.
Today is most
certainly a day of happiness and pride for us. We are proud of our
freedom. We are proud of our democracy. We are proud of our values
and ideals. But we should also remember that it has taken the
sacrifices of lakhs of Indians to bring us where we are today. Our
well being and progress have been built upon the foundation of the
hard work and sacrifices of our freedom fighters, the brave jawans
of our armed forces, our farmers, our workers and our scientists.
Today, we remember
all those martyrs who laid down their lives for the freedom and
security of our country. The best way of paying homage to those
brave sons of our country will be to resolve today that we will
always stay committed to strengthening the unity and integrity of
our nation. Let us all together take a vow that we will spare no
effort to take India to greater heights.
The elections held
a few months back have strengthened our nation and our democracy. In
these elections, the people of India have favoured a politics that
integrates our country and our society. You have chosen a political
arrangement which is secular and which includes many varied strands
of thought. You have voted for a democratic way of life which
provides for resolution of differences through debate and
discussion. I am of the view that we have received a mandate for
starting a new era of cooperation and harmony in our national life.
We accept with
humility the great responsibility you have entrusted to us. I wish
to assure you on this sacred day that we will work with sincerity
and dedication to fulfil the expectation of each and every citizen
of India. It will be our effort to ensure that every citizen of
India is prosperous and secure and is able to lead a life of dignity
and self respect. We will derive inspiration in our work from the
ideals of service and sacrifice bequeathed to us by the father of
our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Our Government will follow the path
shown by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi, Shri Rajiv
Gandhi and other great leaders of our country. It will be our
endeavour to carry everyone with us and to lead the country ahead on
the path of development by creating an environment of consensus and
We know that
India's progress can be real only when every citizen of our country
benefits from it. Every Indian has a right over our national
resources. The policies and schemes of our Government in the last 5
years have been based on this paradigm. It has been our endeavour to
ensure that the benefit of development reaches all sections of the
society and all regions and citizens of the country. Our efforts
have succeeded to some extent. But our work is still incomplete. We
will carry it forward with firm determination and sincerity.
As you know, our
economy grew at a rate of about 9% from the year 2004-05 to the year
2007-08. This growth rate came down to 6.7% in 2008-09 due to the
global economic crisis. It is only a result of our policies that the
global crisis has affected us to a lesser extent than many other
countries. Restoring our growth rate to 9% is the greatest challenge
we face. We will make every necessary effort to meet this challenge
-- whether it is for increasing capital flows into the country, or
for encouraging exports or for increasing public investment and
expenditure. We expect that there will be an improvement in the
situation by the end of this year, but till that time we will all
have to bear with the fall out of the global economic slow down. I
appeal to all businessmen and industrialists to join us in our
effort to tackle this difficult situation and to fulfill their
social obligations fully.
I have always
believed that India's prosperity is not possible without the
prosperity of our farmers. This is the reason why our Government had
waived bank loans of lakhs of farmers. We have increased the support
prices for agricultural products by far more than ever before. This
year there has been deficiency in the monsoons. This would
definitely have some adverse impact on our crops. But, I am sure we
will be able to meet the situation quite well. We will provide all
possible assistance to our farmers to deal with the drought. In view
of the deficiency in the monsoons, we have postponed the date for
repayment of bank loans of our farmers. We are also giving
additional support to farmers for payment of interest on short term
We have adequate
stocks of foodgrains. All efforts will be made to control the rising
prices of foodgrains, pulses and other goods of daily use. I appeal
to all State governments to exercise their statutory powers to
prevent hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities.
We will have to
adopt modern means to be successful in agriculture. We will have to
make more efficient use of our scarce land and water resources. Our
scientists must devise new techniques to increase the productivity
of our small and marginal farmers. More attention will have to be
paid to the needs of those farmers who do not have means for
irrigation. The country needs another Green Revolution and we will
try our best to make it possible. Our goal is 4% annual growth in
agriculture and I am confident that we will be able to achieve this
target in the next 5 years.
It is our ardent
desire that not even a single citizen of India should ever go
hungry. This is the reason why we have promised a food security law
under which every family living below the poverty line will get a
fixed amount of foodgrains every month at concessional rates. It is
also our national resolve to root out malnutrition from our country.
In this effort, special care will be taken of the needs of women and
children. We will endeavour to extend the benefit of ICDS to every
child below the age of six years in the country by March 2012.
The first UPA
government had given the right to 100 days of employment in a year
to every rural family through the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act. In the last 4 years, this programme has been expanded
to cover the whole country. The programme has been able to fulfil
the expectations from it to a large extent. In the year 2008-09, it
benefited about 4 crore families. It has also contributed to
improvement in rural infrastructure. In the coming days we will
improve the programme to bring more transparency and accountability
into it. New types of works will be added to the works that can be
taken up under the programme.
We know that good
education is not only desirable in itself but is also essential for
the empowerment of our people. We have recently enacted the Right to
Education Act. This law provides to each child of our country the
right to elementary education. I wish to make it clear that funds
will not be a constraint as far as education is concerned. We will
give special attention to the needs of disabled children. As a
result of our efforts in the last few years, almost every child in
our country has access to primary education today.
Now we also need
to pay greater attention to secondary education. Secondary education
will be expanded through a programme that will ensure that every
child in the country gets its benefit. We will endeavour to provide
bank loans and scholarships to the maximum possible number of
students to support their education.
A new scheme will
be started to help students from economically weaker sections of
society by way of reduced interest rate on their education loans.
This will benefit about 5 lakh students in getting technical and
Good health is one
of our basic needs. The National Rural Health Mission that we have
started aims at strengthening the infrastructure for rural public
health services. We will expand the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana
so as to cover each family below the poverty line. In our journey on
the road of development we will pay special attention to the needs
of our differently abled brothers and sisters. We will increase
facilities available for them.
upon issues related to health, I would also like to make a mention
of the flu that is spreading due to the H1N1 virus.
As you all know,
some parts of our country have been affected by this illness. The
Central Government and the State Governments will together continue
to make all necessary efforts to control the spread of this
infection. I also want to assure you that the situation does not
warrant a disruption of our daily lives because of fear and anxiety.
programmes that our government had started for the development of
rural and urban areas will be accelerated. We have been successful
to some extent in improving the infrastructure in rural areas
through Bharat Nirman. But there is still a wide disparity between
the development of rural and urban areas. To this end, the
allocations under Bharat Nirman have been increased substantially
this year. We will set more ambitious targets for schemes for house
construction and telecommunications in rural areas.
We will accelerate
our efforts to improve physical infrastructure in the country. The
Road Transport and National Highways Department has initiated action
for construction of 20 Km of National Highways every day. Similarly,
Railways have started work on the Dedicated Freight Corridors. We
are giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and will
resolve them soon. The schemes of roads, railways and civil aviation
being implemented in Jammu & Kashmir and the States of the North
East will be especially monitored.
We had started the
Jawaharalal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for the urban
areas. We will accelerate this programme also. Today, lakhs of our
citizens live in slums which lack basic amenities.
We wish to make
our country slum free as early as possible. In the next five years,
we will provide better housing facilities to slum dwellers through a
new scheme, Rajiv Awas Yojana.
Climate change has
become an issue of global concern in recent years. If we don't take
the necessary steps in time, our glaciers will melt and our rivers
will go dry. The problems of droughts and floods will grow in
seriousness. We also need to prevent air pollution. India wishes to
tackle the problem of climate change in partnership with other
countries of the world. We have taken a decision to constitute 8
National Missions. We are committed to meet the challenge of climate
change through these 8 Missions. To increase the use of solar energy
and to make it affordable, we will launch the Jawaharlal Nehru
National Solar Mission on 14th November of this year.
The sacred Ganga
is the life source for crores of Indians. It is our duty to keep the
river clean. We have constituted the National Ganga Authority in
which the Central and State Governments will jointly work towards
this end. The cooperation of the public is also needed in this
resources are limited. We must use them more efficiently. We need a
new culture of energy conservation. We also need to prevent the
misuse of water. We will pay more attention to programmes for water
collection and storage. "Save Water" should be one of our national
If we work united,
we can meet all challenges that confront us. Our citizens have the
right to express dissent and anger. I also maintain that every
government should be sensitive to people's complaints and
dissatisfaction. But nothing is achieved by destroying public
property and indulging in violence against one's fellow citizens.
Our democracy has no place for those who resort to violence to
express their disagreement, and the government will deal firmly with
emerged as a threat to peace and harmony in all parts of the world.
After the horrific terror attacks in Mumbai in last November, our
government has taken many steps against terrorism. To root out
terrorist activities, our security forces and intelligence agencies
are being constantly upgraded. I am sure that with cooperation from
all sections of our society, we will be successful in eliminating
terrorism from our country.
Some parts of our
country continue to be affected by the Naxalite menace. It is the
constitutional obligation of the government to protect the life and
liberty of our citizens. Those who think that they can seize power
by recourse to the gun do not understand the strength of our
democracy. The Central Government will redouble its efforts to deal
with Naxalite activities. We will extend all help to the State
Governments to make their police forces more effective.
will be provided wherever they are needed. We will also do more to
ensure better coordination among States.
I would also like
to state here that we will endeavour to remove those causes of
social and economic dissatisfaction which give rise to problems like
Naxalism. We believe in a development process which will remove
backwardness, unemployment and reduce disparities in income and
wealth. We seek active partnership of our brothers and sisters of
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in our development processes.
We do not
subscribe to the view that to take special care of the deprived
sections of the society amounts to appeasement. In fact, we believe
that it is our solemn duty to do so. Our government will give its
full attention to the well being of our brothers and sisters
belonging to the minority communities. We have started many schemes
for the welfare of the minorities. These programmes will be taken
forward. The funds for the special schemes taken up for the
development of minority concentration districts have been enhanced
quite substantially this year. Similarly, we have allocated
increased funds for scholarship schemes for minorities that the
first UPA government had started. A Bill to prevent communal
violence has been introduced in Parliament and efforts will be made
to convert it into a law as soon as possible.
The practice of
female foeticide regrettably persists in our society. This is a
shame for all of us. We must eliminate it as early as possible. Our
progress will be incomplete till women become equal partners in all
areas of our life and in our nation's progress. Our government is
committed to the early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill. This
legislation will provide one-third reservation for women in
Parliament and the State Assemblies. We are also working on a
legislation to provide 50% reservation for women in rural and urban
local bodies. In fact, we should find ways and means to increase the
participation of women in all democratic institutions. Our
government will make sustained efforts for social and economic
empowerment of women. We have decided to launch a National Female
Literacy Mission, through which female illiteracy will be reduced by
half in the next three years.
We are proud of
our brave soldiers. It is our duty to ensure that ex-servicemen are
able to lead a life of comfort. We have accepted the recommendations
of the committee constituted to examine the issue of pension of
ex-servicemen. This will lead to increased pension for about 12 lakh
retired jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers.
In our journey of
development, we should not only pay special attention to some
sections of our society, but must also take care of the special
needs of the backward regions of our country. We will redouble our
efforts to remove regional imbalances in the level of development.
Here I would like to make a special mention of our States of the
North-East. Our government will constantly endeavour to make the
States of the North East equal partners in the country's progress.
Imphal or Kohima may be physically far away from Delhi, but the
welfare of our brothers and sisters of the North East is always
close to our heart. We know that without their well-being the
country cannot move forward.
There have been
two elections in Jammu & Kashmir since I addressed you on the last
Independence Day. The first one was for the State Legislative
Assembly and the second for the Lok Sabha. People of all areas of
the State have participated vigorously in both the elections. This
is a proof that there is no place for separatist thought in Jammu &
will continue assisting the State Government in improving governance
in all parts of Jammu & Kashmir. It will be our endeavour to ensure
that human rights are respected in the State and all its citizens
are able to lead a life of peace and dignity in an environment of
safety and security. We respect the special assurances and
concessions provided to Jammu & Kashmir in our Constitution. We will
continue to honour these special provisions.
Today's world is
becoming smaller in many respects. Whether it is the international
economic crisis or terrorism or climate change - what happens in one
part of the world has an effect on other parts also. The
international economic and political order is changing.
being raised on the functioning and continued effectiveness of the
multilateral institutions established in the 20th Century.
Our foreign policy
should be able to cater to India's interests in these constantly
changing circumstances. I am happy that we have been successful in
doing this to a large extent.
We have good
relations with the United States, Russia, China, Japan and Europe.
There is a tremendous amount of goodwill for India and its people in
the countries of South East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the
Gulf. We have further strengthened our traditional ties with Africa.
We are looking for new opportunities in Latin America.
As far our
neighbours are concerned, we want to live with them in peace and
harmony. We will make every possible effort to create an environment
conducive to the social and economic development of the whole of
However good our
programmes and schemes might be, their benefit will not reach the
public till the government machinery is not free of corruption and
till it is not effective in their implementation. I would like our
public administration to be more efficient so that programmes for
public good can be implemented faster. We need to improve our
delivery systems to provide basic services to our citizens. We will
act with speed on the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms
Commission to strengthen governance. Renewed efforts will be made to
decentralize public administration through the Panchayati Raj
Institutions and to ensure greater involvement of people in it.
Initiative will be taken for a new partnership between the civil
society and the government so that tax payers' money is better
spent. We have enacted the Right to Information Act to enhance
accountability and transparency in public life. This law will be
improved so that it is more effective.
We have to make
special efforts to strengthen the administrative machinery for our
rural programmes. Those who live in villages and semi-urban areas
should get services similar to the residents of urban areas.
Communication and Information Technology can go a long way in
achieving this objective. Recently, we have set up the Unique
Identification Authority of India. This is a historic step to link
up the whole country through a high quality administrative
arrangement. We expect the first set of identity numbers to be
available in the next one to one and a half years.
Today, as I stand
before you I can feel the energy of more than 100 crore Indians
marching ahead on the path of progress. Some people question whether
India will ever be able to attain its true potential. I have no
doubt about this. We are rapidly moving forward. We have faith in
ourselves. We have political stability. Our democracy is an example
for the whole world. We are gaining in economic strength.
importantly, we have full confidence in our youth. They are our
future. I am sure that they will take our country to a new glory.
Let us all commit
ourselves today to working for a golden future. On this sacred
occasion let us resolve that nation building will be our highest