Please be aware that, although condensed, this is still a fairly long post. To read the original unabridged article on the PM's official website, please click on the title of this post.)
The Leader of Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive adjectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him.
As for Shri Advani’s various charges, all I can say is that before leveling charges of incompetence on others, Shri Advani should do some introspection. Can our nation forgive a Home Minister who slept when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of our Parliament? Can our nation forgive a person who single handedly provided the inspiration for the destruction of the Babri Masjid with all the terrible consequences that followed? To atone for his sins, he suddenly decided to visit
As for my conduct, all I can say is that in all these years that I have been in office, whether as Finance Minister or Prime Minister, I have felt a sacred obligation to use the levers of power as a societal trust to be used for transforming our economy and polity, so that we can get rid of poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions of our people. This is a long and arduous journey. But every step taken in this direction can make a difference. And that is what we have sought to do in the last four years. How far we have succeeded is something I leave to the judgment of the people of
I have already stated that the House has been dragged into this debate unnecessarily. I wish our attention had not been diverted from some priority areas of national concern. These priorities are:
(i) Tackling the imported inflation caused by steep increase in oil prices. Our effort is to control inflation without hurting the rate of growth and employment.
(ii) To revitalize agriculture. We have decisively reversed the declining trend of investment and resource flow in agriculture. We have achieved a record food grain production of 231 million tonnes. But we need to redouble our efforts to improve agricultural productivity.
(iii) To improve the effectiveness of our flagship pro poor programmes such as National Rural Employment Programme, Nationwide Mid-day Meal Programme, to improve the quality of rural infrastructure of roads, electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation, irrigation. These programmes are yielding solid results. But a great deal more needs to be done to improve the quality of implementation.
(iv) We have initiated a major thrust in expanding higher education. The objective is to expand the gross enrolment ratio in higher education from 11.6 per cent to 15 per cent by the end of the 11th [5-Year] Plan. To meet these goals, we have an ambitious programme which seeks to create 30 new universities, 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new IIITs, 373 new degree colleges and 1,000 new polytechnics.
(v) To deal firmly with terrorist elements, left wing extremism and communal elements that are attempting to undermine the security and stability of the country. We will continue to vigorously pursue investigations in the major terrorist incidents that have taken place. Charge-sheets have been filed in almost all the cases. Our intelligence agencies and security forces are doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. We will take all possible steps to streamline their functioning and strengthen their effectiveness.
Considerable work has been done in all these areas but debates like the one we are having detract our attention from attending to these essential programmes.
I say in all sincerity that this session and debate was unnecessary because I have said on several occasions that our nuclear agreement after being endorsed by the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group would be submitted to this august House for expressing its view. All I had asked our Left colleagues was: please allow us to go through the negotiating process and I will come to Parliament before operationalising the nuclear agreement. This simple courtesy which is essential for orderly functioning of any Government worth the name, particularly with regard to the conduct of foreign policy, they were not willing to grant me. They wanted a veto over every single step of negotiations which is not acceptable. They wanted me to behave as their bonded slave.
In 1991, while presenting the Budget for 1991-92, as Finance Minister, I had stated: no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. I had then suggested that the emergence of
I outlined a far reaching programme of economic reform whose fruits are now visible to every objective person. Both the Left and the BJP had then opposed the reform. Both had said we had mortgaged the economy to
I am convinced that history will compliment the UPA Government for having taken another giant step forward to lead
What is the nuclear agreement about? It is all about widening our development options, promoting energy security in a manner which will not hurt our precious environment and which will not contribute to pollution and global warming.
Now, hydro-carbons are one source of generating power and for meeting our energy requirements. But our production of hydro-carbons both of oil and gas is far short of our growing requirements. We are heavily dependent on imports. We all know the uncertainty of supplies and of prices of imported hydro-carbons. We have to diversify our sources of energy supply.
We have large reserves of coal but even these are inadequate to meet all our needs by 2050. But more use of coal will have an adverse impact on pollution and climate. We can develop hydro-power and we must. But many of these projects hurt the environment and displace large number of people. We must develop renewable sources of energy — particularly solar energy. But we must also make full use of atomic energy which is a clean environment friendly source of energy. All over the world, there is growing realization of the importance of atomic energy to meet the challenge of energy security and climate change.
The nuclear agreement that we wish to negotiate will end
I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing. The nuclear agreements will not in any way affect our strategic autonomy.
Our critics accuse us, that in signing these agreements, we have surrendered the independence of foreign policy and made it subservient to US interests.
We appreciate the fact that the
We have differed with the
The management and governance of the world’s largest and most diverse democracy is the greatest challenge any person can be entrusted with, in this world. It has been my good fortune that I was entrusted with this challenge over four years ago.
I have often said that I am a politician by accident. I have held many diverse responsibilities. I have been a teacher, I have been an official of the Government of India, I have been a member of Parliament, but I have never forgotten my life as a young boy in a distant village.
Every day that I have been Prime Minister of India I have tried to remember that the first ten years of my life were spent in a village with no drinking water supply, no electricity, no hospital, no roads and nothing that we today associate with modern living. I had to walk miles to school; I had to study in the dim light of a kerosene lamp. This nation gave me the opportunity to ensure that such would not be the life of our children in the foreseeable future. My conscience is clear that on every day that I have occupied this high office, I have tried to fulfill the dream of that young boy from that distant village.
The greatness of democracy is that we are all birds of passage! We are here today, gone tomorrow! But in the brief time that the people of