Friday, 21 February 2014

Prime Minister’s speech at the Governors’ Conference

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s
Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the Governor’s Conference at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on February 14, 2014: 

“Let me begin by saying that I would have liked to attend a greater part of this conference but the ongoing session of Parliament and some other urgent matters have not permitted me to do so. However, my office has followed the proceedings over the last two days and we will carefully examine the suggestions that have been made. 

As I have stated earlier also, we value the advice of Governors. We believe that apart from being men and women of vast knowledge and rich experience, Governors also are in a unique position where they can watch and analyze the work of their State Governments closely and yet dispassionately. 

I am sure that the discussions that have taken place have also been of great benefit to the participating Governors. I understand that eight of my Cabinet colleagues have made presentations in this conference on important issues like the state of the economy, role of Governors, security, and external relations. These should have helped the participating Governors in gaining a better appreciation of these matters and also a national perspective on certain significant issues. I do not think I can add very much to what my Cabinet colleagues must have already said on matters that are on the agenda. I will, therefore, confine myself to emphasizing upon certain broad themes that I consider important. 

Our economy, after many years of rapid growth, has slowed down in the last two years. Inflation, weakening of the Indian rupee and other domestic and external factors have all contributed to this state of affairs. However, we have reasons to be optimistic about the future. There are signs of revival of economic growth on account of the several measures that our Government has taken. A good monsoon has also helped us in our efforts. It is expected that the growth rate of our economy will cross 5 per cent during the current fiscal when the final figures are released. We expect that the reforms that we have undertaken will help in increasing the growth rate further in subsequent years. 

As far as internal security is concerned, the overall situation in the country showed distinct signs of improvement in 2013, including in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and Left Wing Extremism affected areas. Our policy of engaging in talks with outfits which are willing to abjure the path of violence and ready to seek solutions within the framework of our Constitution has yielded rich dividends in the North East. The two-pronged approach of conducting proactive and sustained operations against Left Wing Extremists and focusing attention on development and governance issues in Left Wing Extremist affected areas has also shown encouraging results.

 The measures that we have taken to contain and fight Left Wing Extremism include the Integrated Action Plan for 88 select and backward districts, most of which are affected by Left Wing Extremism, improvement of road and telecom connectivity, streamlining the process of vesting of forests rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, strengthening of police stations, raising of specialized forces and deployment of additional central forces. We need to persist and intensify these efforts. We also need to ensure greater coordination between the Centre and States as well as between States, as this is critical to the success of our efforts. 

Our Government has taken several steps to deal with the threat of terrorism also. These include amending the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, augmenting the strength of the Central Armed Police Forces, strengthening the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and the Subsidiary Multi Agency Centre (SMAC), creating four new hubs of the National Security Guard, strengthening coastal security, setting up the National Investigation Agency and creation of the NATGRID. Incidents of terrorist violence have come down during 2013. The past year has seen major successes in the fight against terrorist forces with the arrest of some of the most wanted terrorists. 

Before proceeding further, I would like to mention three other issues which are a cause of concern to all of us. The first is the increase in incidents of communal disturbance in the past year, especially in some States. All State Governments should do their utmost in reversing this situation. It is necessary for the State Governments, and also the Central Government, to do everything in their power to prevent communal disturbances. It is also essential to ensure that the guilty are punished and responsibility for lapses fixed once communal disturbances occur. Governors should take special interest in promoting communal harmony. 

The second issue relates to the status of women in our society and country, particularly the incidents of violence against them. Our Government has taken several steps to address this issue. These include the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 to provide for speedy justice and enhanced punishment in cases of sexual assault against women, administrative measures to enhance the safety and security of women, particularly in public places and a new law to prevent and punish sexual harassment of women at the workplace. However, we, as a society need to do much more in this area. I would urge all Governors to press upon the State Governments to give enhanced attention to issues relating to women. 

The third issue relates to recurring incidents of intolerance and prejudice in some parts of the country against people who have come from other States to live there. Recently, our Capital city was witness to one such incident in which a student belonging to the North Eastern region lost his life to senseless violence. Such incidents cannot be tolerated in any civilized society and those who are responsible for them should be dealt with firmly. It is imperative that we work collectively towards ensuring that all our citizens, irrespective of where they belong to, feel safe, secure and welcome in all parts of the country. On the specific issue of the problems being faced by our brothers and sisters from the North East, our Government has recently constituted a committee which will look into the issue and suggest remedial measures. 

In so far as external security is concerned, we are committed to fostering good relations and peaceful coexistence with our neighbors. However, we are also aware of the external dimensions of threats to our security and remain resolute in our efforts to counter any such threat. In this connection, I would like to mention that despite a slight increase in infiltration attempts in Jammu & Kashmir this year, vigilance and prompt action on part of our Armed forces have ensured that the number of successful infiltration attempts have been lower as compared to previous years. 

To address the internal and external threats to our security, we are constantly strengthening the capabilities of our Armed and Police forces. We are also implementing a number of programmes to develop critical infrastructure facilities in border areas. 

In the context of development of Sixth Schedule Areas, I would also like to emphasize that our Government has been paying focused attention to the North East. As you may be aware, a large number of projects aimed at accelerating the socio-economic development of the North East have been taken up, particularly in the areas of rail, road, air and telecom connectivity. The North Eastern Council, of which Governors are also members, has played the important role of a regional planning body for the North Eastern Region. The NER Vision Document 2020 prepared by the Council is a comprehensive roadmap for the overall development and progress of the North Eastern Region. 

However, greater efforts are required to enhance project management capacities in the North East and innovative solutions are needed to address the specific constraints prevailing in the region. The Government is seized of these issues and as you may be aware an Empowered Group of Ministers and a Committee of Secretaries have been constituted to explore ways and means of early resolution of long pending issues of the North Eastern States. We will carefully examine the suggestions made by Governors for improving coordination between the Planning Commission, Ministry of DoNER and North Eastern Council. 

One of the items on the agenda for this Conference relates to Disaster Management. As we all know, our nation is vulnerable to a large range of natural and man-made disasters. Also, the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is on the rise the world over. Events like earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones, landslides and industrial disasters have caused a great deal of distress and suffering misery and suffering in our country. 

It is well recognized that disasters impact poor and marginalized people in a disproportionate manner. It is therefore imperative that we further improve our disaster management capabilities. Money spent on disaster preparedness results in saving of expenditure on post-disaster relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction measures. Therefore, we need to make conscious efforts to make Disaster Risk Reduction an intrinsic part of our development processes and intensify activities related to disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. 

This Conference has also seen discussions on issues relating to Higher Education. This is a subject that Respected Rashtrapati ji has taken keen interest in. The subject was also discussed very recently in a meeting of Vice Chancellors that was convened by Rashtrapati ji. Therefore, I would confine myself to stressing upon a few broad points. We have made considerable progress in the area of Higher Education in the past ten years or so. We have established several new institutions of Higher Education and also taken measures to expand access for the weaker sections of society. 

These steps have shown positive results, with the Gross Enrolment Ratio having improved substantially in the last ten years. Now we must especially address the deficit in quality that a large part of our Higher Education System suffers from. I would urge Governors to especially help in addressing this issue, even as they give their attention to other matters also, as Chancellors of State Universities. I would urge Governors to take special interest in education of women and children of minority communities and other disadvantaged sections of society. 

A few words on India’s external relations. In an increasingly integrated and inter-dependent world, the external environment has a profound impact on India`s security and economic development. Developments in our neighborhood are of particular significance to us, especially to States in the border regions. 

Our external environment is complex and marked by economic uncertainties, political turbulence and multiple security challenges. Despite this, we have intensified our engagement with the world, especially our neighborhood, to pursue our primary objective of national economic transformation and creating a secure, peaceful and stable external environment. 

We have ensured for ourselves an effective voice in international and regional affairs. We have also built strong strategic partnerships with all major global players. The adjustment of the global nuclear order, our increased access to high technology, wide-ranging global support for India`s permanent membership of reformed United Nations Security Council; new economic partnership agreements and the safeguarding of our interests in trade and climate change negotiations are significant achievements of our government. In all these efforts, our goal has been to realize our vision of a strong prosperous and secure India. 

Let me end by thanking Respected Rashtrapati ji for having organized this conference. We have been all benefitting from the various initiatives that he has taken and we look forward to his continued guidance. I also wish Governors all the very best in their efforts for the progress and development of their States and the country.” 

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