New Delhi: Making his customary address to the nation from the Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh touched upon several issues ranging from economy, Lokpal Bill, Naxalism to Assam violence and government's efforts to deal with corruption, inflation and a number of developmental programmes.
The PM acknowledged that the last year had been a difficult one for the economy and said he hoped that the GDP will improve. Cautioning that lack of political consensus on many issues was impeding rapid economic growth, the Prime Minister said time has come to view development processes as matters of national security.
He also hoped that all political parties will help the government in passing the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in Parliament. Singh said his government would continue efforts to bring more transparency, accountability in work of public servants in order to reduce corruption. "Our commitment to make the work of the government and administration transparent and accountable stands," he said.
Terming the violence in Assam as "very unfortunate", Singh promised to make every effort to find out reasons behind the clashes in which at least 77 people have lost their lives. He said the government was doing "everything possible" to provide relief to the people affected by the violence.
"The incidents of violence which occurred in Assam recently are very unfortunate. I know that these incidents have resulted in the disruption of the lives of a large number of people. We fully sympathise with those families which have been affected by the violence," Singh said.
The Prime Minister said success has been achieved in many areas of internal security. "In Jammu and Kashmir, people participated in large numbers in the Panchayat elections. There has been a reduction in violence in the North Eastern States and we are engaged in dialogue with many groups there so that they can join the mainstream of development," he said.
Singh said the government had initiated new schemes of development in areas affected by Naxal violence to ensure that the grievances of the people residing there, especially those belonging to Scheduled Tribes, can be removed.
"However, we need to be constantly vigilant as far as internal security is concerned. Communal harmony has to be maintained at all costs. Naxalism is still a serious problem," Singh said.
He said the incidents which occurred in Pune in the beginning of this month point to the need for much more work to be done in the area of national security.
"We will continue to do this work with sincerity in the future also," he said.
On the preparedness of the armed forces, the Prime Minister said that the soldiers have made biggest sacrifices whenever needed and defended the security of the country during war and peace with valour and honour. "Today I would like to reassure our countrymen that our armed forces and paramilitary forces are prepared to face any challenge," Singh said, adding that the government will continue to work for modernising these forces.
The Prime Minister lauded DRDO for the successful launch of over 5,000 km-range Agni-V missile which made India join an elite club of nations possessing such long range weapon systems. "I would like to congratulate our scientists and technologists who have enhanced our prestige by successfully testing the Agni V Missile," Singh said.
Army officers and veterans who were hoping for better pay and pensions will have to wait a while. The PM said a committee had been set up to look into the issue and that the government will take its decision after the committee is ready with its recommendations.
During his 35-minute speech in Hindi, Singh also said the defence forces are ready to meet any challenge and their modernization will continue. "We have seen a lot of discussion in the recent months about role of our armed forces and their preparedness. Today I would like to reassure countrymen that our armed forces and paramilitary forces are prepared to face any challenge.
(With additional inputs from PTI)