The Leader of Opposition, Shri L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives 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. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Shri Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and
As for Shri Advani’s various charges, I do not wish to waste the time of the House in rebutting them. 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, it is for this august House and the people of
When I look at the composition of the opportunistic group opposed to us, it is clear to me that the clash today is between two alternative visions of
I have already stated in my opening remarks 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. The Finance Minister has dealt with the measures we have taken in this regard. We have achieved a record foodgrain production of 231 million tones. 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, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Nation-wide Mid day meal programme, Bharat Nirman to improve the quality of rural infrastructure of roads, electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, National Rural Health Mission and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. 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 Plan and to 21% by the end of 12th Plan. To meet these goals, we have an ambitious programme which seeks to create 30 new universities, of which 14 will be world class, 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new IIITs, 5 new IISERs, 2 Schools of planning and Architecture, 10 NITs, 373 new degree colleges and 1000 new polytechnics. And these are not just plans. Three new IISERs are already operational and the remaining two will become operational from the 2008-09 academic session. Two SPAs will be starting this year. Six of the new IITs start their classes this year. The establishment of the new universities is at an advanced stage of planning.
(v) A nation wide Skill Development Programme and the enactment of the Right to Education Act,
(vi) Approval by Parliament of the new Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy and enactment of legislation to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector.
(vii) The new 15 Point Programme for Minorities, the effective implementation of empowerment programmes for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, paying particular emphasis on implementation of Land Rights for the tribals.
(viii) Equally important is the effective implementation of the Right to Information Act to impart utmost transparency to processes of governance. The Administrative Reforms Commission has made valuable suggestions to streamline the functioning of our public administration.
(ix) 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 have been and 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. They need our full support. 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 and remaining items on our agenda. All the same, we will redouble our efforts to attend to these areas of priority concerns.
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. The nuclear agreement may not have been mentioned in the Common Minimum Programme. However, there was an explicit mention of the need to develop closer relations with the
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 to this august House that the emergence of
Carrying forward the process started by Shri Rajiv Gandhi of preparing
I am convinced that despite their opportunistic opposition to the nuclear agreement, 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
When I say this I am reminded of the visionary leadership of Shri Rajiv Gandhi who was a strong champion of computerization and use of information technologies for nation building. At that time, many people laughed at this idea. Today, information technology and software is a sun-rise industry with an annual turnover soon approaching 50 billion US dollars. I venture to think that our atomic energy industry will play a similar role in the transformation of
The essence of the matter is that the agreements that we negotiate with
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. Thus the nuclear agreements will not in any way affect our strategic autonomy. The cooperation that the international community is now willing to extend to us for trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment for civilian use will be available to us without signing the NPT or the CTBT.
This I believe is a measure of the respect that the world at large has for
I wish to remind the House that in 1998 when the Pokharan II tests were undertaken, the Group of Eight leading developed countries had passed a harsh resolution condemning
Our critics falsely accuse us, that in signing these agreements, we have surrendered the independence of foreign policy and made it subservient to US interests. In this context, I wish to point out that the cooperation in civil nuclear matters that we seek is not confined to the
We appreciate the fact that the
But this does not mean that there is any explicit or implicit constraint on
We have differed with the
I should also inform the House that our relations with the Arab world are very good. Two years ago, His Majesty, King Abdullah of
The Management and governance of the world’s largest, most diverse and most vibrant 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 thank with all sincerity the Chairperson of the UPA, the leaders of the Constituent Parties of the UPA and every member of my Party for the faith and trust they reposed in me. I once again recall with gratitude the guidance and support I have received from Shri Jyoti Basu and Sardar Harkishen Singh Surjeet.
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
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 oil lamp. This nation gave me the opportunity to ensure that such would not be the life of our children in the foreseeable future.
Sir, 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