Manmohan Singh has assured the members of Parliament and the people of India that his government will consolidate their efforts on each of the fronts that the President’s speech has outlined. He said, “ We will further strengthen our flagship programmes for employment, education, rural and agricultural development, health, and improve the delivery of public services through greater transparency and accountability.” eGov brings to it readers the highlights of President’s speech in context of the e Governance domain.
In the customary address to the joint session of Parliament, President Pratibha Patil advised the newly-elected members to work towards materialising dreams of common people. Ms Patil said the parliamentarians had an opportunity to bring about positive changes in the lives of 100 crore countrymen working as members of House. eGov presents to you highlights of the President’s address, first after formation of the new government.
I am extremely happy to address the first session of both Houses of Parliament after the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha. My greetings to all members, especially the newly elected members of the Lok Sabha. They are here having spent the last few months in the scorching heat trying to persuade their voters on how they could best represent the aspirations of their electorate. They now have the mandate and the opportunity to translate the hopes and aspirations of the people of India into change in the everyday lives of the people. It is indeed a unique privilege given to a chosen few to represent the hopes of over a billion people, a sixth of humanity.
In 2004, my Government had set before the country a vision of an inclusive society and an inclusive economy. It worked diligently towards translating this vision into policies and programmes. My Government sees the overwhelming mandate it has received as a vindication of the policy architecture of inclusion that it put in place. It is a mandate for inclusive growth, equitable development and a secular and plural India. My Government is determined to work harder and better to realise these goals.
A continuing priority of my Government would be to consolidate the ongoing flagship programmes for inclusion. This will require re-energising the government and improving governance. It will require meeting the challenge of restoring economic growth, which is now hurt by the global economic slowdown, back to a higher growth path. High growth is necessary to provide the government the capacity to expand opportunities for employment. It is necessary to provide resources to increase outlays in education, healthcare and infrastructure to meet the needs of all regions and all people. My Government will ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated but also made socially and regionally more inclusive and equitable. The yearning of our people for inclusiveness – economic, social and cultural — and the rejection of the forces of divisiveness and intolerance that my Government spoke of in 2004 continues as both its inspiring vision and its unfinished business.
The Unique Identity Card scheme for each citizen will be implemented in three years overseen by an Empowered Group. This would serve the purpose of identification for development programmes and security.
The flagship programmes which my Government introduced have moved the country towards inclusive development. It would be our endeavour to consolidate these programmes in the next five years. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has proved to be what it promised-an effective social protection measure and the largest programme in the world for rural reconstruction. Its transformational potential is unfolding before our eyes. My Government would enlarge the scope of works permitted under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act presently limited to unskilled manual work. The opportunity for improving land productivity through the NREGA will be maximised through better convergence of NREGA with other programmes. To ensure transparency and public accountability, independent monitoring and grievance redressal mechanisms will be set up at the district level.
The National Rural Health Mission has begun to strengthen rural public health infrastructure. The Mission would be consolidated to make perceptible reduction in infant mortality and maternal mortality in the next five years.
My Government is acutely conscious of the challenge of rising expectations. There would be 10 broad areas of priority for my Government for the next five years.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been able to provide access to children to elementary schools and retention has increased on account of the universal mid-day meal programme. The focus will be on making quality education a right through the enactment of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill now under consideration of Parliament. The Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan will universalise access to secondary education. The massive expansion in higher education through new institutions under implementation in the Eleventh Plan will enable the country to meet the challenge of education in full measure. In the last five years, a wide range of scholarships and educational loans was introduced for the needy and deserving students. This effort will be reviewed and further strengthened. Government’s strategy for higher education will be formulated around a three-fold objective of expansion, inclusion and excellence. The suggestions given by the National Knowledge Commission will guide the formulation and implementation of the strategy.
My Government launched Bharat Nirman five years ago as a time-bound business plan for rural infrastructure. It has succeeded in reaching basic infrastructure of roads, electricity and telephone to a large number of villages. It has also achieved most of the targets of rural water supply, rural housing and has increased irrigation potential. The remaining tasks will be completed in the second phase of Bharat Nirman. It is also proposed to set enhanced targets for Bharat Nirman in the second phase. The rural telecommunication target will be set at reaching 40% rural teledensity in the next five years and expanding broadband coverage to connect every panchayat to a broadband network in three years. The scheme for Common Service Centres or e-kiosks will be suitably repositioned to be a network of panchayat-level Bharat Nirman Common Service Centres to provide government services to citizens in rural areas. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with approval of projects of nearly INR 50,000 crore in the last four years is reshaping our cities and has been widely welcomed. It will continue to focus on infrastructure, basic services and governance reform and increase support to cities to upgrade public transport.
An area of major focus for my Government would be reform of governance for effective delivery of public services. Reports of the Administrative Reforms Commission would guide the effort. Reform of structures in the higher echelons of government, increased decentralisation, inclusion of women and youth in governance, process reform and public accountability would be key areas for focused action. As part of process reform, all proposals to the Cabinet will have to report on how the proposal under consideration will enhance the goals of equity or inclusion, innovation and public accountability.
My Government will initiate steps within the next 100 days on the following measures:
Infrastructure is a fundamental enabler for a modern economy and infrastructure development will be a key focus area for the next five years. Public investment in infrastructure is of paramount importance. Bottlenecks and delays in implementation of infrastructure projects because of policies and procedures, especially in railways, power, highways, ports, airports and rural telecom will be systematically removed. Public-private partnership (PPP) projects are a key element of the strategy. A large number of PPP projects in different areas currently awaiting government approval would be cleared expeditiously. The regulatory and legal framework for PPPs would be made more investment friendly. My Government will continue its special emphasis on infrastructure development in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir and enhance connectivity to these regions.
My Government will ensure that our space programme which has achieved wide recognition continues to bring rich dividends to society in agriculture, tele-medicine, tele-education and by providing information to rural knowledge centres, besides contributing to telecommunication, television broadcasting and weather forecasting. Several innovative initiatives commenced by government in the science and technology sector in the last five years and now under implementation will be further strengthened.
My Government believes that in the knowledge society in which we live today, creativity, innovation and enterprise hold the key to people and nations realising their potential. The ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’ must be left behind. Our young people are tearing down the narrow domestic walls of religion, region, language, caste, and gender that confine them. The nation must invest in their hope. My Government will ensure that its policies for education and science and technology are imbued with a spirit of innovation so that the creativity of a billion people is unleashed. The next ten years would be dedicated as a Decade of Innovation. It may be a symbolic gesture but an important gesture to drive home the need to be innovative in finding solutions to our many challenges. India’s young population is naturally restless and wants to see change quickly. My Government carries the weight of their dreams. Together let us dedicate ourselves to making each day of the next five years, a day closer to the realisation of their dreams.