February 15, 2014
New Delhi

PM’s speech at the Governors’ Conference

Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the Governors’ 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 important 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 greatly 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 respective 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, the security situation and India's 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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 the internal security situation 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 are ready to seek solutions within the framework of our Constitution is beginning to pay rich dividends, at least in the North Eastern region. 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 Extremism 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 with and intensify these efforts. We also need to ensure greater coordination between the Centre and the 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. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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 take place. 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 Eastern region, our Government has recently constituted a committee which will look into the issue and suggest effective remedial measures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
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 the border areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must recognize that deprivation and poverty are significant contributory factors to rising discontent in the backward and poor districts of our country, many of which lie in Scheduled Areas.  We therefore, need, to urgently address the widening economic, income and developmental disparities between citizens living in such areas and those in more developed parts of the country.  Under the Constitutional scheme of affairs, Governors have been given a special responsibility for the administration and speedy development of the Scheduled Areas. The role of these Constitutional arrangements in addressing the longstanding demands and aspirations of our tribal citizens cannot be over emphasized.  In the Sixth Schedule areas of the North East, the process of regular elections, and greater devolution of funds and functions, has strengthened the Tribal Councils. In the Fifth Schedule areas, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) has led to greater involvement of the population in local governance as well as control over community resources. The vesting of forest rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act has substantially empowered our tribal brothers and sisters. However, we need to do much more to ensure the implementation of these significant legislations in letter and spirit, including in devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to local self governance institutions in Scheduled areas, ensuring compliance of State subject laws, rules and instruction with PESA provisions, and ensuring the completion of the process of vesting of forest rights. I would urge  Governors to contribute in full measure to the accomplishments of these tasks.

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 Eastern region 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 Eastern region and innovative solutions are needed to address the specific constraints prevailing in the region. Our Government is seized of these issues. 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 the North Eastern Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the items on the agenda for this Conference relates to Disaster Management. As we all know, our nation is increasingly becoming 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 in our country. We have recently witnessed two major disasters in our country – the tragedy in Uttarakhand and cyclone Phailin which impacted Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Our country has made substantial progress in the areas of disaster preparedness and development of adequate disaster response mechanisms subsequent to the coming into force of the Disaster Management Act of 2005. The steps that have been taken include the establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority and State and District Disaster Management Authorities in most States, the establishment of the National Institute of Disaster Management and the National Disaster Response Force at the national level and State Disaster Response Forces in some States and Union Territories and institutionalized funding mechanisms for disaster management in the form of the National and State Disaster Response Funds. Our well coordinated response to the recent cyclone in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh has proven that we have made substantial progress in the area of disaster management in recent years. It also underscores the importance of close engagement and coordination between various agencies of the Central Government, the State Government and District authorities in dealing with disasters. 

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 conscientious efforts to make Disaster Risk Reduction in terms of 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 of Central Universities 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 last 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 our 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 particularly specially help in addressing this issue, even as they give their attention to other matters also, as Chancellors of State Universities. I would also 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 a 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 matters our goal has been to realize our vision of a strong prosperous and secure India.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by thanking Respected Rashtrapati ji for having organised this conference. We have all been benefitting from the various initiatives that Rashtrapathi ji 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 as a whole.

Thank you."

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