PM in Parliament[Back]

March 8, 2013
New Delhi

PM's reply in the Rajya Sabha debate on the President's address

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I rise to join all Members of this august House in conveying our sincere thanks to the hon. President for his enlightened Address. The debate on the President’s Address has been vigorous and wide-ranging. I thank all the hon. Members who have contributed to this debate.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, the other day, the hon. Leader of the Opposition quoted Tacitus in the course of running down the achievements of the UPA Government. Since he is so obviously fond of Tacitus, I hope he will not mind if I quote some Tacitus back at him. Tacitus also said, and I quote, “When men are full of envy, they disparage everything whether it be good or bad.”

Mr. Chairman, Sir, the hon. Leader of the Opposition is a wise and discerning person. I appeal to his better sense to make a judgement about the performance of the UPA Government in considering wider national interest and not merely in the pursuit of a mere political point.
Sir, Shri Jaitley made a powerful speech, and I listened with great interest to the points that he has made.

His first point with which I agree is that our country needs a growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent if we are to get rid of chronic poverty and large scale unemployment of our youth.  He is also right when he said that this would require a rapid pace of industrialisation.  I also agree with this point.  I would like to remind this House that this is precisely the intention of the UPA Government. And way back in early nineties' when the Congress Government was in power, we opened up our economy, we adopted a path of economic reforms with a view to create an environment conducive to rapid industrialisation and on terms and conditions whereby India's goods would find ready space elsewhere in the world.  At that time also, there were lots of doubts about the wisdom of the Government and I recall the debates in both the Houses when the Members of the Opposition rose to criticise the Budget that I presented in 1992 as having been made in Washington and not in Delhi.  But since then, Sir, there have been three Governments.  The Congress Government went out of office in 1996.  It was followed by the United Front Government and later a BJP-NDA Government. The fact is that despite changes in Governments, the rise of Left Parties, the rise of  Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, there was no change in the direction of reforms.  All political parties, whatever they may say in opposition, have sworn by economic reforms and that our country needs economic reforms to realise its full developmental potential. 

I sincerely hope and trust that when the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues reflect calmly on the situation that we have dealt with in our present incarnation, he would come to the conclusion that the path we have chosen is a right path.  The hon. Leader of the Opposition started by saying that the UPA inherited a fast growing economy and we have made a mess of it.  I would like to remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition that the Government of which he was a distinguished member was from 1998-99 to 2003-04, and if I look at the data of growth rates, in 1998-99, the growth rate of the economy was 6.7 per cent, in 1999-2000, it was 7.6 per cent, in 2000-01, it was 4.3 per cent, in 2001-02, it was 5.5 per cent, in 2002-03, it was 4 per cent and it is only in 2003-04 that the growth rate picked up and we had a growth rate of 8.1 per cent. By contrast, if you look at the nine years of the UPA, in 2004-05, the growth rate of the economy was 7 per cent, in 2005-06, it was 9.5 per cent, in 2006-07, it was 9.6 per cent, in 2007-08, it was 9.3 per cent, in 2008-09, it was 6.7 per cent, in 2009-10, it was 8.6 per cent, in 2010-11, it was 9.3 per cent, in 2011-12, it was 6. 2 per cent and it is only in the current year, 2012-13, that the growth rate will fall to 5 per cent.  Sir, as the hon. Finance Minister has pointed out in his Budget Speech, "We do not believe that the slow growth will come to stay where it is today.  We have every intention to use all policy instruments to push up the growth rate and it is our expectation that in the next two or three years, the economy can once again bounce back to a growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent."

What was the main point made by the hon. Leader of the Opposition?   He said that we first created the crisis and, now, we are trying to resolve this crisis.  This reference was, obviously, to the expenditure that were incurred by the UPA Government in the course of last nine years to bring a social balance in our patterns of spending, to pay a greater attention to social sectors of the economy.  Shri Jaitley very sarcastically said that the UPA Government first increased expenditure in an unbridled fashion and, now, wants to take credit for enforcing financial discipline. 

Sir, we are proud of expanding expenditure in the social sector.  We are proud of increasing spending in programmes that ensure access to health and education for the common man, particularly of the weaker sections of our society.  We are proud of increasing spending in programmes that provide livelihood security to the poor.  We are proud of making all sincere efforts for fulfilling our commitment for inclusive growth.  Look  at the health sector.  We have increased the expenditure from about Rs. 7,500 crores in 2003-04, which was the last year of the NDA Government, to about Rs. 27,000 crores in the year 2011-12.  This is a three-and-a-half times increase.  In Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan the expenditure has gone up  from Rs. 2,730 crores  in 2003-04 to Rs. 20,841 crores in 2011-12.  The results are for everyone to see.  I do not wish to cite here all the indicators that reflect our successes.  Let me also say to this august House that we will continue supporting these schemes and programmes. 

Shri Jaitley referred to programmes initiated by the NDA Government.  Whatever good programmes were there, we have carried them forward.  Take, for example, the case of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.  In 2003-04, the actual estimate of expenditure was Rs. 2,730 crores, where as in 2012-13, it was Rs. 21,907 crores. 

As far as the Mid-Day Meal Programme is concerned,  the expenditure in 2003-04 was Rs. 1,325 crores, and  in the current year the expenditure will be Rs. 9,890 crores.

The point that I wish to make is that during the NDA period there was a token provision, although great terms were used for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, but the amount of money that was allocated to this programme was very, very small. 

Therefore, their capacity to make impact in the areas where spending was to be devoted was pretty small.   Take, for example, the case of PMGSY.   From 2001-02  to 2003-04,  in the NDA period, the releases were  Rs.9,682 crores.   From 2009-10 to 2012-13, in UPA-II, it was Rs.56,251 crores.  In  UPA-I, from 2004-05 to 2008-09, it was Rs.38,637 crores.  Whether you look at rural development or you look at infrastructure including the  road programme,  the National  Highways Authority is working.  There has been a tremendous increase in spending under the UPA Government.  We are not ashamed of that.  There may be some problems with regard to the way the Programme is being  managed, there are  bound to be difficulties, particularly, when large sums of money are being spent for the first  time.  I do not deny that there are problems, but these  are problems of growing up; these are problems of a fast-growing economy trying to realise its full development potential.   Therefore, I would, respectfully, submit to the hon. Leader of the Opposition that he should be more objective in assessing the performance of the UPA Government.   Whether it is growth rates, whether we are dealing with agricultural development, or, whether we are dealing with  the pace of industrialisation, the record  of the UPA  Government speaks for itself.  I don’t have to go deep into this matter.

Sir, Shri Arun Jaitley referred to the problem of terrorism, the role of National Counter Terrorism Centre.  I believe, there are no two points of view that we should not make any compromise  with terrorism.  I, sincerely, hope and believe  that  when it comes to dealing with terrorism, all political parties  will speak with one voice.  It will be our effort  that in order to bring about a broad  national consensus, we will work with the State Governments to give  meaning and substance to the proposal of the  NCTC.  With regard to the developments in  Jammu and Kashmir, I would once again say to this House that our policy is a policy based on evolving national consensus, that we will not do anything which is against the national interest, that in formulating  our polices, the well-being of the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be always a paramount interest, consistent with the requirements of national economy  and national polity. 

Shri Ram Gopal Yadav referred to the need of increased emphasis being given to the agricultural sector and I share his concern that more should be done for the development of our agriculture.  Agriculture has been doing quite well in the last eight or nine years, and, in the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the growth rate of agricultural production was 3.7 per cent as against 2.4 and 2.5 per cent in the previous two Plans, that is, in the Ninth and the Tenth Plans. But I would be the last person to deny that more attention needs to be paid to the development of our agriculture and I am very happy that some of the BIMARU States are showing good results.  Today, Bihar, I am told, has the highest growth rate among the States.  But that is as it should be, starting from a low base, whether it is Bihar or whether it is Madhya Pradesh. These are the States which have been backward. People and Governments are now trying to grapple with the problem of backwardness more effectively.  If they are succeeding, we are all very happy at their success, and one must never forget the contribution made by my esteemed friend and colleague, Shri Sharad Pawar, in making powerful pleas for allocating  more resources for the development of agriculture. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Bill have made an impact, and the fact that the growth process, particularly in agriculture, is showing positive direction, positive trend, in several hitherto backward States is something with which we can express happiness.  I sincerely believe that more can be done, will be done. and our Government will remain alive to the needs of our farmers even in areas where there is drought, where there is scarcity, and where there is shortage of drinking water. We will work with the State Governments to deal with these calamities with a forceful presentation and action points.

Sir, I do not wish to take more of your time. Shri Arun Jaitley referred to the Foreign Policy in the concluding part of his speech, and I should say that we are in an unsettled neighbourhood.  We have, therefore, to be alert, but we will never compromise with our national interests.  We want our neighbours to prosper, we want our neighbours to be partners in progress; and I sincerely hope that we will work with our neighbours to give the SAARC Region a new profile of a strong growth than that has been possible hitherto.

There are problems in Sri Lanka.  We have been worried about the fate of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka.It has been our effort to plead with the Government of Sri Lanka that there must be political reconciliation, that without national reconciliation, the situation cannot remain calm, and that the Sri Lankan Government must, therefore, take initiative to talk to the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka.  It will be our effort to work with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that Tamil people of Sri Lanka do get the chance to lead a life of dignity and self-respect as equal citizens of the country.

Sir, with regard to Pakistan, we have made sincere efforts to normalize our relations.  We have achieved some progress in this regard.  People-to-people contacts have gone up.  Trade relations have shown improvement.  But there cannot be normalization of relations between our two countries unless and until the terror machine, which is still active in Pakistan, is not brought under control.  This has been our policy during the nine years that we have been in office and it is the same approach which would guide us in dealing with Pakistan in the years to come.

We are very happy that our President’s visit to Bangladesh was deeply appreciated by the Government and people of Bangladesh.  I sincerely hope that as a means of promoting friendship between the two countries, which have such a close relationship, this House and the other House would have the wisdom to endorse the Land Boundary Agreement, which I signed along with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh when I visited Bangladesh.  This is an Agreement which would ensure peace and tranquility on the border, which would remove uncertainties, and I am convinced that this is an Agreement, which is in the interest of both the countries.  I sincerely hope that when we bring this Bill before Parliament, Parliament would have the wisdom to approve it with acclamation.

Sir, with regard to Nepal there is uncertainty, but we sincerely hope that the multi-party democracy which has been introduced will survive and thrive.  Our effort has been to work with the Government and the people of Nepal to strengthen the processes and working of multi-party democracy.

In Maldives, there have been unfortunate problems after the February, 2012 event.  We believe that the best course is to have elections to the office of the President, which are due in September, 2013.  There should be free and fair elections, with an inclusive process, with all people participating in the process of electing the new President.  I sincerely hope that the Government and people of Maldives will overcome this atmosphere of crisis and uncertainty.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would not like to spend more time.  I once again thank all the hon. Members who have taken part in the debate.  I have taken note of the points that have been made.  We will look into all those issues which have figured in the debate.  With these words, I once again request the House to thank the hon. President for his gracious address to us all.