Listless address

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh trod the much-trodden ground of the national scene in his Independence Day address to the nation, without addressing any specific issue in detail and giving out the government’s solutions for them. He did not make any important policy announcement either as prime ministers have sometimes done from the Red Fort rostrum. The issues are not new and unknown. The nation is wracked by two insurgencies: one led by Maoists in a number of states and the other resulting from the explosion of pent-up resentment in Kashmir. Relations with Pakistan are at a low and the terrorist threat is real. The prime minister stressed that dialogue is the only available option to deal with the problems. This is true but we are not wiser on any roadmap for dialogue that the government is working on. Last week he had offered autonomy to Kashmir, again without mentioning any specific format. That does not seem to have had any impact on the situation in Kashmir.

Price rise, the rotting foodgrains and the equally rotting state of affairs in the preparations for the Commonwealth Games are also matters of serious concern. The prime minister’s expression of confidence in the success of the Games would have been more convincing if the government had taken more effective steps to cleanse the stables. There was more light on economy-related issues and this might appeal as the better part of an otherwise ordinary and unremarkable drone. The commitment to raise agricultural production and to improve infrastructure, is what the economy needs at this stage to take development forward and make it relevant to the majority of the people. Farm growth rate should go up to at least 4 per cent, agricultural productivity should increase and food security must be ensured to all Indians. Infrastructural deficiencies in roads, ports, airports and power generation are major bottlenecks and the prime minister was candid in admitting that government investment will not be adequate to address them. If the commitment to attend to these issues translates into fresh policy initiatives and removal of implementation glitches the country can look forward to speedier and more meaningful growth. But here also an actual blueprint of action was missing.

But the national mood on any Independence Day goes beyond the prime minister’s words. The achievements, setbacks, pride and failure are all reasons for a fresh dedication, irrespective of the state of passing governments.

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