Vajpayee vows to change rural India

Monday, 27 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Monday vowed to change the face of rural India, saying the key to national development lay in this.

While rural India had made rapid progress in some areas, it lagged miserably in others, he said in an address to the national conference of state rural development ministers here to discuss the progress of various development projects.

For instance, he noted, India had become self-sufficient in food and had exported products worth 64 billion to 25 countries last year. India was also number one in milk production in the world.

"We are number two in rice export and number five in wheat exports in the world. These examples show the limitless potential and possibilities of development in rural India. If these possibilities are turned into reality, we can indeed change the destiny of India," he said.

At the same time, there was also the other "reality," he said and referred to 160,000 villages that were not connected with good roads, 60 percent of the rural households that were without electricity and thousands of villages that lack in facilities for primary education and healthcare.

"We want to change this reality. This is not merely our intention; it is our firm resolve," the prime minister maintained.

He said the government's resolve had already produced several "concrete initiatives" in the past few years. Among these is a road development programme that envisages linking all villages in the country with all-weather roads at an estimated cost of 600 billion.

"Initially, some people expressed doubts and asked: 'Where is the money to implement this huge project?' However, no one expresses such scepticism now" because they were becoming a reality on the ground, he said.

He referred to the ongoing programme to link the four corners of the country with "world-class highways" in which 250,000 construction workers and 10,000 supervisors were engaged day and night and said a substantial part of the project would be completed by the year-end.

"Our dream is not only to build world-class highways in India, but also to create a network of good roads all over rural India," the prime minister said and added the rural development ministry had sanctioned projects worth 70 billion and that over 10,000 rural roads had been constructed.

The prime minister described employment generation as the "biggest challenge" facing the country and urged the state governments to launch "food for work programmes to create durable rural assets."

Source: IANS
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