Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made a strong defence of his economic reforms at a show-of-strength rally of the Congress workers at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi today. He also spoke of his party's fight against corruption, but warned that this shouldn't hold up decision making in government.
In a speech that was a virtual election campaign, he said that no country "will be able to address its biggest challenges without economic development" and pitched for 'inclusive growth'.
"Economic development needs to reach the poor and the common people," he said, adding, "We believe that development should enable everyone to get all the basic amenities."
"We need economic reforms to create more jobs... The people are being misled about recent government decisions... We have done a lot of work in the last eight years," Dr Singh said.
He added that opening the economy up further will create more jobs for the youth.
Defending the recent reforms decisions that the government has taken and which set off a political storm, the PM said, "Many times we need to adopt the more difficult path rather than take the easy way out because that may be beneficial for the country's future. Those opposing us will be proved wrong. Eight crore people have benefited from the MNREGA. Twelve crore children have benefited from mid-day meal programme. Prosperity should reach the common man."
Dr Singh defended his government's decision to bring in Foreign Direct Investment or FDI in multi-brand retail, saying, "All will be benefited. Farmers will get the right price for their produce. New employment opportunities will emerge. It is wrong that FDI in retail will affect farmers. Such a suggestion is aimed at misleading the country."
Dr Singh added, "If we want to bring some changes in our policies for the benefit of the country, we will definitely do so."
Defending the hike in fuel prices, he said that this had to be done to cut the country's subsidy bills. The Prime Minister said India imports 80 per cent of the petroleum products. "We have taken some steps on prices of petroleum products. We have not increased kerosene prices. This decision is for the betterment of the people. We want our farmers to be happy and prosperous."
He also took on the opposition, which has been strongly critical on reform decisions like increasing prices of fuel and the introduction of foreign investment in retail.
"Some people are trying to mislead the public," he said. "It is our dream to work towards a strong and prosperous nation and we will not spare any effort to achieve that."
Recalling the opening of the economy in 1991 for which he is credited, the Dr Singh said that there was opposition then as well. He also linked economic liberalisation with corruption, saying, "We have done it before and today we are reaping its benefits.".
Dr Singh also said while the Congress remained committed to fighting graft, "It shouldn't create a situation where honest officers are afraid to take decisions".
The PM talked about the Lokpal Bill, which he is said is being debated in Parliament.
(With inputs from PTI)