Q&A with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Highlights

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the press conference in New Delhi

New Delhi:  Dr Manmohan Singh interacted with the media today, his first press conference in 2014, an election year, and only third in 10 years of being Prime Minister.

His party, the Congress, endured a humiliating defeat in important state elections last month and Dr Singh used the press conference to counter the perception that it is headed for a similar rout in general elections due by May this year.

Question and Answer session:

We will announce the candidate for PM at an appropriate time.

Most of these charges are in the era of UPA I. We went to the electorate on the basis of our performance and the people of India gave us the mandate for another 5 years.

One must never forget that these allegations don't belong to UPA II and the people of India do not seem to have paid heed to all charges of corruption levied against me.

I feel somewhat sad because I was the one who insisted that spectrum allocations should be transparent. I was the one who insisted that coal blocks should be allocated on the basis of auctions.

These facts are forgotten and the Opposition has vested interests. When history is written we will come out unscathed. This is not to say there weren't regularities.

Rahul Gandhi has outstanding credentials to be nominated and I hope our party will take the decision at an appropriate time.

I have never felt like resigning at any time. I have tried to do my work with all sincerity without regard for fear or favour.

Too early to judge the shape of things to come for UPA III.There are a number of people who recognise that a coalition led by the Congress is eminently needed.

What is going to happen in months to come I would not like to speculate. Will be honest enough to say it could be that price-rise was a factor in people turning against the Congress
Reasons for price rise were beyond our control - rise in global commodity prices.

We have taken enough measures to protect weaker sections of our society against rising prices.

We have implemented many recommendations of the Sachchar Committee and its sad that this has not reached the people.

Some are held up in courts and couldn't be implemented.

Reform is not an event. It is a process. So long as we are in power we will continue to push the cause of reform and if circumstances permit.

No able to comment on what you have referred to happening in Himachal Pradesh.

Have not had the time to apply my mind to what is the truth in allegations , have seen newspaper reports and received a letter from Arun Jaitley.

I have tried to serve this country with utmost integrity. I have never used my office to enrich or reward my friends or relatives.

Our government attaches highest priority to strengthening relationships between our countries (India and the US).

There have been hiccups but these are temporary aberrations and diplomacy must be given a chance.

Fencing in border areas of North-East have been hampered by terrain, there is no doubt about that.

Rhino is a national asset, every effort will be made to save it.

It is my preliminary reaction that the parliamentary system is best suited for India's diversity. A presidential system will be counterproductive.

I honestly believe that history will be kinder to me than the contemporary media or Opposition parties in Parliament.

Taking into account a coalition government, I have done the best I could have done under the circumstances.

I have full confidence that the next PM will be from the UPA coalition. It will be disastrous for the country to have Narendra Modi as the next PM. If by strong PM you mean (someone to) preside over the mass massacre of citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, that is a measure of strength I don't think is needed.

I have tried to improve relations with all neighbours... I still believe good relations between India and Pakistan essential for the subcontinent to realise its full development potential.

My own feeling is we have maintained and sustained rapid economic growth. In most indicators of our performance, it has been better than the period under NDA.

Have been able to complete 10 years of prime ministership without any hiccups with the Congress president or party.

I have thought of it many times but ultimately felt circumstances were not right.

The people of India have reposed confidence in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). We must respect the democratic process. Only time will tell if this experiment is capable of facing challenges our economy or polity face.

(On Sri Lanka and fishermen) Not true that we're not concerned about Tamil population in Sri Lanka. We have made consistent efforts, will continue to do so in the future as well.

Discussed this matter with Sri Lanka, there is an opportunity for Tamils in Sri Lanka and Tamils in India to sit together and discuss this matter.

Best moment for me was when we were able to strike a nuclear deal with the US.

Dealing with corruption is not a easy process, not a matter for just one party.

I think the five months that are there with us is still a long period to revive growth impulses of the economy. If I can successfully do that then I would consider it a job well done.

Kasturi Rangan report is still being discussed with various state governments, no final decision has been taken. No final decision on LPG cylinder caps.

Our government has done quite a lot for Sikhs who suffered in 1984 riots. What happened in 1984 should never happen again. Wherever possible we have provided succour to suffering families.

Still five months to complete my tenure. I will decide (what next) when I come to that stage.

Not a drawback in the system (Congress-Government relations). The fact that Mrs Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi were there to back the government is an advantage.

Sometimes they differed and the government reconsidered some of its decisions.

I would like to do a lot more in the areas of healthcare, especially for women and children.

India provides hospitable environment for FDI and we will continue to do so.

Sincerely believe what Narendra Modi is saying is not going to materialize.

Below are the highlights of the PM's opening address:

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me wish you all a very Happy New Year.

A cycle of global economic growth is turning for the better. India's own growth momentum will revive.

Many of the steps we have taken to address our domestic constraints have come into play.

People have demonstrated their faith in democracy by voting in large numbers.

Our party did not do well, we will reflect on what the results tell us.

Over the past decade, we have been through many ups and downs.

During my first tenure in office, India experiences for the first time accelerated growth of 9 per cent. This was followed by slowdown.

Economy is marked by ups and downs and we should not focus overtly on slowdown.

Even during slowdown, rate of growth achieved in past 9 years is highest for any 9-year period.

Not just acceleration of growth that is good, equally important that we made the growth process more socially inclusive than it has ever been.

Agricultural GDP has grown faster than ever before. Rural wages have increased in real terms much faster than earlier.

Percentage of population below poverty line has fallen much faster from 2004-2011 than it did in previous 10-year period.

No of people below poverty line has come down by 13.8 crores.

Concerned that we have not been as successful as we need to be in generating employment in the manufacturing sector.

The Food Security Act that we have passed will to some extent shield the common man from rising food prices.

The worry about inflation is legitimate. We should also recognize that incomes for most people have increased faster than inflation.

Education has been a key element of our strategy to increase the productive capacity of our economy and improve access to better jobs.

I have myself been a beneficiary of liberal scholarships and public investment in education. I can, therefore, well understand the critical importance of investing in education.

I take great pride in the fact that we have transformed the education landscape of our country.

Through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, through new scholarships for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities, and with a focus on the Girl Child and young women, we have widened educational opportunities.

We have set up new universities, new institutes of science and technology, new industrial training centres and enabled the flowering of individual enterprise in skill building and education.

I also feel satisfied with our legislative effort. Despite unprecedented parliamentary holdups, we have passed several important laws that seek to empower our people and our democratic institutions.

I do not wish to elaborate on our achievements in the economic arena. These are spelt out in detail a booklet which has been separately distributed and I would be happy to answer questions.

We are deeply committed to the objective of combating corruption.

Historical legislations has been enacted to make the work of the Government transparent and accountable.

Governance has been made more answerable as never before.

Most of you have been routinely using the Right to Information Act to access Government documents not possible earlier.

We have taken major steps to change the existing procedures for allocation of spectrum and coal.

Where some decisions taken earlier have come under question, they are being investigated. Any wrong doing will be punished through due process of law.

India will continue to invest in its defence and national security.

At the same time, we will continue to seek better relations with our immediate neighbours.

The destiny of the Indian sub-continent is linked through a shared history and a shared geography.

In a few months time, after the general election, I will hand the baton over to a new Prime Minister.

I hope it will be a UPA chosen Prime Minister and our party will work to that end in the campaign for the General Elections.

I am confident that the new generation of our leaders will also guide this great nation.


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