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India's economic transformation is unparalleled: PM

Last updated on: November 23, 2010 12:56 IST

India's economic transformation is unparalleled: PM

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Indiraji's call for "Growth with Social Justice" defined the concept of social democracy for my generation.

We understood that the two must go together the search for growth and the search of social justice.

That a developing economy like India needs resources and revenues to be able to distribute them equitably. This calls for both resurgent growth and prudent management of our public finances.

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Excerpt from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech at the inauguration of the Indira Gandhi Conference, "An Indian Social Democracy: from Political Vision to Practical Possibility," on November 19 in New Delhi

Image: School children participate in a full-dress rehearsal during Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort.
Photographs: S B Mathur/Reuters.
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When growth was not forthcoming, we had to take steps to stimulate it.

This among other things involved a relook at the role of the state and market forces in the development process, of incentives to promote risk taking and entrepreneurship and regulation of private enterprises.

When distributional interventions seemed to fail, we had to create new instruments covering a mix of entitlement and empowerment approaches and new institutions to promote equity.

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Image: Reliance Industries KG-D6's floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.
Photographs: Reuters.
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From the panchayat raj to the public distribution system, from public health programmes to mid-day meals programme, from educational interventions aimed to empower Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, other Backward Classes, Minorities, our women and the girl child, India has put in place a wide range of practical policies.

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Image: Prem (3), the son of an idol vendor, plays with a mobile phone.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters.
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I have, therefore, two propositions for your consideration: First, that there is an "Indian" model of "social democratic" development that is rooted in the ideas and ideals that defined our national movement, that define our Constitution as it has evolved.

This Indian model has evolved with time, reflecting all the gains and limitations of our political, economic and social development.

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Image: A girl sells flags at a traffic signal.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Second, the reach and efficacy of this evolving model of social democracy is critically dependent both on its fiscal sustainability and institutional efficiency.

In addressing the challenge of fiscal sustainability, one cannot put the cart before the horse.

The experience of other countries, especially in Europe, tells us that governmental over-reach and fiscal over commitment can sometimes lead to economic crises.


Image: Rupee notes.

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With higher growth has come the opportunity of generating more revenues that can be invested in human and social development.

But, higher growth has also been associated with higher inequalities and simultaneously increased expectations of the people at large.

There is a revolution of rising expectations underway in India which any government has to take note of.


Image: Students make a formation of the rupee symbol.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Against this tide of rising expectations, we confront the challenge of revitalizing institutions of development administration and getting rid of the cancer of corruption in our public life.

We need institutions and mechanisms that can deliver effectively our promise of livelihood security, the Right to Education, to employment, to food and to shelter.


Image: Children in a slum.
Photographs: Reuters.
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These institutions cannot be built top down. Development administration is the responsibility of State governments in our federal polity.

Unless development administration is strengthened, is made more representatives, more accountable and transparent, allocating more financial resources from New Delhi will only contribute to higher levels of corruption and leakage of funds.

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Image: Indian citizens with their identity card.
Photographs: Reuters.
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We have seen from our experience with the employment guarantee programme that the effective realisation of a right we grant in New Delhi varies from State to State, from district to district.

Local competence determines the outcome of national campaigns and this is the reality which has to be borne in mind.

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Image: A worker spreads red chilli peppers to dry in Sertha village.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters.
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The Indian Parliament has legislated the Right to Education. But the responsibility to educate lies mostly the local bodies and district administrations.

We are presently considering the legislation of a Right to Food, but this right can only be realized if we have an effective public distribution system in place in every neighbourhood.

We can legislate a minimum wage from New Delhi, but its implementation is in the hands of local governments.

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Image: A child labourer.
Photographs: Reuters.
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India's struggle for social and economic transformation has no parallel in history.

Our success in accomplishing this gigantic task could have great significance for the evolution of human kind in this twenty first century of ours.


Image: A small girl works at a quarry.

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