While returning from Beijing after attending the Asia Europe Summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave media persons an insight into his views on the Indian economy, his economic legacy of last four-and-a-half years, reforms done and not done, farmer's land issues and even on Tata's Nano project.
Speaking on his economic legacy, Dr Singh said, "We have had a reasonably good term and I would not deny that over the last few months, inflation had become a problem. Also recently, because of the global factors, the financial crisis is having some effect on our economy. Therefore, we are taking corrective measures. To say that I am not worried would not be correct. It is my duty as prime minister to worry when things don't go as planned."
When asked to comment on Left parties' claims that it was because of their resistance that reforms could not take place as planned by his government but which had saved the economy in global crisis, Dr Singh said, "I am afraid, I don't agree. Strengthening India's banking system and insurance system has enabled us to deal with the crisis more effectively. I beg to differ."
On the financial crisis's real impact on India and how long it will remain, Dr Singh said, "Well, it all depends on how long it takes the world community to restore and confidence to the global financial markets. We are not in complete control. There are bigger players and we are victims of that. The crisis is not of our making. It is a crisis that originated in the US and Europe, the type of integrated world economy we live in we are not immune and I had mentioned in Parliament earlier this week on Monday and I repeated that same sentiment in Beijing."
When asked about the burning issues of farmer's grievances over the acquiring of land by government he gave clear signal that the issue is top of his mind.
He said, "Let me say that India needs to industrialise; without industrialisation we cannot find solutions to our employment or development problems. The real issue is what are the terms on which the land is acquired. It should not be acquired at prices, which keep the farmers dissatisfied. There should be an increasing attempt to reward the farmer appropriately, also perhaps giving them a stake in the enterprises that come into existence on the land that is acquired."
Dr Singh further said, "The rehabilitation policy, the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act -- the Bill is before Parliament and I would like that this is not an issue, which should create friction and division among parties, because India must industrialise to realise its destiny. The only thing is industrialisation cannot be on the backs of the poor farmers. They should be given remunerative compensation wherever land is acquired."
On Ratan Tata shifting the Nano car project to 'Modi's Gujarat', the prime minister said, "Well, we are a free democratic country. It is certainly sad the circumstances in which Ratan Tata had to move his project. But entrepreneurs are free to decide the location of their plants and in a democracy, in market economy these things happen. These are decisions, which cannot be forced down the throat of unwilling entrepreneurs."
Asked about the serious issue bill against communal violence, which is still pending, he said, "We prepared a Bill on communal harmony. The Bill was submitted to Parliament but several minority groups came back and said this is not a legislation that is to our liking. This was a legislation meant to apply some balm on the communal situation, but if the minority communities say they were not satisfied, if NGOs said they were not very happy, so there is this delay and we have not been able to resolve these tensions."
With regard to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Dr Singh said, "As far as the AFSPA is concerned, it is true that in the wake of the Manipur agitation, we had appointed a group, but quite honestly the situation in the North East, the situation in Manipur; even the government of Manipur, which has withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act being applied to Imphal, is also of the view that this cannot be done away with until the situation improves. We have problems in Jammu and Kashmir and we have problems in North East. Therefore, I cannot take these risks with the security of our country."
On non-implementation of reforms programme that his government had promised, Dr Singh said, "I think reforms cannot take place in political and economic vacuum. The situation has been such that oil prices shot up in a manner that if I had passed on the whole burden to the people at large, there would have been reckless inflation. That would have been far more counter productive than our position to pass on only a limited amount of increase to the final consumer."
He said, "It is certainly true, if you look at the economy from the traditional point of view, below the line fiscal deficit has increased, but in a situation in which we are placed now, it is a definite advantage. It is not a disadvantage."
"I think, we are in a typical Keynesian situation where there is a lack of demand, private sector demand is very weak, but strong government demand, both for social services and for investments will provide the essential stabilisers that our country needs in a time like this."
When his attention was drawn to reports about Muslims being discriminated and about the perception that police action is targeted against one community only, Dr Singh said, "I am very sorry that such a feeling exists. Those who have read the newspapers about Malegaon and others, I think, would consider that this is a one-sided view. Terrorism, whichever section indulges in this nefarious activity, has been prosecuted regardless of the community to which they belong."
Over the increasing communal divide in the country during his rule and the issue of bomb blasts, the prime minister said, "Let me say that I would urge the media and all thinking segments of our population not to link terror with any one particular religion. Terrorists have no religion, regardless of their religion we have to deal wholly and effectively with terrorism. We will handle it that way but let us not link terror to any particular community. This is not the way to solve any problem. It is this is not handled properly has serious divisive potential. We cannot afford such division so all segments of public opinion all political parties must work together to see that this communal divide does not get widened."