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Singh addressed the nation after he unfurled the National Flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Thursday, to celebrate the nation’s 67th Independence Day.
At least 80 companies of security forces (around 6,000 personnel) have been deployed in and around the Red Fort, a 17th Century fort and one of India’s most famous landmarks.
The Indian Prime Minister asserted that the current slowdown is a temporary phase and will not last long.
“I believe that this phase of slow growth in India will not last long… The average rate of economic growth that we have attained in the last nine years shows what we are capable of. However, economic growth has slowed down at present and we are working hard to remedy the situation,” Singh said.
In the last nine years, the economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.9 per cent, slowing down currently to just over 5%.
Tackling poverty and malnutrition remains a key challenge for the country, even as “pro-poor” legislation and welfare programs like the rural employment guarantee scheme, direct cash transfer program, the ambitious food security ordinance have been aiming to tackle some of the divide between India’s have and have-nots.
Singh said he was hopeful of the landmark food security bill being passed by the Indian parliament soon.
“This is the largest effort of its kind in the whole world. We have been able to implement this law only because of the hard work of our farmers. Our food grain production reached a record level of 25.9 crore tonne in 2011-12,” Singh said.
The past seven years has seen the number of Indians living in extreme poverty drop to 22% from the earlier 37%, according to the latest official data from the Planning Commission.
However, 270 million Indians still live in extreme poverty.
India boasts of a total of 55 billionaires on the Forbes billionaires list of 2013.
The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in his speech on the eve of Independence Day, also alluded to the debate between growth and redistribution in a country with a huge gap between its rich and poor.
‘While growth builds the scope for redistribution, redistribution sustains growth over time. A disproportionate emphasis on any one, at the expense of the other, can have adverse consequences for the nation,” Mukherjee said.
With inputs from Agencies