Finance Minister’s Speech in Parliament

It is said that we have moved away from six basic principles of the Common Minimum Programme. Let me deal with two of the more important of the six principles. The first is that this Government will ensure that the economy grows at least seven to eight per cent per year in a sustained manner. After 42 months the economy has grown at an average of 8.9 per cent in the first four years. Compare this with the average of 5.8 per cent during the six years of NDA Government. The target for the Tenth Plan was eight per cent. We were able to achieve an average growth rate for the Tenth Plan of 7.8 per cent, which was nearly close to the target of eight per cent. The Eleventh Plan began in 2007-08. I had always maintained that in 2007-08 we will grow close to nine per cent. Actually, when the revised agricultural estimates have came in the growth in 2007-2008 is close to 9.1 per cent. The year 2007-08 is a watershed year in India’s agricultural history. Food grains production has registered an all time record of 230.7 million tones. This Government launched the National Horticulture Mission and undertook renovation, repair and restoration of water bodies. This Government set up the Rainfed Area Development Authority. Another of the six principles was to enhance the welfare and well-being of farmers, farm labour and workers, particularly those in the unorganized sector. No Government has done more for farmers than this Government. Farm credit has increased from Rs. 86,000 crore in 2003-04 to Rs. 2,50,000 crore in 2007-08. This year, the target is Rs. 2,80,000 crore; but we will exceed the target. In order to take care of farm labour, who do not get work throughout the year, we introduced the NREG Scheme. Earlier paltry amount of Rs. 75 was given as old-age pension. We raised it to Rs. 200 a month. For unorganized workers, there is a path-breaking Bill before Parliament. We introduced Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana which would provide death and disability insurance to the poor. Never before in the history of this country, has any Government undertaken a loan waiver scheme of the size and scale that has been undertaken by this Government. The total amount of debt waiver and debt relief is Rs. 66,477 crore. This debate naturally turns on an agreement that we have signed with the US. We need to cross two stages before we can operationalize this agreement. The first is the safeguards agreement of the IAEA, and the second is the waiver from the NSG. Questions were asked about the 123 Agreement and the Hyde Act. In 1954, the U.S. adopted the Atomic Energy Act. That Act prohibits the US from cooperating on nuclear matters with any country until certain conditions are fulfilled. Section 123 authorizes the President of the US to exempt the proposed agreement from the conditions. That is why, this agreement is called ‘123 Agreement’. The Hyde Act was passed in 2006 and it became the law in December, 2006. Whereas 123 Agreement text was agreed between India and the US on August 1, 2007. So, the 123 Agreement is an agreement after the Hyde Act came into force. The 123 Agreement alone will delineate the rights and responsibilities of the parties. It is an agreement to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation between the parties. The legal status of the 123 Agreement is that it has not yet entered into force. It will enter into force after India and the United States notify each other; and they can do so only after completing all applicable requirements. The Agreement shall be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the principles of the international law. The 123 Agreement is a Treaty. The Hyde Act is an internal law. You cannot invoke the Hyde Act in order to refuse to perform your obligations under a Treaty. Thus thy Hyde Act does not bind India. It cannot interfere with the implementation of 123 Agreement. We are bound only by the 123 Agreement.
Under the leadership of the hon. Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee ji, our country, after concluding this limited testing programme, announced a voluntary moratorium on further underground nuclear test explosions. Then, Shri Jaswant Singh and Mr. Strobe Talbott had detailed exchanges. We also had detailed exchanges with France, Russia, UK, China and with Germany, Japan as well as with other non-nuclear weapon States. This Government has only taken the dialogue forward. All this is aimed at ending our nuclear isolation. In this connection, I want to share with this House what China is doing. Today two per cent of China’s electricity comes from nuclear power. But the country is planning to give itself a six-fold increase in nuclear capacity by 2020 and then a further three to four fold increase by 2030. I have no hesitation in saying that I want to emulate China. We must aspire to greater heights. When I say we must grow, we must grow more wheat; we must grow more paddy; and we must emulate the best in the world. We must produce more coal, more steel and generate more electricity. We can make our future if we decide to have the vision and the farsightedness Today, this Government is charting out a new path which will end India’s nuclear isolation, which will pave way for India becoming an economic super-power.


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