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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
India PM promises public reform
Congress leader Manmohan Singh
Singh: Reforms must work for the greater majority
India's new government will aim for reforming public institutions to meet the aspirations of people, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

Mr Singh said Indian governments had been found wanting in dealing with the country's problems.

The pledge came in Mr Singh's first speech after becoming the prime minister.

The Congress party-led government were swept to power in the recent general elections.

In the speech broadcast on national television, Mr Singh said India could not "accept" disparities between its people and regions.
I am convinced that the government, at every level, is today not adequately equipped to meet the aspirations of the people
Manmohan Singh

He said while many people in India were benefiting from globalisation and economic reforms, "millions of our citizens are still plagued by illiteracy, disease, want, hunger and malnutrition".

'New Deal'

Mr Singh also spoke about disparities between men and women and chronic poverty among the poor and the backward people.

He said it was the responsibility of federal and state governments to "address each of these economic and social challenges."
Women walking through a village near Agra
Mr Singh promises a 'New Deal' for rural India

"I am convinced that the government, at every level, is today not adequately equipped to deal with this challenge and meet the aspirations of the people," said Mr Singh.

"To be able to do so, we require the reform of government and public institutions..This will be my main concern and challenge in the days to come."

Mr Singh said his government was committed to give what he called was a "New Deal" to rural India.

He said farmers in the country had suffered neglect in recent years.

This had shown up in declining growth in the farm sector in the past five years, he added.

"Agriculture must receive the priority attention it deserves," he said.

Mr Singh said there was a need to bolster investment in agriculture, improve credit facilities for farmers, and remove controls on them.

The prime minister said that economic reforms with a human face would be his government's priority.

'Decline of morals'

"We will pursue policies that enable our economy to be better integrated with the world economy without hurting the interests of our people," said Mr Singh.

Mr Singh said the "decline of morals and ethics in public life" was an "incipient threat" to democracy in India.

"There is, however, no better way to deal with this..than to meet it head on by joining public life ourselves".

"I therefore appeal to each of you also to participate in our public life so that governments at all levels..are all constantly put on notice and not just tested once in five years," Mr Singh said.

The prime minister said the new government would "actively pursue" the peace process with Pakistan and seek stronger ties with China, USA and Russia, among other nations.

Mr Singh chose to speak on television after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prevented him from addressing parliament this month.

He said he was deeply concerned when "constructive dialogue" was not allowed in the parliament.

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