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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 11.02.2013

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee opened the 44th Conference of Governors at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi today (February 11, 2013).

In his opening address at the Conference, the President said that they were meeting in the shadow of an unfortunate incident of brutal rape and death of a young woman in Delhi which had shaken the collective conscience of the nation. He said the Government had taken prompt action on the recommendations made by Justice Verma Committee and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 was now ready for introduction in the Parliament in the Budget Session. He urged the Governors to work towards improving the security and welfare of women. He said there was pressing need to bring about a change in the mindset of the society so that women are treated with dignity and respect.

The President said there has been improvement in the country’s internal security in 2012. However, he emphasized that we must be unwavering in our efforts to thwart any attempt by anti-national forces conspiring to weaken our country’s unity and integrity. Our commitment to strengthen the counter terrorism infrastructure must remain strong. He advised bordering States to keep extra vigil. He also said that various programmes undertaken in bordering areas relating to infrastructure development need to be expedited to meet the growing challenges.

The President said there is urgent need to strengthen the delivery systems of Government Programmes. A look at the States that have progressed faster as compared to others indicate that they have strong and well administered delivery systems.

The Government of India had devised a strategy focusing on increasing production in Eastern Region for ensuring food security while preparing for crop diversification in Punjab and Haryana. Accordingly, it was decided in 2010-11 to implement an agriculture development program for ‘Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI)’ under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odhisa and West Bengal. An amount of Rs. 400 crores each was allocated for the programme during 2010-11 & 2011-12 which was raised to Rs. 1000 crores during 2012-13. A second Green revolution in Eastern India will require sustained focus and effort by all concerned agencies at the Centre and the States. It will address long pending issues of low productivity and low income of farmers in eastern India. The President said that learning from First Green Revolution and its environmental impact, we have to make Second Green Revolution sustainable by laying emphasis on soil health and water management issues right from the beginning. He emphasized that procurement policy should be beneficial to farmers of the region and that adequate storage facilities should be created in the region.

The President stated that sustained efforts over the past three years have produced very encouraging outcomes resulting in significant increase in the share of Eastern Region in the total production of rice in the country. Out of total rice production of 104.32 million tons in the country during 2011-12, a record production of 55.34 million tons has been contributed by the eastern region. The President said that in order to address the challenges in the water sector, the Government has announced the National Water Policy (2012) and its implementation in right earnest would facilitate in mitigation of most of the present challenges in the water sector and assure coming generations of their water future. India has more than 18% of world’s population, but only 4% of its usable fresh water resources. India is already a water stressed nation and with further reduction in per capita availability of water, we will soon be a water scarce nation. It is estimated that by 2050, 17% of the population will be under absolute water scarcity. The President emphasized that drinking water and sanitation are basic necessities of life and providing them satisfactorily are indicators of good governance in a State. Managing groundwater is now a high priority. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is implementing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) to supplement the efforts of States and UTs to provide drinking water supply in rural areas for which a budgetary outlay of Rs.10,500 crore has been made in 2012-13. This programme needs careful monitoring.

The President said there is a direct relationship between water, sanitation and health. Consumption of unsafe drinking water, open disposal of human excreta, lack of personal and food hygiene have a direct bearing on the high infant mortality rate and are also the causes of a host of medical problems. He said that we have to use the available water resources wisely, recycle waste water, increase water-use efficiency, recharge the groundwater and ensure efficient sanitation facilities to entire rural and urban India. The President requested all the Governors to pay special attention to Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan which has been launched by Government of India to make all Gram Panchayats "Nirmal” along with the provision of drinking water facilities so that the villagers may reap the full benefit of improved health and better quality of life.

The President stated JNNURM being implemented since 2005 is a major investment programme for urban infrastructure creation. He said that cities and urban areas contribute more than 60% of GDP and 80% of incremental job creation in the country. He further said that informal settlements and slums lack water and sanitation facilities with the resultant disease burden not only on the urban poor but the entire community. He said that it was noticed that some States have lagged behind in implementation of the urban governance reforms. He called for speeding up the achievement of reforms as well as completion of the approved projects within the next year.

The President said India is a nation of young people and we can reap the demographic dividend by providing proper education and skills. It is proposed to create an additional enrolment capacity of 10 million students including 1 million in open and distance learning by the end of the Twelfth Plan. Since bulk of the enrolment takes place in the state institutions, the role of Governors as Chancellors of the State Universities assumes significance. It should be the endeavor of all Chancellors to promote access to higher education with equity and excellence. He called on Governors to (i) Address faculty shortage (ii) Improve quality of research and inspire a culture of innovation (iii) Increase the use of technology for improving access to higher education as also to improve quality; and (iv) Have better linkages with industry and make education more employment oriented. Referring to the day-long discussions the President had with Vice-Chancellors of 40 Central Universities on February 5, 2013, he asked Governors to organize similar meetings with VC’s of State Universities.

The President further said that since State Universities lack financial resources, the 12th Plan has recommended a strategic shift in central funding for higher education through a new programme called the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA). The Central Government is launching a National Mission on Teachers and Teaching to address issues relating to faculty in a holistic manner and suggest ways to strengthen the institutional mechanisms at all levels to provide vertical and lateral linkages. Our institutions of higher education must create an enabling ecosystem which encourages research, innovation and entrepreneurship. They need to evolve from their present role as knowledge providers to knowledge creators and promote wealth generation. Excellence to compete in a highly competitive global society should be developed and joint efforts should be focused to build an enlightened citizenry and promote a knowledge society.

Pointing out that the fourteenth Finance Commission had been set up in January 2013, the President asked the Governors to pursue the constitution of State Finance Commissions (SFCs) with adequate staff, timely submission of the report of the SFCs to the Governor and timely action to be taken by the Government on the report of the SFC.

The agenda for the two-day conference includes internal and external security, strengthening the delivery systems of Government Programmes, extending the second Green Revolution to Eastern Region, water management and sanitation, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and role of Governors in the context of quality and good governance in higher education as Chancellors of Universities.

Among the dignitaries participating are the Vice President, the Prime Minister, nine Union Ministers, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and Chairman UIDAI.

The Conference will be addressed by Ministers tomorrow morning and by the Prime Minister and Vice President tomorrow afternoon.