said the Congress party will reflect on the recent assembly poll results and learn appropriate lessons. A lot more needs to be done in terms of reforms, he added. Though the cost of living went up, welfare schemes put more money in the hands of people and incomes for most people rose faster than inflation, he said.
Singh, who considered the 9% economic growth seen during his previous term “as a short acceleration and as exceptional”, was optimistic about the coming months as the global economic cycle was turning for the better. He admitted insufficient infrastructure and bottlenecks in granting timely forest and environment clearances to projects. His government, however, was working hard to correct its performance in generating jobs in the manufacturing sector, which Singh said was not as successful as needed.
“We need a much stronger effort in support of small and medium enterprises which can be a major source of good quality employment,” he said.
Singh said the Congress was “deeply committed” to combating corruption, for which steps were taken including adopting the auction method for allocation of spectrum and coal blocks. “Any wrongdoing will be punished through due process of law,” he said, adding that most corruption charges were related to the previous term of the UPA, after which the coalition came to power again. “We went to the electorate on the basis of our performance. People of India gave us mandate to govern for another five years,” he said, adding that voters paid little heed to the charges raised by the media and the Comptroller and Auditor General. “There were irregularities. But the dimension is overstated by the media and sometimes by the CAG,” Singh said.
India attaches high priority to strengthening relations with the US, a close ally, with which it has a nuclear cooperation deal. Singh wanted to iron out the recent differences over the arrest of India’s deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade in New York. “There have been recently some hiccups but I sincerely believe that these are temporary aberrations and diplomacy should be given a chance to resolve the issues that have arisen,” he