Making his last Independence Day speech from the Red Fort ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Manmohan Singh detailed the achievements of the Congress-led UPA government since it first took power in 2004.
Speaking in Hindi under an overcast sky, the 81-year-old prime minister presented the big picture, placing emphasis on the government's successes, detailing what more could be achieved and admitting to some weak areas.
In comments laced with political overtones, Manmohan Singh declared that there was no place "for narrow and sectarian ideologies in a modern, progressive and secular country.
"Such ideologies divide our society and weaken our democracy. We should prevent them from growing," he said in a crisp 35-minute speech, speaking from behind a bullet-proof enclosure at the Red Fort.
"We need to strengthen those traditions of our country which teach us to promote tolerance and respect for thought processes different from ours."
Thousands of security personnel were deployed at the venue, where India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, began the tradition of addressing the nation every Aug 15 after India gained independence in 1947.
Delhi itself came under a thick security blanket amid fears of possible terror attacks.
Stating that India had witnessed major changes after every decade, the prime minister said there was a need to build an environment of political stability, social cohesion and security.
Manmohan Singh said India desired friendship with all neighbouring countries but relations with Pakistan would improve only when it prevents the use of its territory for anti-India activity.
He referred to the "dastardly attack" by Pakistani troops this month that killed five Indian soldiers in Kashmir and vowed to "take all possible steps to prevent such incidents".
He asserted that in no other decade had India seen such economic development as in the past 10 years - when the United Progressive Alliance was in power.
The economist-turned-politician admitted that India's growth rate had fallen to 5 percent. "We are trying our best to remedy the situation... I believe this phase of slow growth in India will not last long."
India, he said, grew in the last nine years at an annual average rate of 7.9 percent. He called the pace "the highest in any decade".
Manmohan Singh said the government had taken many steps to speed up the process of clearances for industry, build an environment more conducive to trade and industry, and increase investment in the economy.
Even as he listed his achievements, including the much talked about food security bill, he admitted that much remained to be done to reform India's educational system.
"Many of our schools still lack drinking water facilities, toilets and other necessary infrastructure. There is a need to improve the quality of education."
The prime minister claimed a reduction in Maoist and terrorist violence but admitted that "Naxal attacks happen from time to time".
He said the UPA had taken key measures to make governance responsive, transparent and honest.
The Right to Information Act had helped expose "irregularities and corruption" and hoped it would lead to further improvements in the way the government functions.
When the Lokpal Bill became law, it would "be a major step towards making our political system clean".
--IANS (Posted on 15-08-2013)