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Manmohan Singh turns 80 today

New Delhi, Sep 26 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, turned 80 on Wednesday.

Dr. Singh, who has so far shied away from birthday celebrations, has a busy today as he attending a function where he would give away the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awards and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) awards on the organisation’s 70th Foundation Day function.

A workaholic Prime Minister is, however, faced with intense pressure from the opposition parties over a slew of reforms announced by the UPA Government led by him.

Dr. Singh has also lost the support of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), which has withdraws its support over the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, a cap on the number of LPG gas and diesel price hike.

A confident Prime Minister last week justified the recent economic reforms, saying no government likes to impose burdens on the common man.

Dr. Singh said the UPA Government has been voted to office twice to protect the interests of the ‘aam admi’.

“At the same time, it is the responsibility of the government to defend the national interest, and protect the long term future of our people. This means that we must ensure that the economy grows rapidly, and that this generates enough productive jobs for the youth of our country,” said Dr. Singh in his address to the nation.

“Rapid growth is also necessary to raise the revenues we need to finance our programmes in education, health care, housing and rural employment,” he added.

Dr. Singh said the price of diesel was raised by just Rs. 5 per litre instead of the Rs 17 that was needed to cut all losses on diesel.

” Much of diesel is used by big cars and SUVs owned by the rich and by factories and businesses. Should government run large fiscal deficits to subsidise them? We reduced taxes on petrol by Rs. 5 per litre to prevent a rise in petrol prices. We did this so that the crores of middle class people who drive scooters and motorcycles are not hit further,” said Dr. Singh.

“On LPG, we put a cap of 6 subsidised cylinders per year. Almost half of our people, who need our help the most, actually use only 6 cylinders or less. We have ensured they are not affected. Others will still get 6 subsidised cylinders, but they must pay a higher price for more. We did not touch the price of kerosene, which is consumed by the poor,” he added.

The Prime Minister also defended the UPA Government’s move to allow foreign direct investment in retail, saying it would not hurt the small traders.

“Organised, modern retailing is already present in our country and is growing. All our major cities have large retail chains. Our national capital, Delhi, has many new shopping centres. But it has also seen a three-fold increase in small shops in recent years,” said Dr. Singh.

“In a growing economy, there is enough space for big and small to grow. The fear that small retailers will be wiped out is completely baseless,” he added.

Asserting that the opening of organised retail to foreign investment will benefit the farmers, Dr. Singh said: ” According to the regulations we have introduced, those who bring FDI have to invest 50 percent of their money in building new warehouses, cold-storages, and modern transport systems.”

“This will help to ensure that a third of our fruits and vegetables, which at present are wasted because of storage and transit losses, actually reach the consumer. Wastage will go down; prices paid to farmers will go up; and prices paid by consumers will go down,” he added.

The Prime Minister also said the growth of organised retail would also create millions of good new jobs.

Born on September 26, 1932, Dr. Manmohan Singh is the 13th and current Prime Minister of India. A renowned economist, he is the only Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full five-year term, and the first Sikh to hold the office. (ANI)