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PM assures India on better economy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the nation Thursday that the Indian economy will again witness rapid growth thanks to the steps taken in recent months for speedier industry clearances, building infrastructure and boosting inflow of overseas capital. He also promised a host of new infrastructure projects and assured removal of bottlenecks for big-ticket clearances.

He promised a new scheme soon, targeting some one million beneficiaries, under which trained youth will get some form of financial assistance.

"I believe this phase of slow growth in India will not last long. In the last nine years, our economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.9 percent. This pace of development is the highest in any decade so far," the prime minister said in his Independence Day address from the Red Fort here.

He said several steps had been taken in recent months to ensure removal of bottlenecks for infrastructure development, speed up clearances for industry and attract further foreign investment with enhanced sector-specific caps.

"In the coming months, we will see visible results of these efforts to increase investment. Our growth will accelerate, new employment opportunities will be generated and there will be improvements in the infrastructure sector," he said.

"In the recent months, there has been much discussion on the fact that last year our growth rate came down to 5 percent. This is indeed true and we are trying our best to remedy the situation."

He said a number of new infrastructure projects will start in the coming months. "This includes two new ports, eight new airports, new industrial corridors and rail projects."

"The cabinet committee on investment is also working to remove hindrances in the way of stalled projects," he added.

The prime minister especially expressed concern over inadequate coal supplies, saying it was a major hurdle in increasing electricity generation. "But this has been resolved to a large extent," he said.

On skill development, prime minister said: "In the area of skill development, we could not initially achieve as much progress as we wanted. But now the pace has picked up. We have established the National Skill Development Authority a few months back."

He promised to launch a new scheme soon under which those who have successfully acquired new skills will be given a grant of about Rs.10,000. "This scheme will benefit about 10 lakh (one million) young men and women in the next 12 months."

The prime minister said that India cannot achieve its goal of making its villages prosperous without rapid agricultural growth.

"We have constantly endeavoured to increase production and to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. In the last nine years, support prices for various crops have been enhanced as never before," he said.

"The support prices for wheat and paddy have been more than doubled. Many states which faced shortages of food-grains earlier are now producing more than what they require for themselves," he added.

India's foodgrain production reached 25.9 crore tonnes in 2011-12.

The average annual rate of agricultural growth in the 11th Plan was 3.6 percent, which is more than both the 9th and 10th Plan levels.

"We now see clear indications of enhanced economic prosperity in our rural areas. In the period 2004 to 2011, rural per-capita consumption has increased four times faster than earlier," he said, adding rural wages had also increased much faster in this period.

According to the prime minister, there was some good progress in the past nine years in the infrastructure sector, notably in areas such as roads, railways, power, civil aviation, ports and telecommunications. He listed the following achievements:

* About 200,000 km of new roads to connect villages

* Over 37,000 km of new highways to facilitate travel and trade

* More than 40 airports built or upgraded

* Mobile phone penetration up from 7 percent to 73 percent

* Record addition to capacity for electricity generation