Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Prime Minister's Office
18-February-2011 18:46 IST
PM's Speech on Presentation of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Award 2008 & 2009 and Unveiling of Plaque of Jica Assisted Water Supply Project for Guwahati City
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh presented Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Award 2008 and 2009 and unveiled the plaque of Jica Assisted Water Supply Project for Guwahati City in Guwahati today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:

“It is a privilege for me to participate in this very prestigious award function and in the ceremony for unveiling the foundation stone of the Water Supply Project for Guwahati. It is always a pleasure to visit Assam, a state which has a special place in my heart. I am once again very happy to be amidst you.

The Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Award for National Integration is given to people who have contributed significantly to the causes of social harmony and national integration. It is also a small token of our gratitude to one of the great sons of Assam and India. Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed’s contribution to the Indian freedom struggle was invaluable. A firm believer in the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, he left an indelible imprint on the political landscape of our great nation. Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed’s long and distinguished career in public life, which culminated in his occupying the august position of President of India is a shining example of commitment to ethical values and selfless service to the people. Indeed, his contribution to the building of our society and country continues inspiring all of us.

The institution of the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Award by the Government of Assam is a befitting tribute to the memory of this great leader. I compliment the Chief Minister of Assam for taking this initiative.

I congratulate and compliment, Shri. M.J.Akbar and Smt. Hema Bharali, the awardees for the years 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Shri M.J. Akbar is a distinguished editor and a prolific author. He occupies a special place in Indian journalism. His deep understanding of contemporary events, coupled with an incisive analytical ability have educated and informed our people on several vexed issues that our country faces. Known for his commitment to personal honesty and professional integrity, Shri Akbar has set a benchmark in the field of journalism for others to emulate. Indeed, his work has contributed handsomely to fostering social harmony and national integration. I applaud Shri Akbar’s achievements and wish him even more success in the future.

Smt. Hema Bharali’s life is a shining example of selfless service to the downtrodden. An eminent freedom fighter, steeped in Gandhian philosophy, she has been closely associated with the Bhoodan movement. Over the past several decades, she has constantly engaged herself in promoting education and activities for social uplift of the under privileged sections of our society, thus contributing to the cause of social harmony. She has also worked tirelessly for the welfare and empowerment of women and contribution to peace and non-violence. She is a worthy winner of the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed award and I wish that in the future she will be even more successful in improving the status of the underprivileged people and giving hope to them.

Our society and country have a glorious tradition of tolerance and secularism. India has ever been ready to accommodate newer ways of thinking and living. The liberal outlook that defines our multi-religious and multi-cultural society needs to be nurtured and strengthened. I believe that it is an obligation for all of us to work in this direction. I also believe that distinguished people like the two awardees of today are a great inspiration to others to uphold the best in our heritage in terms of ideals and values.

As you know, Assam has witnessed turbulent times in the recent past. It is to the credit of the people of this State that they have been able to successfully combat fissiparous forces. It goes without saying that peace and harmony are a prerequisite for meaningful development. I am happy that a number of initiatives have been taken by both the Central and the State Government towards this end. The establishment of Territorial/Hill Councils has provided a forum to address genuine needs. However, we must help these Councils to build capacities to ensure that they are able to fulfill their responsibilities in a manner which is responsive, transparent and accountable. I was happy to meet the representatives of the United Liberation Front of Assam recently at Delhi. The discussions were good and give me hope for the future. It is my firm belief that the process of dialogue is the only method for fostering greater understanding and resolving vexed problems.

I am also very happy to unveil the foundation stone of the Guwahati Water Supply Project. I am sure that the project, being executed with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency, will benefit a large segment of the population of Guwahati. The project is a step in the right direction in our endeavor to ensure access to safe drinking water for all our citizens. I would expect those associated with the implementation of the project to adhere to the decided time-lines.

Let us not forget that in about twenty years, nearly half the country’s population will live in urban areas. It is therefore, imperative that we strengthen our urban infrastructure swiftly. The challenges of urban governance are several and need to be approached with a long term-perspective as well as sensitivity, especially where the under-privileged sections of society are concerned. We also need to pursue the agenda of reforms in the urban sector with the overall objective of ensuring greater public good. Under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, the government of India has been supporting substantial investments towards the development of urban infrastructure. The city of Guwahati has been selected as one of the mission cities. Apart from the Water Supply Project, we have also sanctioned a Solid Waste Management Project for the city. Further, purchase of 50 buses for urban transportation in Guwahati has been approved as part of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. It is my hope that these measures will contribute in improving the quality of life for the residents of Guwahati.

Let me end by once again congratulating Shri Akbar and Smt. Bharali. I wish them many years of good health and happiness, and service to our country. I also wish the Guwahati Water Supply Project all success. As always my good wishes are with the people of Assam, with whom I share a special bond. May God bless you with peace and greater prosperity in the future.”