August 7, 2008
New Delhi

PM releases Compilation of Sharad Pawar's Speeches and Interviews

"I am truly delighted to have this unique opportunity to release a book that brings together the speeches and interviews given by my esteemed colleague and dear friend Shri Sharad Pawarji.

Sharadji, has been a friend and colleague for over two decades. I have always greatly valued our association. That is why I readily and happily agreed to write a foreword to this book when I was approached by the editor, Dr. Tikekar.

I compliment Dr. Tikekar for taking this initiative and for bringing together, in a thematic manner, Sharadji's reflections on the changing economic and social change in India and in Maharashtra. I believe there are few people better placed than Sharadji to offer us an informed view of social and economic changes that have taken place in our country in the last three decades.

Sharadji's personal and political life is itself a mirror of the sweeping changes that we have seen in India in the 20th century. His roots are firmly entrenched in the soil of rural India. At the same time, he has emerged as one of the great leaders of India's modernization and globalization. I recall a famous speech one year before I presented my first Budget, Sharadji's speech to the Maratha Chamber of Commerce, it contains all the essential ingredients of the policies that we unfolded later in the decade.

As I have mentioned in the foreword, what has impressed me most about Sharadji is the passion and dedication he has shown in the development of his constituency, Baramati. The enormous agrarian success story of Baramati needs to be replicated across the country, if we have to get rid off chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions and millions of our people. If the whole of India can develop like Baramati we can as a nation walk tall in the world.

In an interview published in this volume, Sharadji defines the "Baramati Pattern" of development thus:

"Baramati Pattern means braving all odds, meeting adversity in the face. Baramati receives a rainfall of only about 8 inches annually. More than 70% of its land is drought prone. Despite this, it has twelve sugar factories. The grapes grown here are routinely exported. 'Tropicana Juice' is manufactured in this region. The cheese that is used by fast food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonalds etc. is produced in Baramati. Milk products marketed all over the country too are made in Baramati. All this has been done against all odds and adversities. This is popularly called the Baramati Pattern".

Baramati has also experienced creditable progress in human development. School and college education has expanded. Technical and vocational educational institutions have come up. Health facilities have greatly improved. Sharadji has also paid special attention to the education of girls and emancipation of women.

I say all this to underscore the point I have made to Sharadji on many occasions, that if we can replicate the Baramati experience across the country, and improve upon it, then we would be in a position to wipe out poverty, to improve the lot of our farmers, to provide employment to our youth and to take the country to greater heights of development and glory.

One of the important contributions of the UPA Government in the past 4 years has been to lay the foundation of a new era of development for rural India. I had said in my very first address to the nation in 2004 that we will endeavor give "A NEW DEAL TO RURAL INDIA".

If you look at the totality of the initiatives taken by our Government to increase investment in rural infrastructure, rural education, rural health care, rural housing, rural telecommunication, rural electrification, rural roads and, above all, in agriculture, irrigation and horticulture under the guidance of Shri Sharad Pawar, we have given rural India a new deal. I am confident that in years to come these developments will transform the life of our people.

These initiatives will bear fruit in the medium to long term. To provide immediate relief from the burden of debt and the wages of unemployment our Government took the historic initiative to launch the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act once again drawing upon the pioneering initiative of Maharashtra and finally the massive debt waiver which frees millions and millions of debt–ridden farmers from bondage. Our overall approach to rural development and agrarian challenge is based on our understanding that we must end forever this unacceptable gap between India and Bharat and always Sharad Pawarji has been ond of the most influential leaders of this transformation of our economy, polity and our society.

I must especially mention here our achievements in agriculture, which is indeed a tribute to Sharadji's leadership. In the last 3 years we have achieved a growth rate in agriculture of 4.7 per cent, which is nearly double that of the previous six years.

Sharadji, is an outstanding representative of the bridge between India and what is called 'Bharat'. He has been passionately committed to the welfare of our farmers, as he has been to economic modernization, liberalisation and globalization. I compliment him for his modernism.

We need more such political leaders in our country whose feet are firmly on the ground and whose mind looks ahead and is open to new ideas, new challenges and new opportunities. This rare combination of tradition and modernity makes Shri Sharad Pawar a very special and unique leader.

Dr. Tikekar would have done his job well if his selection of speeches and interviews of Shri Sharad Pawar brings out this unique aspect of Sharadji's personality. I wish Sharadji a very long, healthy and active life in the service of our people. I hope this book will be widely read."