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Pm's Virtual Conversation With Panchayat Chief

The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, had a virtual "tete-a-tete" through video-conferencing on August 01, 2000 with the chiefs of Panchayat Raj Institutions from 14 video/studio link centres spread across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. In an hour-long conversation, the Prime Minister had a first hand assessment of the nitty-gritty of the local problems being faced at the grassroots level in the country. The video conferencing centres had been established at Bakshi ka Talab, Gaurabaug, Sarojini Nagar, Nishatganj and Cantonment Park Road in Lucknow district (UP), Himmat Nagar, Mehsana, Nadiad, Palanpur and Gandhinagar in Gujarat and at Mangalore, Dharwar, Raichur and Tumkur in Karnataka.

Lauding the role of science in the rapid strides being made by the nation, the Prime Minister congratulated the scientists and engineers for their endeavour to make the video conference a reality. Mr Vajpayee said that this would bridge gaps and open up new vistas of growth and communication. The Prime Minister gave a patient hearing to the Panchayat representatives and, at the same time, apprised them of the limitations and practical problems faced by the government at times. While assuring the panchayat chiefs that their suggestions would be looked into, the Prime Minister asked the chiefs and villagers to increase mutual co-operation and pool together their resources to bring to fruition the various plans. He also assured all possible government assistance. Shri Vajpayee exhorted them to take collective decisions and make concerted efforts at their level and not to look up to the Government always. The Prime Minister called upon the 'pancha' to act as watchdogs on the performance of Government officials so that they do not stray from their assigned duties.

Among the vast array of issues discussed at the video conference were - specific problems faced by panchayat institutions like education, water shortage, and irrigation. The need for construction of cold storages to preserve food was also pointed out since 40 per cent of foodgrains and vegetables go waste.

Emphatically denying that his Government was anti-poor, the Prime Minister said that while formulating policies and programmes, the Government has always kept the interests of the poor persons and the common people upper most. He also pointed out the persons living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) have been spared from the recent price rise.

Mr Vajpayee said that decentralisation of power will ensure increased participation of community and the people. He also gave an assurance that changes in the system, wherever desirable and feasible, would be undertaken. The Prime Minister expressed happiness over the fact that more and more women were being elected as Panchayat chiefs. He also expressed the hope that with the initiation of the process of making women equal partners in sharing power, the Panchayats would involve more and more people on the high road to development, especially in the sphere of rural development and agriculture.

The Prime Minister reiterated the Government's commitment to make everyone literate. He said that necessary infrastructure for providing education should be developed and strengthened in rural areas.

The Prime Minister said that the proper utilisation of funds must be ensured so that every single rupee is spent for people's welfare. He also advised to inculcate saving habits and make use of co-operative banks to mobilise resources for developmental activities.

Pointing to the all round globilisation, the prime Minister said that we must gear up to meet the challenges and strengthen our domestic economy to protect our interests. In response to a question from a Panchayat chief from Gujarat, Mr Vajpayee alluded to the collective efforts to overcome the recent spell of drought in Gujarat and added that such proposals like the building of check dams were laudable. Referring to the problems of water shortage for irrigation purposes, the Prime Minister stressed upon the need to conserve water and minimise the wastage of water resources. Mr Vajpayee also pointed out that a nation-wide programme to establish a network of roads has been take upto link the remotest of the villages.

The video conference was held at the Prime Minister's residence to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Satellite Broadcasting in India. Satellite Television broadcast was first introduced by ISRO in India 25 years back when the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), targeted for rural areas, was commenced on August 1, 1975. The video conference involved the use of INSAT-2C and INSAT-3B satellites. Over the years, ISRO has also conducted interactive training and distance education programmes through the INSAT satellite system.

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