Terming terrorism and Maoist violence as two major challenges facing the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the Delhi High Court blast was a stark reminder that there can be no let up in the vigil.

Dr. Singh said everyone must unequivocally send out a message that pursuit of violence cannot be justified under any circumstances and reaffirm the collective resolve to fight the menace of terrorism in all its forms with available means.

“The problems of terrorism and Left—wing extremism constitute two major challenges that our society and polity face today. The terrorist attack in Delhi last Wednesday is a stark reminder to us that there can be no let up in our vigilance,” he said addressing the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting here.

The meeting was attended by senior Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, Leaders of Opposition in Parliament, leaders of national and regional political parties among others.

“Time and again our nation has been subjected to terrorist violence. Terrorist seek to justify such violence based on misplaced sense of ideology,” he noted.

The Prime Minister said no civilised society can tolerate or endorse loss of innocent lives in the pursuit of any ideology and institutions and instruments of the country’s democratic polity allow sufficient opportunity for articulating differing view without resorting to violence.

Dr. Singh stressed on the need to identify and address the causes of radicalisation of some of the country’s youth.

“Very clearly, lack of productive employment opportunities for our young men and women is one factor which aids such radicalisation. Education and skill development opportunities have a major role to play in addressing this problem,” he said.

Intelligence sharing

Referring to steps being taken to strengthen security agencies, Singh said there was a need to continuously upgrade and strengthen investigating agencies and the intelligence gathering apparatus to deal more effectively with the newer methods and technologies that the terrorists and Naxals adopt.

Noting that government has tried hard to strengthen the country’s security apparatus, he said, “The intelligence sharing mechanism under the Multi—Agency Centre has been bolstered and the National Intelligence Grid is being implemented so that intelligence from various sources can be accessed and analysed to identify actionable points."

The Prime Minister said the problem of Naxalism has a development dimension also and the Centre is making special efforts for development of backward areas, many of which are affected by Left—wing extremism.

“The Central and state governments have to work together to confront the challenges to our internal security and we will strive hard for greater coordination not only between the Centre and states but also between states,” he said.

'Excessive use of force often proves counter— productive'

Referring to civil disturbances, which is one of the agenda items of Saturday’s meeting, Dr. Singh said one should keep in mind that excessive use of force often proves counter— productive.

“We need to distinguish between criminal activities and misguided discontent that finds unlawful expression. It is with this intent that the Home Ministry has circulated instructions for dealing with crowds in a non—lethal manner,” he said.

He urged the chief ministers to ensure that these are made operational by appropriately equipping and training the police forces.

Dr. Singh said it was a matter of great satisfaction that in recent years relations among various communities have by and large remained harmonious.

“Nevertheless, we need to maintain a continuous vigil in this regard. We also need to recognise that members of the minority communities often have a perception of being unfairly targeted by law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of unfortunate incidents.

“While law must take its own course, we need to ensure that our investigating agencies are free from biases and prejudices of any kind,” he said

National integration

The Prime Minister said the NIC meeting provides a unique opportunity for exchange of views on issues of vital national importance.

“Common citizenship, unity in diversity, secularism, equality, justice — social, economic and political, and fraternity among all communities constitute the foundation of our national life. At the NIC meetings we reiterate our faith in these abiding values,” he said.

The Prime Minister also praised members of NIC who have played an active role in ensuring that people respond with maturity to developments that may otherwise flare up communal tempers.

Security and counter-terrorism

The Prime Minister said regional hubs of the National Security Guards have been set up to enable quick deployment of counter—terrorism strike forces, when required.

He said coastal security has also been strengthened by establishing additional coastal police stations and providing interceptor boats.

“The strength of central paramilitary forces has been increased. The National Investigation Agency has begun investigating terrorist related crimes in the right earnest,” he said.

Dr. Singh said the tripartite agreement for setting up the Gorkhaland Territorial Authority and several Suspension of Operations agreements in the North—East have helped bring peace and bridge a divide in perceptions.

“Our interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir and the North—East are exploring ways of finding political solutions and creating a more durable peace for a stronger India,” he said.

The Prime Minister said major challenges before the country still remain ensuring security from internal and external disturbances and steps in this regard have always been accorded the highest priority.

“Security matters have been regularly reviewed and discussed jointly with state governments. We have also taken up security issues with our neighbours and I am happy that some of our neighbours have extended cooperation, which has proved helpful in controlling violence in the North—East.

However, concerns remain and these will continue to be addressed,” he said.

Economic growth

On the development front, Dr. Singh said the government has taken several steps to ensure higher growth, coupled with greater inclusion.

“Our government is moving forward with legislative proposals for securing a better deal for people where land acquisition becomes unavoidable in the larger public interest, and also for sharing benefits of mining operations with persons who have occupations, and traditional rights in such areas,” he said.

Dr. Singh said the needs of the minorities were highlighted by the Sachar Committee, and concerted efforts have been made to address them through various initiatives.

In our federal polity, the Prime Minister said creating a sense of oneness among our citizens and ensuring their welfare has to be the joint endeavour of both the Centre and States.

“Together, over the last few years, we have taken several steps to ensure greater involvement of our people in the affairs of the nation. Our policy of engagement has helped secure peace in many areas that had experienced considerable violence in the past,” he said.

Elementary education

Dr. Singh said the launch of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan will enable the country to build on the gains made in elementary education.

“We have made efforts at providing more opportunities with greater inclusion in higher education. We hope, these measures will help our youth harness the opportunities that a growing economy like India provides. Whether we are able to reap the benefits of our large population of young people would depend critically on the kind of skills we are able to impart to them,” he said.

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