'Asia-Pacific is still beset with poverty and backwardness': Mukherjee

New Delhi, Sept. 30 (ANI): President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said despite Asia-Pacific being one of the fastest growing regions in the world, it is still beset with poverty and backwardness.

President Mukherjee, who inaugurated the nineteenth meeting of the Governing Council of the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) at a function at Vigyan Bhavan here, said sustainable development requires us to build capacity of the rural population, particularly the poor and marginalized.

"Rural areas are important for any intervention in food security, education, skill development, employment, technology dissemination, health and nutrition, housing, drinking water and sanitation. For all of us in the Asia-Pacific region and for many in the world, rural development and poverty alleviation have become synonymous with national development," he added.

President Mukherjee said a rural growth strategy has become necessary to make a decisive impact on poverty and to trigger a development process that combines growth with equity.

"Technology has to be the vehicle to bridge distances - not only in terms of geography, but also progress and development. The digital divide between urban and rural areas has to be broken. Technology-based solutions have to assist interventions in farming, healthcare and education. Land, which is increasingly becoming a scarce resource, has to be managed efficiently," said President Mukherjee.

"Principles of community empowerment have to be adopted to increase the productivity of land, particularly rain-fed, degraded and waste lands. Climate change, energy security and environmental degradation have to be given priority in development initiatives. Judicious resource management has to be ensured even while putting people first," he added.

President Mukherjee said our policies have to ensure people's participation at various stages of programme formulation and implementation; transparency in the operation of schemes, and careful monitoring.

"India is a proud repository of elected local self-governments - Panchayati Raj Institutions - at the district, sub-district and village levels. There is approximately quarter of a million Panchayati Raj Institutions in India. This is the single largest representative base in the world and the most prominent symbol of grassroots democracy. As one-third seats are reserved for women, more than one million out of the 2.8 million representatives in these local bodies comprise women," said President Mukherjee.

"Most of the developmental and poverty alleviation programmes are implemented through these local bodies. Good governance practices and women empowerment measures are required to make these bodies viable instruments of rural transformation," he added.

President Mukherjee said rural development has always been a priority agenda of our country.

"The last decade has marked a paradigm shift in approach towards improving the quality of life in the rural areas. Legislation and concrete programmes have sought to give focused attention on rural rejuvenation. By enacting the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2005, a landmark initiative has been taken to confer legal right for 100 days of employment in a year to every rural household demanding work," he added.

President Mukherjee further said the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has recognized the vital importance of road connectivity, especially in rural habitations, to development.

"In 2011, an ambitious poverty reduction programme called the National Rural Livelihood Mission has been launched. It intends to establish self-help groups as effective institutions of the rural poor to enable them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements, increased productive capacity, generation of durable assets, assimilation of new technologies in production and marketing, skill development and improved access to financial services," said President Mukherjee.

"Other welfare programmes have been started, aimed at providing social security net to vulnerable sections of society - the homeless, aged, widow and disabled.

Ladies and Gentlemen," he added.

President Mukherjee said that at a time when global economic pressures have impeded the ability of developing countries to spend in social sectors, resources from multi-lateral financial institutions for investment in rural infrastructure have become crucial.

"It is doubly critical that commitment of our global partners on overseas development assistance and capacity building remain firm. It is a common goal of the developing countries, more so of the Asia-Pacific region, to make rural areas a significant contributing factor to national progress," said President Mukherjee.

"The Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific, which is active in promoting regional cooperation, has a big role to play," he added.

Dignitaries present on the occasion were Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Ministers of State for Rural Development Pradeep Jain and Lal Chand Kataria. (ANI)

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