Today we are concentrating on this. I remember the days when I was in college and Gandhiji had raised the slogan of "Each one teach one". The country would greatly benefit if each person - whether he is studying, working in an office or doing some job in the village decides to teach one illiterate in a year. I invite you to contribute in this mission. There are some states in our country which have experienced this revolution. We can talk of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu to a great extent , areas where we have grappled with illiteracy and it has resulted in decreasing population rate. An educated woman contributes greatly in this mission. If an educated woman understands how the growing population can be stopped, how families can be kept small the danger to our development due to population explosion can be stopped.
A shortwhile ago I was talking of science & technology. The Green Revolution of our country was the direct result of this technology. It is a matter of pride that thanks to our scientists we can both make and launch our satellites. There is a new future for the youth of today and science, technology and computer show a new path. I recall Pt.Jawaharlal Nehru's statement that it is not enough for everyone to become a scientist or technologist, it is more important to inculcate a scientific temper among our children and youth. When a child switches on an electric bulb and asks how it functions he should not be scolded. He should be made to understand how electricity is produced and used. When a child acquires a questioning nature, scientific temper is created and it will eliminate the era of superstitions.
Long ago Lord Buddha had said that the people should not have blind faith in anything. Do not believe because I am saying so. Also do not believe that it is written in a book. Question everything - what, why, how, when, these questions raise our thought process would change and the country will progress. Today I am proud to share with you that,where 10 years ago this country had pledged its gold to import petrol, today we have three thousand crore dollars. This is our hard earned money. Our businessmen have earned it. Our industrialists have earned it. Our exporters have earned it and a large portion of it has come from the people who closely watch the economic developments and invest when they find their capital adequately safe. A substantial contribution has come from non-resident Indians.
Today, we all envisage a new future for the country. I am reminded of Gandhiji's statement which said that he would consider the country to be free when he can wipe the tears from every eye. It is true that we have wiped some tears. But we cannot honestly say that today there are no tears in the eyes of our millions. Today therefore,the major issue before me is how to eradicate poverty. The poverty of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and those below the poverty line irrespective of their religion or faith. So we need to lay special emphasis on such programmes and plans. As I was mentioning earlier, at the time of independence, our population was 32 crores and in these 50 years it has increased 3 folds. It is possible that it will touch 100 crores in the coming few years. It is a fact that despite the increase in population, there is food for everybody. We have to give special attention to those who still remain below the poverty line - whether they are one third or 25%. We have to try and control the growing population and there are very strong reasons for this. The biggest reason is poverty because poverty, illiteracy and low status of women lead to an increase in population. The Government will present a national population policy and draft a new law for the same. Today my attention is drawn to slums where people live in extremely dirty surroundings. Similarly, pollution which is harming the health of our children is a cause for concern. Some years ago I had visited Sweden. At that time we felt that poverty alone breeds pollution. Today we have seen our country falling into a vicious circle. One the one hand, pollution breeds poverty and on the other hand prosperous people are causing greater pollution. Their cars emit smoke. They do not pay attention to this and do not object to accumulating filth in their surroundings. Therefore, if we all do not come together and try to break this vicious circle; if we do not fight against pollution the country will not be rid of filth and disease. The Government has framed a lot of policies for cleaning the rivers and lakes. These policies have succeeded to an extent but still a lot of work remains to be done. But I emphasise that if the Government keeps cleaning rivers and we keep polluting them,the purpose will be defeated. So we should awaken the people to launch an anti-pollution campaign and see to it that industries do not emit pollutants. Neither should fertilizers and insecticides be used in such a way that the ground water is polluted and it becomes difficult to get clean drinking water. This is why there is a shortage of clean drinking water. Though we have had a comprehensive environment policy, my topmost priority and foremost challenge on the 9th Plan is to provide clean drinking water to everyone.
The weaker sections of society and I am especially referring to "safai karmacharis" are today the most backward sections of society. They have been denied social justice so far. The Government has established a "safai karmachari" Commission to look into this. The Government is also trying to remove difficulties of night soil workers. Our attention is especially focussed on "safai karmacharis". Our attention is and will be on the backward sections and their upliftment. It is then that they will achieve economic independence. This independence will come when people from the backward classes; safai karmacharis, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, receive a place of respect in society. You may have seen that in many Government offices there is extravagant expenditure. I have decided to set up a new Commission to look into this.