New Delhi: Virtually rejecting demands from within UPA and outside for rollback of FDI in retail, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday justified the decision as a well considered move and attacked Opposition for not allowing Parliament to function.

Prime Minister was addressing Youth Congress convention here. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who also graced the occasion however made no reference to the raging controversy over FDI in retail. It was Sonia Gandhi’s first public appearance after her return from abroad where she underwent treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

Manmohan Singh said there was no compulsion on states to implement the decision of the Union Cabinet with regard to allowing 51 per cent FDI in retail and there were options available to them for not implementing.

Singh insisted that the decision to allow FDI in retail was aimed at creating jobs, improving rumeneration of farmers and enabling import of technology besides benefitting consumers.

"I would .. like to a mention today of the decision of the government permitting Foreign Direct Investment in Retail. We have not taken this decision in any haste but after a lot of
consideration. It is our firm conviction that the decision will benefit our country," the Prime Minister said.

He defended the decision taken last week even as Parliament was paralysed for the third day on the issue with Opposition, joined by UPA constituents Trinamool Congress and DMK, being unrelenting on the demand for its reversal. Voices of opposition have emerged from within Congress also.

"We believe that it will bring modern technology to the country, improve rural infrastructure, reduce wastage of agricultural produce and enable our farmers to get better
prices for their crops," Singh said, virtually ruling out any reversal of the decision.

Justifying the decision, Singh said the differential that exists between wholesale and retail prices will reduce and consumers will get commodities of daily use at reduced prices.

"As far as small retailers are concerned, the experience in some other countries suggests that both big and small retailers can easily co-exist in a big country like ours," he said.

On the fears that the small businesses in the country would be hurt by the FDI decision, the Prime Minister said, "we have put some conditions so that FDI in retail promotes our small industry."

Most importantly, he said, "we are not forcing anyone to follow this policy. State governments that are not convinced of its usefulness have the means to prevent foreign participation in retail businesses in their states."

He said FDI in retail will result in creation of many new employment opportunities in a range of sectors like food processing, transportation, and storage.

"I would urge all of you to inform the people correctly on the issue," held told the Youth Congress workers.

Talking about the logjam in Parliament, Singh attacked the Opposition, saying disruption of proceedings amounted to doing "injustice" with those who have elected MPs and lowered the image of the country.

He said all differences can be discussed in Parliament and was "still hopeful of finding a way out of the current impasse" for which the government will continue its efforts.

While talking about the government's endeavours to push reforms, Singh said, "the work we have to do requires the enactment of many new legislations and amendments in many existing ones." Singh said the government wants to take the legislative matters speedily before Parliament.

"It is necessary that Parliament functions smoothly if we are to move ahead. But the Opposition parties are not allowing this to happen in the current session," he said.

The Prime Minister said government has always believed that "whatever differences of opinion the opposition parties have with us should be discussed and debated in Parliament.

"If we don't do this and create obstructions in the work of Parliament, we do injustice to the faith reposed in us by the people who have elected us as their representatives."

Bringing the work of Parliament to a halt, he said, "also reduces the country's prestige".

Referring to the issue of price rise, he attributed it to a variety of factors, including domestic and international, and said the government was determined to deal with it.

Listing the factors, Singh said due to rise in global prices of commodities, government has to raise Minimum Support Price of farm produce which causes inflationary pressure.

Similarly, when international fuel prices go up, it has an impact on costs of other commodities, he said.

"We have taken so many initiatives, including fiscal initiatives... We hope by these measures, inflation will come down," Singh said.

"In the coming months we will redouble our efforts for ensuring that the fruits of development reach all citizens of our country, and especially those who have been left behind," he said.

Observing that "we have still a long way to go", he said, "It is no easy task to meet the challenges that face us."

Sonia seeks Oppn help on Lokpal Bill

Calling corruption a "plague", Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the government was
committed to eradicating it and hoped that the opposition will help in passage of anti-graft measures including Lokpal.

She said together with the Lokpal bill, the government is working on a variety of legislations "which will systematically fight corruption," adding "I hope that the opposition will support us in passing these important measures."

During her over 10-minute address, she Gandhi made no reference to the raging controversy over FDI in retail.

She said, "The political system needs administrative, judicial and electoral reforms including state funding of elections and fast tracking of corruption cases."

Referring to the issue of corruption, she said, "Corruption is indeed a plague of public life.... We are committed to eradicating it."

She said the UPA government is all set to introduce the Right to Food Bill in the current session of Parliament.

"It is our government that has brought in the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, the Right to Information, the Forest Rights Act and the Right to Education. The right to food bill is to be
introduced in the current session of Parliament," Gandhi said referring to a variety of legislations brought by the UPA government. She asserted that the government has taken a number of measures to empower the citizens.

"Our actions have more than showed our resolve. The RTI which our government brought in has placed in the hands of the people, in the hands of you all, a powerful weapon against corruption," she said.

The Congress president said the UPA government's measures like UID scheme or Aadhar will give all citizens the right to identity.

"But we all know the true empowerment can only come from participation," Gandhi said,

Maintaining that the Congress has always been in the forefront in the fight for freedom and safeguarding the rights of the common people, she said, "In the last seven years, the Congress-led UPA government under the leadership of Manmohan Singhji has initiated a number of measures that that have brought great relief to the 'aam aadmi' while ensuring them their rights."

She said the Youth Congress should make sure that schemes of government are widely known and it should work as a "pressure group" to ensure their proper implementation.

Gandhi appreciated the example set by the Youth Congress by barring those convicted of crimes from contesting organisational elections.

In a word of advice, she said while they have contested elections against fellow members, once the exercise is over, "you are all part of the same team working towards a single common goal - the betterment of the organisation of the Congress party."

She said difference of opinion on various issues can be ironed out through discussions within the organisation.

Rahul asks youth leaders win people's trust like Mahatama

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday exhorted Youth Congress leaders to create "mutinies within" like him to guide the destiny of the nation and not lose the trust of the people.

"Learn to lead. Test your ideas, Challenge your thoughts. Create mutinies within yourself and others around you, develop a relationship with your people. Learn to listen to people," he said addressing "Buniyad", a national convention of elected Youth Congress office bearers from across the country.

The Congress general secretary said the system of elections and democratisation has been taken up by the Youth Congress so that its doors are open to the youth of the nation.

"This system of periodic elections will ensure that the youth of India will have the opportunity to elect their own leaders every two years. The elections have empowered a new generation of Youth Congress leaders," he told the delegates.

Dedicating most of his speech to Mahatma Gandhi and the ideals he stood for, Rahul asked the youth Congress workers to listen to and respect their opponents, because "they guide you".

"Most importantly, learn to recognise and fight for the truth. Finally, understand that leadership in our tradition is not about taking but about giving. It is not about leading people but leading yourselves," he said, as he called upon them to take the reins of the Youth Congress to "guide the destiny of the nation".

Rahul Gandhi also asked the youth leaders to earn the trust of the people, which he said is the only thing that a politician will ever have in his career.

Reminding the youth of Mahatma Gandhi who did not seek to lead people but only led himself, Rahul said he developed leadership in people around him by encouraging them to do the same.

"A leader in the Indian tradition is not someone who leads people. She is someone who knows how to lead herself," he said.

Talking about Mahatma, Rahul said he believed all human beings have the right to political expression and his conflict with the British occurred because he felt they did not allow Indians the right to political expression.

(JPN/Agencies)