New Delhi: Terming education and good health for children as an "investment" for the future, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday gave example of his life as a young student to highlight the need for ensuring livelihood security for the people.

"There is the urgent challenge of eradicating poverty, hunger and illiteracy and providing gainful employment to all. There are many steps we need to take to address this challenge ...the most important is to empower every citizen with the light of education. I say this with the deepest conviction because I know what education did for me," Singh said in his New Year message.

Recalling that he was born in a family of modest means, in a village without a doctor or a teacher, no hospital, no school, no electricity, the Prime Minister said he had to walk for miles every day to go to school.

"...but I persevered and was fortunate to be able to secure a high school education, and then go on to higher education. It is this access to education that transformed my life...," he said.

He said educating children, providing them with employable skills and also ensuring their good health must be the first and primary task.

"There is no better investment we can make in the future – the future of our children, of our families, of our communities, and of our nation," he said.

Referring to the issue of national security, the PM said despite grave provocations from extremists and terrorists, the people of India have remained united. "They have not lost faith in our plural, secular and inclusive democracy."

"Our democracy has its faults, but our people are aware of them and have shown their ability to correct these faults...often democracy can be frustrating – both to those who are in government and to those who expect it to be more efficient, effective and humane. But our democracy is our strength. It is also the most important guarantor of internal security," Singh said.

He said while economic growth is essential for the well being of people, one cannot allow growth to be pursued in a manner which damages environment.

"We cannot allow the waters of our rivers to be polluted by untreated effluents and sewage. Yet this is happening because of weak rule and regulation and due to lack of enforcement over industry and the cities," he lamented.

(Agencies)