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Prime Minister Says India Will Not Be Totally Independent Until Poverty Eliminated


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for the 1.1 billion Indians of all castes and religions to unite to fulfill the goals of those who led India to independence in 1947. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi on India's independence anniversary.

In a ceremony inside the historic Red Fort in Old Delhi, India marked the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain.

A chorus of schoolchildren leads a crowd of political leaders, government officials and diplomats in singing the national anthem.

In front of the crowd stood Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, wearing his trademark powder-blue turban.

In a 40-minute address, Mr. Singh lamented that not all the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and others who won the struggle to end colonialism have been realized.

Mr. Singh says independence for India will not be complete until poverty is eradicated in the country.

He called for India to eliminate malnutrition in five years and vowed a revolution in education with greater access to new universities and vocational schools.

Mr. Singh announced there would be a massive increase in public spending on education, health care, agriculture and rural development.

He added that industrialization would be the most effective means to expand employment.

Despite a booming economy and a growing middle class, one of every four Indians lives below the poverty line, 40 percent are illiterate and most do not have adequate health care.

Celebrations in the capital took place under extremely tight security, with roads virtually deserted on the national holiday. Officials say there have been fresh threats against New Delhi from the al-Qaida terrorist network and indigenous separatist groups.

The prime minister did not directly mention India's rival Pakistan, although Mr. Singh said that the prosperity and well-being of its neighbors is key to India's security and progress.

When India became independent in August 1947, a separate predominately Muslim state was carved out of the sub-continent. The division prompted a violent migration of millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

Pakistan celebrated its independence on Tuesday.

Mr. Singh on Tuesday received a telephone call from President Bush to extend best wishes for the independence anniversary.

The government says the two leaders discussed a variety of topics, including civil nuclear cooperation, under a recent agreement that would allow India to use American nuclear fuel for civilian facilities.

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