Patil echoes UPA’s refrain of inclusive growth

February 25th, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil’s maiden speech Monday to the budget session of parliament gave a distinct sense that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in the election mode as she referred to inclusive growth and plans to enhance investments in education, agriculture, health and rural development. In her address to the joint session of the two houses, Patil in her all-encompassing speech also struck an optimistic note about the beleaguered India-US civil nuclear deal. She said the government hoped that “civil nuclear cooperation with the USA and other friendly countries will become possible”.

She reiterated the government’s determination to strengthen relations with India’s neighbours and all major powers of the world. The president’s speech to the joint session of both houses of parliament, heralding the budget session, is prepared by the government, indicating its priorities.

“The parliament convenes at a time when the economy is on the move. My government remains firmly committed to ensuring that the economic growth process is socially inclusive, regionally balanced and environmentally sustainable,” Patil noted.

“The measures taken by my government have created the necessary architecture of inclusive growth,” she stressed in her address, which serves as a defining policy statement by the government for the year.

She reiterated the government’s commitment to ensure all-round development of minorities, Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs).

Patil then went on to list a slew of schemes launched by the government to achieve the objective of “socially inclusive and regionally balanced growth” including the Bharat Nirman, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All programme), the National Rural Health Mission and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the government’s key social sector flagship programmes.

Setting an upbeat tone for robust economic growth, the president stressed on the government’s strategy of blending inclusive development with the acceleration of economic growth.

“For the first time in history, the Indian economy has grown at close to nine percent per annum for four years in a row,” she said, while “the overall internal security situation remains under control.”

The president also emphasised the government’s resolve to continue on the path of economic growth while keeping prices under check.

“India is on the move. There is an air of optimism among our youth and of expectation among the less-privileged sections of society.

“The challenge before us is to sustain the development process in the face of external and internal threats. The people of India have the potential to fuel the engine of global growth,” she said, alluding to the threat of terrorism facing the nation and the world.

Inclusive growth, however, remained the key mantra of the president’s address.

“The outlays on agriculture, health and rural development have been tripled,” she said.

“The combined resources for agriculture, irrigation and water resources including a major flood management programme will go up from Rs.46,131 crore (Rs.461.31 biliion) in the 10th Plan to Rs.1,38,548 crore (Rs.1.38 trillion) in the 11th Plan. The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana with an outlay of Rs.25,000 crore (Rs.250 billion) for farm revival aims at stepping up agricultural growth to 4 percent in the 11th Plan by incentivising states to invest more in the sector,” she said.

“Taken together with education, these sectors account for more than half of the Central Gross Budgetary Support as compared to less than 1/3rd in the 10th Plan. So far 138,000 sub-centres, 22,669 primary health centres, 3,947 community health centres and 540 district hospitals have been supported with resources under the National Rural Health Mission,” the president added.

In what was also meant to be a peek into the broader policy trust of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, Patil said the nine percent growth for four years in a row was unprecedented for India.

“I am confident that creativity, enterprise and hard work of our young people will be able to sustain these high rates in the years to come,” the president said in the speech that covered a range of topics, with focus on the poor.

The president also spoke of the measures taken in areas like rural development, urban renewal, sprucing up infrastructure, power generation, energy security, national highways development, railways and civil aviation, special economic zones (SEZs) and specific measures meant for the development of the northeast region.

“The North Eastern Council has been collaborating with the Airports Authority of India to upgrade 18 airports in the northeastern region. The greenfield airports will be built up in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” Patil said, saying that improving connectivity, expanding infrastructure and generating employment were the focus of the government’s initiatives in the region.

In her speech, Patil also underlined the government’s commitment to improving relations with not just the US but with all other major powers of the world like Russia, China, Japan and the European Union. The remarks were made in the context of the Left’s accusation that the country’s foreign policy was becoming pro-US to the detriment of relations with other countries like Russia.

“My government has made rapid improvements in our relationships with the major powers of the world. Our relations with the USA have improved in the past few years, and now span a wide spectrum including high technology, space, agriculture, education and trade and other linkages,” the president said.

The president underlined India’s commitment to “a peaceful, stable and prosperous neighbourhood,” and specially “peace, friendship and good-neighbourly relations” with Pakistan. “A stable and prosperous Pakistan, at peace with itself, is in the interests of our entire region,” said Patil, the first woman president of India.

“When conditions permit we will resume our dialogue process with Pakistan, aimed at building mutual confidence and resolving outstanding issues, premised on an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”

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