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Patil harps on growth
Published on 23 Feb. 2010 12:54 AM IST
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Articulating the government’s focus on “aam admi”, the common man, President Pratibha Patil Monday sought to play up India’s growth story in spite of adversities and assured all possible steps to ease the hardship due to high prices. With the opposition making its intentions clear on attacking the Manmohan Singh government for rising prices of essential commodities, Patil devoted the bulk of her 50-minute speech to how inclusive growth remained at the core of its agenda. “Since assuming office in May 2009, my government has worked single-mindedly to build on the achievements of its earlier term to deliver the promise of faster and more inclusive growth,” the president said in a packed central hall of parliament. “The aam aadmi was and is at the core of this promise. The aam aadmi had to be protected against the ravages of the worst ever global economic crisis since the Great Depression and against the failure of the monsoon in large parts of the country.” The address, which kicked off the budget session during which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will present the federal budget for the next fiscal, also listed the measures taken so far and the major policy initiatives proposed over the next few years. India’s growth story -- that has earned global awe and admiration -- was often used by the president to set a positive tone on how the country was on path to realising the growing aspirations of an emerging economy. “Economic growth, which had slowed to 6.7 percent in 2008-09, is likely to improve to 7.5 percent in 2010. At a time when industrialised countries have experienced negative growth, India has continued to grow at an impressive rate,” she said. “We now look confidently to further improvement in our growth performance in 2010-11. My government will aim at a growth rate of above 8 percent in 2010-11 and seek to achieve 9 percent growth in 2011-12.” She also spelt out some challenges faced in the past fiscal, and said although inflation remained a matter of concern, the price rise was inevitable, given the shortfall of food production and the prevailing prices of rice, pulses, cereals and edible oils. “While we averted any threat to food security, there has been an unhappy pressure on the prices of food grain and food products.” Her address also touched on other broader aspects that concerns the country today, such as terrorism, foreign policy -- including ties with neighbours like Pakistan -- ultra-left extremism, defence, health, education and overall rural and urban development. “India is ready to explore a meaningful relationship with Pakistan if Pakistan seriously addresses the threat of terrorism and takes effective steps to prevent such activities against India,” she said, as foreign secretaries of the two countries were set to meet here Feb 25 to resume bilateral talks after a 14-month freeze since the terror attacks in Mumbai. “But infiltration from across the Line of Control (the de facto border that divides India and Pakistan) in Jammu and Kashmir has gone up. Even then the security situation has improved significantly in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in the northeast.” At the same time, President Patil said, India’s relations with major powers of the world had strengthened, including the US, Russia China and Japan, even as the country had acquired a strong global stature. With the recent Pune terror attacks in the backdrop, coming as it did after 14 months of relative peace, the president also assured that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would remain vigilant against all forms of challenges posed by such threats. “Zero tolerance of terrorist activities is our principled policy. We have to keep constant watch and innovate against global terrorist groups,” said Patil, detailing some measures taken by the government to strengthen the security apparatus. The president also listed the priorities of the government for the domestic constituency and said special attention will be paid to infrastructure, rural development, education, agriculture and health so that growth is sensitive to the concerns of weaker sections. Never before was India so close as it is today to realising the national aspirations as envisioned by the founding fathers, she said, concluding: “Our country stands at a historic turning point.”

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