M A I N   N E W S

Sub-committees on agriculture, state debts set up
Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 28
The National Development Council (NDC) today decided to set up sub-committees on agriculture and state debts to thrash out the broad contours of a new development paradigm premised on the recommendations of the mid-term appraisal of the 10th Five Year plan.

“The NDC meeting has decided to set up two sub-committees, one on agriculture and the other to examine the debt of states arising from the National Small Savings Fund (NSS)”, Deputy Chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said here after the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his concluding remarks, said given the importance of this sector, the sub-committee would submit reports within the next six months for inclusion in the approach paper to the 11th Five Year Plan.

The sub-committee would draw up implementable action plans in agriculture and related issues. “With your approval, I will constitute this sub-committee immediately so that the work can begin in earnest and we can benefit from their wisdom while framing the 11th Plan”, the Prime Minister said.

While agriculture and irrigation have been a common priority in all Chief Ministers’ intervention, a number of them expressed concern about the issues relating to state finances, particularly the effect of the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission, the permissible market borrowings and interest cost on borrowings.

Many Chief Ministers have either demanded transfer of Centrally sponsored schemes or their amalgamation into four or five broad heads with freedom to develop locally relevant programmes. “We may consider setting up an expert group to develop concrete proposals for restructuring the Centrally sponsored schemes”, Dr Singh said.

There were also repeated mention of providing adequate flexibility in the design of the programmes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the National Rural Health Mission and the Bharat Nirman to account for state-level realities and priorities. The Prime Minister said these concerns would be considered by the Planning Commission and the respective ministries so that local priorities could find space in these programmes.

The MTA, which has made 318 policy recommendations and identified 59 priority areas, calls for a “move towards more rational electricity pricing”. It also suggests that electricity for agriculture should be priced differently in areas where groundwater has been severely depleted. It has asked the government to work out some “innovative mix of proper utility pricing, community control and provision of subsidies on water conservation techniques”. It also calls for a re-examination of fertiliser subsidies and “focus on reducing those subsidies that lead to distortions and have deleterious effect on natural resources and cropping patterns”.

The MTA calls for bidding out subsidies for LPG and kerosene and rationalise the tax and duty structure prevailing in the oil and gas sector. It also calls for building a consensus on the need to amend labour laws to remove some of the rigidities that adversely affect the competitiveness of the Indian manufacturing industry.

On public sector enterprises, it says that the private sector involvement should be sought through transparent means, “particularly in cases in which it is felt that the CPSU would benefit from the technical, managerial and commercial expertise available in the private sector”.

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