Humane rehab policy soon
New Delhi, January 8
Dr Singh also laid down his government's economic priorities of according top priority to energy generation, taking a re-look at tax exemptions and focussing on further cut in import tariff.
Indicating that another priority area for the government was ensuring stability of the booming capital markets, the Prime Minister spoke of steps to control inflation and maintain fiscal discipline while making sure that investment is sustained for maintaining the growth rate.
Addressing the annual meeting here of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dr Singh was concerned about the controversy pertaining to allotment of land for the Special Economic Zones and displacement of people from their lands.
"We will be finalising a new rehabilitation policy in three months and this will e more progressive, humane and conductive to the long term welfare of all the stakeholders."
In this regard, Dr Singh was clear that land acquisition, displacement of people, rehabilitation and resettlement should be transparently addressed.
With the 2007-08 general budget round the corner and pre-budget discussions already under way, the Prime Minister said that the tax regime should be liberal and equitable and in the long run the tax administration should not have too many exemptions. This is necessary so that the tax administration's complex exercise is not vulnerable to misuse. The tax rates should not only be liberal but also transparent. The country will now have to move towards a common general sales tax and better harmonisation of value added tax (VAT).
As India gradually integrates into the global financial system, the government would move into a less restrictive foreign exchange regime. The recommendations of the Tarapore Committee are a step in this direction mixing caution with optimism.
Dr Singh asked big business houses entering the retail sector to build supply chains directly reaching the farmers and ensuring them renumerative prices. Referring to the Integrated Food Law passed by Parliament, he said this would be operationalised in the next few months to impart new dynamism to agro-processing. Agriculture and allied sectors need to be transformed.
“The revitalisation of our agriculture is an opportunity and a challenge both for the government and the private sector. If we have to bridge the rural urban divide and the regional economic divide, we need to transform agriculture and allied sectors.”
Dr Singh called for looking at efficient and effective solutions. “As I see many business houses entering into mass retailing, I hope the supply chains being built reach our directly to farmers, ensuring more remunerative prices.”
The Prime Minister said “ultra mega power projects have demonstrated the possibility of producing power at extremely competitive rates through private investment. However, we will need to clean up the act in this critical sector. The meeting of Chief Ministers called in February will address the bottlenecks constraining this sector particularly the viability of distribution companies.”
He said industrialisation was not a “zero sum game but a win, win process” for all sections of society. Indian industry must be sensitive to the need to empower the weaker sections of society, particularly the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities so that they can benefit equitably from the processes of economic and social development.
In waging a decisive war against poverty, ignorance and disease, the Prime Minister observed “we need more productive investment. We have to create more jobs in the non-farm sector, both in rural and urban areas. The revitalisation of our agriculture is an opportunity and a challenge both for the government and the private sector.”