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PM: No communal budgeting in Plan
Swears by 10% growth rate
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

Sounds caution on prices

"Global trends in food production and prices and our patterns of consumption are going to put increasing pressure on both the availability and prices of basic food items.

New Delhi, December 19
Eleventh Five-Year Plan, aiming to sustain 9 per cent growth, was today approved by the National Development Council after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refuted allegation of “communal budgeting” and cautioned against adverse impact on the economy of global financial crisis and rising commodity prices.

Exuding confidence that high savings and investment rates would help India achieve growth rate of 10 per cent with right policies, the Prime Minister said, “It is possible that with the correct set of policies and dedicated effort by both the central and state governments, we will not only be able to maintain this growth momentum but be able to raise it to 10 per cent.”

The Rs 36,44,718-crore Plan, was given an operational go-ahead by the NDC after the Prime Minister in his wrap up speech rebutted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s charge of “communal budgeting” and his demand for review of the centre’s 15-point programme for minorities.

“This Plan is a plan for the poor. Its focus is on the most marginalised sections of society. It does not attempt to divide people on the basis of caste, creed or gender,” the Prime Minister said in his closing remarks after the National Development Council (NDC) approved the XI Five-Year Plan.

He, however, pointed out that it was a reality that there were certain social groups who were relatively badly placed on all developmental indicators. “The Plan does pay special attention to the needs of these marginalised groups and targets them in a precise manner… This is, after all, the true meaning of inclusiveness… And it is not at the cost of other groups,” he said.

In his address, Gujarat Chief Minister had alleged that the centre had resorted to communal budgeting and demanded that there be a review of the Prime Minister’s 15-point agenda for minorities. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had echoed the sentiment. The Plan envisages an impressive increase in total plan expenditure of the centre and states taken together from 9.4 per cent of the GDP in the Xth Plan to 13.5 per cent of GDP in the XIth Plan.

The NDC meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of all states, except Virbhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh, who could not make it due to assembly poll there.

While most of the Chief Ministers focused on the issues concerning their respective states and demanded more resources for infrastructure development, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, facing attack over Nandigram issue, demanded a relook into the SEZ policy.

Portraying a positive outlook, the Prime Minister said, “Our savings rate, after stagnating for almost two decades, has touched 34 per cent of the GDP and the investment rate has crossed 35 per cent. These high rates are likely to go up in the future because of our young population profile. This will be adequate to support a growth rate of 9-10 per cent.”

Cautioning that India cannot remain immune to global developments like sub-prime crisis and rising commodity prices, the Prime Minister said the country needs to redouble its efforts to maintain the domestic drivers of growth and create buffer stocks of pulses and edible oils to improve its food security.

“I will be failing in my duty if I do not draw your attention to the impending problem of food security… Global trends in food production and prices and our patterns of consumption are going to put increasing pressure on both the availability and prices of basic food items,” he said.

For ensuring food security, the Prime Minister said, “We need to revisit our foodgrain procurement strategies in the short term and also ensure that subsidised foodgrains are targeted at only the needy and the poor and that leakage and misdirected subsidies are stopped.”

Singling out subsidies and wastage in power sector as major areas of concern, he said states should work in tandem with the centre to ensure subsidies were targeted at genuinely needy and cut down losses in the power sector.

Besides, he cautioned that the regional disparities and increasing rural-urban divide as also poverty could lead to lopsided development. “To tackle this the 11th Plan has allocated more than half of the budgetary support to key sectors of agriculture, health and education,” he added.

Asserting that equity is the foundation on which our democratic polity has to rest and thrive, he said “There is a major structural shift in the XIth Plan, which is reflective of our commitment to investing in the skills and resources needed for enabling all marginalised groups and regions to benefit from economic growth and our commitment to rapid, inclusive growth.”

Pointing that agriculture is undoubtedly the most important sector from the point of view of inclusion since it is the primary source of income for about half the population, he said “the slowing down of agricultural growth to less than 2 per cent per annum, since the late 1990s has undoubtedly been the root cause of much of the rural distress.”

“I am happy to say we have already taken several steps to restore momentum to this sector. We have launched the National Food Security Mission to increase production of rice, wheat and pulses. This programme will produce an additional 20 million tonnes of foodgrain over the XI Plan,” he said hoping that measures like district level agricultural planning would help sustain the desired growth rate of 4 per cent in agriculture.

The Prime Minister also announced constitution of two task forces in Planning Commission to comprehensively examine the resource requirements for expanding irrigation and identifying a new approach to implementing such projects and to specifically look into problems of hill states and hill areas and suggest ways for their removal.

He also urged the finance minister to constitute an expert group to go into the system of statutory clearances for industrial and infrastructure projects for their speedy execution.

Not only allocation in the XIth Plan for education, skill development and health sector have been enhanced, special emphasis have been laid on the removing problems of minorities, SCs and STs.

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