M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan confident of 8 per cent growth
Ashok Tuteja
On board PM's special aircraft

Asserting his government's commitment to economic reforms with a human face, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the growth rate this year would be between 7.5 per cent and 8 per cent.

Asked if international financial crisis could have an impact on India, Singh said though the country was not immune from what happens in the outside world, it was not vulnerable to the extent that some other countries were.

''But if capital inflows decrease, if foreign institutional investors take money out, that would certainly affect our stock markets, that would affect Indian corporates raising resources for investment.

If there was a recession in the developed world, particularly the United States, it could hurt India's exports. ''We have to work out a coherent strategy to protect our interests and we are confident we will be able to do so.''

India, he said, had been a cautious reformer. ''We don't have a strong ideological commitment to the markets. They are useful servants, but markets also need regulations, purposeful regulations.''

Right from the beginning when India opened up its financial markets in 1993, it went step by step. ''We still don't have a full blown capital convertibility, so whatever we have done has been done with the long-term interest of the country in mind and at the same time we have sought to ensure that the risks in the process of opening up are controlled.''

The Prime Minister said India has to work out a coherent strategy to protect its interests and the government was confident it would be able to do so. ''Even this year my hope is that our growth rate, though it may probably not be 9 per cent, it will be between 7.5 per cent and 8 per cent which is quite respectable. This would still make India the second fastest-growing economy in the world.''

Sensex regains 13,000-level

Mumbai: Extending its gains for the second straight day on Wednesday, the Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex today regained the 13,000-point level, giving credence to the feeling that the market is oversold. The bellwether index advanced by 195.24 points to close the day at 13,055.67, a day after it gained 265 points defying global trends. The bellwether Sensex touched the days high of 13,203.86 points but pared part of the gains at the fag end of session on profit booking. PTI



When PM expressed anguish on turban ban
Ashok Tuteja
On board PM's
special aircraft

Pain was writ large on the face of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he explained to French President Nicolas Sarkozy the anguish of the Sikh community over the ban on wearing turban in schools in France.

''I said to him (Sarkozy) that the turban is an essential part of the Sikh way of life because the Sikhs are not allowed to cut their hair. And this is one way to keep their hair tidy, he disclosed to reporters who accompanied him on his 10-day trip to the US and France.

Singh met Sarkozy in Paris yesterday. He told the French leader that Sikhs were facing problems in France. ''When Sikh children go to school, they are discouraged from wearing turbans. And when seeking identity cards, they are asked to remove their turbans.

The Prime Minister recalled that he had raised the turban issue with Sarkozy during the latter's visit to New Delhi in January also.



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