M A I N   N E W S

Govt working to revive economy: Prez
* Left boycotts Day 1 of budget session
* MPs raise Telangana, Lanka issues
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
Slowdown in the economy both on account of national and international factors was flagged today as one of the challenges the UPA Government is addressing while working on a roadmap for fiscal consolidation.

“Both global and domestic factors have affected our growth. We need to address the impact of both. My government has responded to the situation by taking several measures to revive investment activity and investor sentiment,” the President said in his first address to the joint session of Parliament on the opening day of the crucial Budget session.

That economy dominated from the start in the President's speech reflected the concern of the Manmohan Singh government in tackling the issue including inflation though easing gradually was acknowledged as “still being a problem”.

The President underscored that real GDP grew by 5.4 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year that ends this March and said it was significantly lower than the average of around 8 per cent during the last decade.

Yet, as is customary, the address contained a detailed presentation of the state of the economy, the policies and programmes of the government, including social welfare measures, the thrust area in the form of infrastructure development, all-round development plans, internal security dimension and international relations with accent on neighbours, especially Pakistan.

The government, he said, remains committed to usher in greater transparency, probity, integrity and accountability in governance and plans to enact on priority a series of legislations to this effect.

Mukherjee reiterated the government’s commitment in enacting the National Food Security Bill and mentioned that the current foodgrain position was comfortable, with public sector agencies on February 1 holding 662 lakh tonnes — 307 lakh tonnes wheat and over 335 lakh tonnes rice — in granaries.

Turning to internal security, Pranab noted that the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East had shown perceptible improvement with a 3.56-lakh rise in tourists to J&K last year. As for Left Wing extremism, he said there was a declining trend in violence and emphasised that the government was committed to deal with it in a comprehensive manner.

On the international front, Mukherjee said India seeks peace, stability, cooperation and economic development in the sub-continent and attaches highest priority to its relations with its immediate neighbours.

“With Pakistan, we have made progress towards normalisation of relations, strengthening mechanisms for bilateral trade and facilitating greater people-to-people contact. While we remain committed to taking the process forward, it is also important that Pakistan abides by its commitments and desists from acts that contribute to a trust deficit,” he said in an obvious reference to recent killing of soldiers on the Line of Control.

On Afghanistan, he said as the country prepares for a political and security transition next year and beyond, India will continue to help the country evolve peacefully and fight terrorism and extremism.

Some MPs tried to disrupt Mukherjee's maiden address with those from the DMK and the AIADMK standing up and chanting slogans demanding that India vote against Sri Lanka at the UN for alleged atrocities against ethnic Tamil. Some even displayed placards.

Similarly, some MPs from Andhra Pradesh raised slogans seeking a separate Telangana state while Left MPs stayed away from the joint session expressing solidarity with the two-day general strike that ended today.





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