Govt will check price rise, terrorism: Pratibha Patil

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{image-Pratibha+Patil1_25022008.jpg}New Delhi, Feb 25: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today assured Parliament that the UPA government would sustain the economic growth rate at 9 per cent, while keeping the prices of essential commodities under check and remaining fully alive to the threat of terrorism and extremism.

Addressing a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, marking the beginning of the Budget session, Ms Patil expressed the hope that the Indo-US nuclear agreement would be implemented. The continued endeavour of ''my government'' would be to ''sustain growth while keeping prices under check'' and ensure that the economic development was ''socially inclusive, regionally balanced and environmentally sustainable,'' Ms Patil said.

Presenting a long list of the achievements of the nearly four-year-old government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the President said the overall internal security situation remained under control.

''My government is fully alive to the threat of terrorism and Left-wing extremism. The entire nation stood as one in condemning inhuman acts of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Assam,'' she said.

Further, the government would remain ''ever vigilant'' against the machinations of any anti-social and anti-national groups seeking to disrupt law and order, communal harmony and the unity and integrity of the country, she said without referring to the recent violence in Maharashtra against migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Also, there was no reference in her address to the proposal for providing reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. ''Women hold up half the sky,'' she said, asserting that empowerment of women through female literacy was the single biggest challenge of the government in the social sector.

Touching upon the sensitive issue of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), she said SEZs had already provided direct employment to about 100,000 people, with indirect employment estimated at twice as much. ''They have attracted investment of over Rs 50,000 crore, and are expected to generate exports of Rs 67,000 crore this year.'' On India's relations with Pakistan and other neighbours, she said ''our goal remains a peaceful, stable and prsperous neighbourhood.''

The President said she sincerely hoped that the proceedings of Parliament this year would be purposeful, peaceful and productive. ''Hon'ble members, each one of you must remember that as elected representatives of the people what you do gives new hope not just to your own voters, but to all our people, and to all peace and freedom loving people in our region and around the world.

Therefore, what you say and do in these hallowed portals of democracy will have a bearing not just on the destiny of our people but also on the future of democracy and free societies around the world,'' Ms Patil said.

The President began the address, the printed text of which ran into 19 pages, observing that the session of Parliament was beginning at a time when the economy was on the move and the measures taken by the government had created the necessary architecture of inclusive growth.

Listing the achievements, she talked about Bharat Nirman, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Universal Midday Meal Programme, the National Rural Health Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Right to Information Act.

For the first time in history, the Indian economy had grown at close to 9 per cent per annum for four years in a row. The historically high investment rate, of over 35 per cent of GDP, and savings rate, of over 34 per cent of GDP, symbolised a new dynamism in the economy, she said.

This performance was all the more creditable against the background of high international oil prices and rising commodity prices, including for food. ''World crude oil prices have almost doubled in the past two years to reach an all-time high of US$100 per barrel, yet my government has managed to moderate the impact on the domestic consumer.'' On the minorities, she said the Prime Minister's New 15 Point Programme launched by the government aimed at ensuring that benefits of the development programmes flowed equitably to such people.

''Certain proportion of development projects will be located in minority concentration areas and, wherever possible, 15 per cent of targets and outlays under various schemes would be earmarked for the minorities.''


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