Congress plays 'aam-aadmi' card

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday proposed an allocation of Rs 160,887 crore or 36.4 per cent of the total plan allocation for social sector, a increase of 17 per cent over the current year.

He also suggested to double the wages of around 22 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers across the country.

“The UPA government’s flagship programmes have been the principal instrument for implementing its agenda for inclusive development,” Mukherjee said.

According to him, the government would introduce the National Food Security Bill in the Parliament this year. The NFSB is being projected as the UPA’s next landmark initiative after the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which it had brought into force during its 2004-09 tenure. 

“The country has carried for long enough the burden of hunger and malnutrition. After detailed consultations with all stakeholders, including the state governments, we are close to the finalisation of the NFSB, which will be introduced in the Parliament this year,” said Mukherjee.

The NFSB is intended to provide underprivileged sections of the society with legal entitlement of particular quantities of rice and wheat at cheaper price every month.  The Bill is believed to be very close to  UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s heart. The National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia, has already prepared a framework note and an explanatory note on the proposed legislation and posted it on its website and sought comments from public.

The NAC’s Working Group on Food Security will take into account the feedbacks received till March 7 next while finalising the draft legislation.

The advisory panel is likely to discuss the draft in its meeting on March 24.   
Mukherjee proposed a hike of Rs 10,000 crore to raise the allocations for Bharat Nirman, which includes the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Indira Awas Yojana, National Rural Drinking Water Programme and Rural Telephony, to Rs 58,000 crore.

He announced to raise the monthly remunerations for the Anganwadi workers from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 and for Anganwadi helpers from Rs 750 to Rs 1,500.

Specific allocations

The Budget 2011-12 for the first time proposed specific allocations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Sub-Plans. The allocations for primitive tribal groups will rise from Rs 185 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 244 crore in 2011-12.

The minister proposed 20 per cent and 24 per cent increase in allocations for health (Rs 26,760 crore) and education sectors (Rs 52,057 crore), respectively.

His emphasis on social sector is well in keeping with the Congress’ plan to focus more on pursuing its Aam Aadmi agenda to offset the impacts of the scams on the image of the government, particularly ahead of the Assembly elections in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry.

Mukherjee also outlined the UPA’s five-pronged strategy to combat corruption and improve governance.

He said that a group of ministers has been tasked with addressing issues relating to state funding of elections, speedier processing of corruption cases of public servants, transparency in public procurement and contracts, discretionary powers of Central ministers and competitive system for exploiting natural resource.

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