Jayalalitha swears by fiscal discipline

In her first week in office, Jayalalitha has plunged straight into a broader development agenda, affirming that she wants to fulfill all the promises made in the AIADMK poll manifesto within the first 18 months.

“It (economy) can only go up now,” she said, exuding optimism, given that Tamil Nadu’s debt levels are touching a disconcertingly high level of over Rs 1 lakh crore (as per the 2011-12 Interim Budget presented before the DMK was voted out).

On the first day itself, she signed six orders including the one for giving20 kg of rice free to all eligible family card holders under the Public Distribution System.

The strategy is clear as freebies alone do not make better citizens. They need to be weaved into a viable economic growth strategy that not only protects the vulnerable sections of the population, but also draws them into an employment and revenue-generating stream. (The old age pension has been doubled to Rs 1,000 as promised in the AIADMK’s poll manifesto).

Significantly, on the second day, Jayalalitha sought to sensitise her 33-member strong Cabinet on how to implement the poll manifesto quickly. At the same time, a broader development agenda on the lines of former President A P J Abdul Kalam’s India Vision 2020 model, was unfolded before them.

“It is a refreshingly different focus on development by the AIADMK government,” a source familiar with the new dispensation’s thinking told Deccan Herald. In fact, for two days, Jayalalitha had roped in V Ponraj, a former DRDO scientist and a long-time associate of Dr Kalam, to make a power-point presentation to all her Cabinet colleagues on the way ahead.

“Development cannot be piecemeal, and it has to be strongly integrated with agriculture, health, education, animal husbandry, solar power, restoring water bodies etc.,” the source said. The scientific, mission-mode approach to development advocated by Dr Kalam has impressed her.

Simultaneously, Jayalalitha got cracking on some of the more immediate priorities, like restoring confidence in the law and order machinery, steps to tackle the power crisis and effluents problem in Tiruppur that has hit a major export-cum-employment hosiery hub.
Jayalalitha also showed she meant business from Day One, as reflected in the choice of her Cabinet members, and in the major bureaucratic reshuffle.

“It is a good mix of experienced hands and new faces,” Jayalalitha said explaining her endeavour to give representation to all “regions, districts, communities and religions” in the new Cabinet.

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