Curbing prices Modi's priority

Curbing prices Modi's priority

Pranab outlines govt roadmap, economic reforms to create jobs

Curbing prices Modi's priority

President Pranab Mukherjee outlined the roadmap of the Narendra Modi government that accords top priority to curtail food inflation, pursue broad economic reforms focused on job creation, revive growth, encourage foreign investment and introduce a “non- adversarial” tax regime.

Addressing a joint session of the two Houses of Parliament on Monday, Mukherjee said the Centre would act against hoarding and black-marketing of foodgrain and make all efforts to bring back black money stashed abroad. 

Introducing Goods and Services Tax, speeding up project approvals and coal-sector reforms also top the agenda.

Introduction of high-speed trains, building of super highways, low-cost airports and setting up of 100 “smart” cities were highlighted as top infrastructure projects.

Mukherjee’s speech, approved by the Union Cabinet, bore a strong imprint of Modi’s ideas of governance as the President said the just-concluded election was one of hope.

“The people of India have given a clear mandate. They want to see a vibrant, dynamic and prosperous India. They want to see a resurgent India regaining the admiration and respect of the international community,” he said in his 55-minute address.

The two Houses will debate the President’s address for the next two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives his reply. A Motion of Thanks will be adopted subsequently.

In a word of assurance to minorities, Mukherjee said the new government is committed to make all minorities equal partners in India’s progress. There will be “zero tolerance” towards terrorism, extremism and violence against women. 

“A national plan will be chalked out in consultation with state governments to effectively curb incidents of communal violence and the challenges posed by left-wing extremism,” he said in the address delivered in the Central Hall of Parliament.

Mukherjee said the government was also committed to bringing 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures. On removal of poverty, the President assured the people of making adequate arrangements for “pucca” houses and 24x7 electricity by the year 2022.

Mukherjee assured the Defence personnel of equipping them with the latest technologies to strengthen the forces. The government would liberalise foreign equity in defence production and would also encourage private investment, he said.

The core political issues of the BJP came to the fore as the President talked of the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with “dignity, security and assured livelihood”. Lakhs of pandits fled the Valley in 1990 due to the ethnic cleansing unleashed by militants.

But the dominating subject was the economy. “We will work together to usher our economy into a high-growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of domestic as well as international community in our economy,” Mukherjee said.

He further said the government is alert to the possibility of a subnormal monsoon this year and is in the process of preparing a contingency plan to deal with the situation.

Noting that the country is passing through an “extremely difficult phase” on the economic front, he said the GDP growth has been less than 5 per cent, tax collection has declined while inflation continues to be at an “unacceptable” level.

He said Foreign Direct Investment will be encouraged in sectors which “help create jobs and assets”. The government will promote labour-intensive manufacturing and endeavour to expand employment opportunities in tourism and agro-based industries.

The President emphasised on key issues which the prime minister plans to tackle. He said the government will revive “Brand India”, riding on its strengths of “five Ts” (Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology), “three Ds” (Democracy, Demography and Demand) and “three Ss” (Skill, Speed and Scale).

Contentious politics

In this context, he said, the government will create a policy environment which is “predictable, transparent and fair”. He also said that the government will seek to heal the fractured and contentious politics of the previous years and work for the eradication of corruption in the country.

The Opposition, however, slammed the government for failing to come up with a “concrete roadmap” in the President’s address, saying it was merely a “jugglery of words” and rehash of election slogans. 

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the address was replete with slogans used by Modi in the poll campaign which the country has been hearing for the past six months.