Economy looking up, but food prices a concern: Prez

Says fruits of progress must percolate down to poor

Economy looking up, but food prices a concern: Prez

President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the economy was showing “signs of revival” but expressed concern over food prices.

Addressing the nation on the eve of Independence Day, Mukherjee remarked: “ Though the growth rate was subdued at below 5 per cent during the last two years, I sense renewed vigour and optimism in the air.”

“Our external sector has strengthened. Fiscal consolidation measures are beginning to show results. Notwithstanding occasional spurts, inflation has started moderating,” he added.

Mukherjee said  the focus of government policies should shift from alleviation of poverty to its elimination and stressed that the benefits of economic development must percolate down to the poorest of the poor.

He said the difference in approach is not mere semantics. “Alleviation is a process; elimination is a time-defined objective. In the last six decades, the poverty ratio has declined from over 60 per cent to less than 30 per cent. Even then, nearly one-third of our population still lives below the poverty line. Poverty has a face, which becomes unbearable when it scars the visage of a child,” he added.

Mukherjee said the poor cannot, and will not, wait for yet another generation to see the very essentials of life — food, shelter, education and employment — being denied to them.

The President noted that education was an essential part of economic development. “A sound education system is the bedrock of an enlightened society. It is the bounden duty of our institutions to provide quality education and inculcate the core civilisational values,” he added.

“By the end of the 12th Five Year Plan,” he said, “We would achieve a literacy rate of 70 per cent. But would we be able to say that we have provided quality education and skills to our children to be good citizens and successful professionals?”

Alluding to recent communal incidents, Mukherjee said intolerance and violence betray the letter and spirit of democracy and slammed those who believe in the “poison drip of inflammatory provocation”.  He recalled Maratha king Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb, when the latter imposed “jizya”, that Shah Jehan, Jehangir and Akbar could also have levied this tax “but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts, as they considered all men, high and low, were created by God to be examples of the nature of diverse creeds and temperaments”.

Mukherjee said the 17th century epistle of Shivaji carries a universal message. “We can least afford to forget this message at a time when an increasingly turbulent international environment has sparked off rising dangers in our region and beyond, some clearly visible and some crawling out of the debris of unprecedented turmoil,” he said.

The President said across Asia and Africa, radical militias are trying to redraw the maps of nations to create a geography for theocratic ideology. “India will feel the heat of blowback, particularly because it represents the values that reject extremism in all its manifestations.

Our security and foreign policies must combine the steel of strength with the velvet of diplomacy even as we persuade the like-minded as well as the hesitant to recognise the substantial dangers that breed within indifference,” he added.

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