Social welfare tops UPA agenda

Cabinet okays Presidents address to Parliament


While addressing a joint session of Parliament on June 4, President Pratbiha Patil will enumerate the policies the Congress-led UPA government will follow and hopes to implement in the next five years.

The first session of the 15 Lok Sabha will begin on Monday with the swearing-in of the newly elected MPs. The President has appointed a panel four senior MPs — Basudeb Acharia (CPM), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), Biren Singh Engti (Congress) and Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) — to administer the oath to the new members. The first to be administered oath will be the Leader of the House, Pranab Mukherjee, followed by the Leader of the Opposition, L K Advani.

The Speaker will be elected on June 3 and the budget session is likely to begin in the first week of July. The President has appointed senior Congress leader Manikrao Gavit, a nine-time MP, as pro tem Speaker. Till a Speaker is appointed on June 3, 75-year-old Gavit will conduct the business in the Lower House. Gavit, with 27-odd years’ experience as Lok Sabha member, was elected from the reserved constituency of Nandurbar in Maharashtra and had served as Minister of State for Home in the last UPA government.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and other leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met here on Saturday to finalise the name for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker. Kishore Chandra Deo, a senior Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh, is the front-runner for the post. Senior leaders, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony attended the meeting held at the prime minister’s residence.

The President’s address will unveil the government’s agenda in accordance with the policies and the programmes of the ruling party and its allies. In the absence of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) this time, some of the promises made during the run-up to the election would also be included in the presidential speech.

The Prime Minister, who had promised a 100-day action plan for his government, is expected to give emphasis to the UPA’s unfinished agenda, especially in infrastructure and development sectors, and announce a fresh package to pull the economy out of its slowdown. It is expected that more funds would be allocated for the development of infrastructure including the national highways, housing and construction sectors.
A National Food Security Act to guarantee 25 kg of rice or wheat a month to impoverished families, strengthening of key social sector programmes like the rural employment and Bharat Nirman programnmes, a focus on terrorism and initiatives for urban employment will figure in the speech.

The minimum wage under the NREGP in the rural areas might be increased from Rs 90 to Rs 100, said a source in the government. There will be a debate on June 5, 8 and 9 on the President’s address after which the Lok Sabha, as also the Rajya Sabha that will convene on June 4, will pass a motion of thanks before adjournment.

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