President Abdul Kalam on Friday outlined the main priorities of the UPA government this year -- ranging from checking inflation to welfare of minorities to convincing Pakistan to stop infiltration and cross-border terrorism - as he addressed a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament to mark the opening of the budget session.
Kalam, who was making his last speech to Parliament before demitting office at the end of a five-year tenure in July, referred to inflation right at the beginning of his address to underscore the government's concern.
He listed out initiatives by the government, particularly in the last eight weeks, to improve supplies of essential commodities as also fiscal policy steps to check spiraling inflation.
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having already announced a special cell to monitor prices and asked the states to act against hoarding, Kalam said, "My government will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the poor are not adversely affected by inflation (which he attributed to rising incomes and demands and unmatched supply). This is our solemn commitment."
Kalam gave ample indication that the action on the much-debated report of the Sachar Committee on the backwardness of Muslims was in the offing.
He announced that the government was considering the formulation of a programme for those districts and towns that have highest concentration of minority population.
"Certain minority communities continue to remain relatively backward, with a large number of out-of-school children, high dropout rates and low educational attainments. These required focused intervention," the President said.
Kalam spoke all the aspects of the policies of the UPA government, including internal security and foreign policy.On the relations with Pakistan, he expressed satisfaction that the dialogue process was progressing "steadily."
In a reference to the Samjhauta Express terror attack, Kalam said the "tragic event" should not be allowed to affect the "common quest for normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan."
As Kalam put it, the Composite Dialogue, the Joint Commission and the Anti-terrorism Institutional Mechanism had provided a structural framework within which all major issues were being discussed.
However, Kalam said, "We remain concerned over infiltration and cross-border terrorism, and the success of the dialogue process is predicated on Pakistan fulfilling its commitment not to permit any territory under its control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.
On internal security, he said the government would continue to impart a "healing touch" both in Jammu and Kashmir and in the North-East, while maintaining utmost vigil against terrorist and extremist forces.
"My government attaches the highest importance to ensuring that all agencies respect basic human rights, even in the most trying circumstances."
Focusing on the economy, Kalam said, "At a time of great optimism in the wake of over eight per cent growth in the past three years", the government's target of a nine per cent growth rate during the Eleventh Plan "is a feasible proposition."
But, Kalam said the government's plan for growth "is not an end in itself. It is a means by which we hope to generate more employment, distribute incomes more equitably across social groups and regions and liberate the poorest of the poor from the scourge of poverty, ignorance and disease."
With the row over Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in mind, Kalam shared the concerns of farmers on acquisition of land for industrial purposes and said that government was committed to bring a "new rehabilitation policy" backed by changes in the Land Acquisition Act for fair pricing of the agriculture land.