Calls for funds priority to plans for Muslims
PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh on Saturday said innovative plans should be devised for minorities, particularly Muslims, to make the economic growth process more equitable.
"We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources," Singh said in his address at the 52nd meeting of the National Development Council (NDC).
Several chief ministers were present at the meeting. This was the second time in the past few days that Singh had aired his intention of taking along the minorities on the path of development. Last month, at a meeting of the National Commission for Minorities, Singh favoured a "fair share" for minorities in government and private jobs.
At the NDC meeting, Singh said that the component plans for SCs and STs needed to be revitalised. He also called for "revitalising" the agriculture sector, which is in a "crisis", and sought the support of state governments for ‘difficult’ policy changes aimed at putting the country’s economy into a growth orbit of 9 per cent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12).
The approach paper to the 11th Five-Year Plan — approved by the NDC — has set a target of achieving a 9 per cent average growth rate of the gross domestic product during the period. “This (9 per cent) is ambitious no doubt, but feasible,” Singh said.
“But this optimism has to be sustained with competent, effective policies and programmes.” He said the 11th Plan must give top priority to “redressing the weaknesses in the agriculture sector”. “We cannot expect inclusive growth if we do not revitalise our agriculture,” Singh said. “Agriculture as a whole is in the midst of crisis. We should therefore focus on achieving higher productivity and incomes for all farmers,” he said.
Singh said inflation has “presented a problem recently”, but added the government was determined to control it within the 5 per cent level.
CM thrust on farm price, forest credit
CALLING FOR rational pricing of agricultural products, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Saturday emphasised the need for a national price stabilisation fund.
Addressing the 52nd meeting of the National Development Council at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, Chouhan said the fund would act as a cushion for both producers and consumers against fluctuations in agricultural prices.
All agricultural products should be brought under the minimum price support system, the CM said and called for a review of the cost evaluation system used for fixing support prices to ensure remunerative returns to farmers.
After irrigation, the next thrust area for agricultural growth is commensurate pricing of farm products, the Chief Minister said.
Pitching for water as a top priority, Chouhan suggested that 11th and 12th five-year plans be declared as ‘Water Plans of India’. He said the most effective strategy to achieve four percent agricultural growth was to bring more areas under irrigation. Calling for an action plan, he said with a fund of Rs 200000 crore the full irrigation potential of the country could be developed in 10 years.
Expressing concern over the silence of the approach paper on forest credit, Chouhan said Madhya Pradesh with 30.8 percent of its area under forests plays a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. He said President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had supported the concept of forest credit. The Centre and states should contribute equitably towards maintaining this forest cover.
On the basis of the net present value (NPV), specified by the Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh has a capital stock worth Rs 1,91,608 crore.
The State has a forest cover on 33036 hectares which was above the national average and the worth was calculated at a rate of Rs 5.80 lakh per hectare, the CM said. Even at five percent rate of interest Madhya Pradesh should get Rs 9580 crore annually as compensation fund.