Prez Patil unveils rice-to-riches plan | india | Hindustan Times
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Prez Patil unveils rice-to-riches plan

In its second innings, the United Progressive Alliance government has unveiled its showcase scheme — providing rice at Rs 3 a kg, at one fifth the market price, to 260 million people, or one fourth of India’s population. Back on the basis of the inclusive India plank, the government’s agenda for the next five years includes 33 pc reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies, reports HT Political Bureau. The new vision for India

india Updated: Jun 05, 2009 22:43 IST
HT Political Bureau

In its second innings, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has unveiled its showcase scheme — providing rice at Rs 3 a kg, at one fifth the market price, to 260 million people, or one fourth of India’s population.

Back on the basis of the inclusive India plank, the government’s agenda for the next five years, unveiled on Thursday, includes 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies.

Also on the agenda are 50 per cent reservations for women in local bodies — inspired by Bihar’s successful experiment, initiated two years ago.

In her first address to Parliament, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil unveiled welfare schemes like houses for the poor in rural and urban India that will cost the government a lot of money.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act alone, introduced by the Manmohan Singh government in its first avatar, cost the exchequer Rs 40,000 crore over the last three years.

The cheap rice scheme is estimated to fatten the subsidy bill — the difference between the price at which rice is bought by the government (Rs 15) and the price at which it will be sold (Rs 3) — by nearly Rs 17,000 crore.

“These initiatives were possible because high growth generated more resources. It is, therefore, imperative that our growth momentum is resumed,” Patil said.

She listed management of the economy as the government’s “immediate priority”,

“My government is determined to work harder and better to realise these goals,” she said, describing the election results as a mandate for “inclusive growth, equitable development and a secular and plural India”.

The roadmap unveiled by Patil emphasised upon combining economic reforms with enhanced public investment to spur growth and consolidation of flagship programmes like Bharat Nirman, apart from enhancing the government’s accountability.

She also unveiled a 22-point agenda for the government that would be initiated within the next 100 days. The government’s first policy statement carried the stamp of the Congress and its manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Unlike 2004, when the UPA’s National Common Minimum Programme carried the imprint of the Left as well, this time, the Congress’ dominance is reflected in the Presidential Address as well.

In its first term, the UPA government could not pursue insurance sector reforms that included increasing the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap from 26 per cent to 49 per cent because of stiff resistance from Left parties.

The bill to amend the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act to raise the FDI cap in the private sector insurance companies is pending in the Rajya Sabha.

The President took up internal security on early in her address. She said a policy of “zero-tolerance” towards terrorism would be pursued. “Stern measures to handle insurgency and left wing extremism will be taken,” she said.

Patil also said New Delhi sought to “re-shape” relations with Pakistan depending upon Islamabad’s “sincerity in confronting terror groups on its soil launching attacks against India”.