Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Aug 16, 2002
Industry & Economy - Economy
Change mindset on reforms, says PM Water conservation, railway schemes announced
The Prime Minister, Mr A.B. Vajpayee, addressing the nation from the Red Fort on Independence Day.
NEW DELHI, Aug. 15
THE Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today stressed yet again on the urgent need for a political consensus on economic reforms, especially in the power sector, and urged both the parties and the people to change their mindset on the issue.
In his Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Mr Vajpayee expressed deep concern over the countrywide power thefts aggregating about Rs 25,000 crore annually and lamented that the attitude of the political parties had not changed as far as power sector and other reforms were concerned although they were urgently needed for the development of various sectors.
"If there can be consensus on security and defence, why not in the area of economic reforms?" Mr Vajpayee wondered.
As has been the tradition, no I-Day address is complete without the announcement of the launch of some new programmes. This year too was no exception. While the Prime Minister announced a slew of measures under a new programme - this year being a drought-hit year - called the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Jal Samvardhan Yojana for conservation of water to tackle the drought situation, a host of other packages were cleared by him today which were besides the announcements made in his address to the nation.
These include Rs 15,000-crore National Rail Vikas Yojana, a National Commodities Exchange and a scheme for identity cards for all citizens.
Under the Rail Vikas Yojana, according to an official press release here, an amount of Rs 15,000 crore is to be invested in the next five years to remove all capacity bottlenecks in the critical sections of the Railways.
This will include Rs 8,000-crore project to strengthen the Golden Quadrilateral to run more long-distance mail, express and freight trains at a higher speed of 100 km per hour as also Rs 3,000-crore project to strengthen rail connectivity to ports, apart from development of multi-modal corridors to the hinterland.
Yet another Rs 3,500 crore is planned to be spent on the construction of four mega bridges, two over the Ganga, one over the Brahmaputra and the fourth across the Kosi while another sum of Rs 763 crore is to be accounted for by the accelerated completion of hitherto unfinished projects.
At present, there are sanctioned projects worth Rs 40,000 crore which have been languishing for a long time. The Government has now taken a decision to draw up a plan to complete all the viable sanctioned railway projects within the next 10 years.
As for the identity cards, the Home Ministry, the official release said, would prepare a plan to issue multi-purpose machine-readable identity cards to all citizens. For this purpose, a pilot project will be launched in October to cover select districts in eight States. The pilot project, which will also facilitate the implementation of e-governance initiatives, would be completed within a year, it said.
Dwelling on the drought situation in the country in the course of his address, Mr Vajpayee said that there were adequate foodgrain stocks and no one in the country would be allowed to go hungry.
The Prime Minister called for a concerted economic movement to accelerate the growth process and noted that infrastructure development was the key to achieving eight per cent GDP growth in the Tenth Plan period. Towards this end, the Government, he said, had rolled out a massive Rs 55,000-crore highway development project, which is enough signal of its commitment to improve infrastructure facilities.
The ambitious railway project is to be seen as yet another effort on the part of the Government to improve rail connectivity in the Golden Quadrilateral.
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