Integrated plan key to neutralizing Left extremism in backward districts: PM

     The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Saturday said his government would soon announce an integrated holistic plan with the objective of neutralizing the impact of left wing extremism in the country’s least developed backward districts. Delivering his concluding remarks at the 55th National Development Council Meeting, which was held here to review the progress of the 11th Plan and set right anomalies, if any, Dr. Singh said the plan would be used to strengthen development processes in these areas in the fight against terrorism. “The challenges posed by left wing extremism in parts of the country have been addressed by many Chief Ministers. I have taken note of these suggestions. The Planning Commission is working on an integrated program of development for selected backward districts, which would help strengthen the developmental element in the fight against extremism, keeping in mind the suggestions made in our discussions,” Dr. Singh said. Seeking the cooperation of the states in dealing with left-wing extremism, Dr. Singh asked the Planning Commission to take the lead in designing the program and make sure they were attuned with special circumstances in these states. He said there should be no doubt that leftwing extremism has to be countered by both the Centre and the States. Action against the Maoists, however, had to be supplemented by action on implementing the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayati Raj Act, and providing additional resources for development of these areas, he said. "Effective implementation of Forest Rights Act and Panchayati Raj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act are critical. Failure to implement these laws in letter and spirit reduces the credibility of our commitment to bring development to these neglected regions," the Prime Minister said. Candidly admitting that development schemes have not worked well in backward and impoverished parts of the country, Singh said additional resources for development was the need of the hour. "We must make a concerted effort to bridge the development deficit in these backward areas and reduce whatever sense of alienation that may exist among Adivasis living in these areas," he said. He pointed out that central flagship programs like MGNREGA were doing well in many states, but added that there are "examples of poor implementation" also. Dr Singh also called for vigorous implementation of initiatives like the Right to Education and the NRHM. "This will require more resources. However, it is equally important to pay attention to improving the delivery system in order to achieve the desired outputs," he said. Stress was also laid on the need for protecting the environment, which is under the threat from various sources of pollution, Dr. Singh said. "The threat of climate change looms large and requires national action plan and international action. How well we handle these problems will determine whether our growth strategy is sustainable in medium or long term," he said. The Prime Minister said he expected good rains to help halve inflation to six per cent by December 2010. This remark assumes significance in the wake of the monsoon session of Parliament, which is expected to be stormy over issues, including price rise. The monsoon accounts for around 80 per cent of rains India receives and nearly 60 per cent of the cultivated land is rain-fed. Two years of poor rains had led to an upward spiral in food prices, the effect of which spread to manufactured goods. Food inflation is above 12 per cent and overall rate of price rise is above 10 per cent, giving the opposition enough ammunition to corner the government. On the pace of economic growth, he said the country's gross domestic product is expected to expand by 8.1 per cent during the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-12) against the targeted nine per cent. India 's economic growth slowed down during 2008-09 to 6.7 per cent from over nine per cent since 2005-06 due to the global financial crisis. However, stimulus packages to boost demand pushed it up to 7.4 per cent last fiscal. Economic growth is expected to be 8.5 per cent this fiscal. On tax reforms, Dr. Singh appealed to chief ministers to extend their support to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which the government wants to implement from the next fiscal. Since the introduction of GST would require constitutional amendments and ratification by at least half of state assemblies. On the losses in the power sector, Dr. Singh said: "The power sector is particularly important if we wish to achieve nine percent growth. Total loss in 2009-10 is estimated at Rs.40, 000 crore. Unless corrected it will make the whole power sector unviable." He attributed these losses to low levels of tariff for some categories of consumers and high technical and commercial losses. India has one of highest transmission and distribution losses in the world. It lost 30 per cent of the total power produced (over 160,000 MW) in transmission and distribution, which in monetary terms is estimated at Rs.45, 000 crore for fiscal 2009-10. The Prime Minister said since investment in generation and transmission depends upon the ability of the distribution companies to pay. He urged state governments to pay due attention to the farm sector which is crucial for curbing inflation and achieving broad based improvement in living standards in rural areas. He also said there is a need for reducing fiscal deficit in the coming years. In conclusion, he said: “This has been a very fruitful discussion on Mid Term Appraisal ( MTA ) of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, in general, and in particular the five important issues that were identified, in particular. The sense of the discussions revealed a broad measure of agreement with the assessment and policy corrections suggested in the MTA . It is a suitable basis for initiating preparatory work on the Twelfth Five Year Plan.” “A number of very valuable remarks and suggestions have been made by the honourable Chief Ministers. The Planning Commission has taken cognisance of these remarks and suggestions, and will act on them in the coming months,” he added.

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