New Delhi: Tackling
corruption and inflation are high on the government's agenda,
President Pratibha Patil said inaugurating the important budget
session of parliament Monday. She also underlined that
sustainining economic growth while ensuring equity and ushering in
reforms would be among the top priorities.
"My government's foremost priority will be to address frontally
the concern regarding lack of probity and integrity in public
life," Patil said in her 45-minute address to the joint sitting of
both houses in the packed Central Hall of parliament.
The emphasis on anti-corruption measures by the president comes a
day before the 21-month-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II
government is likely to announce the formation of a joint
parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum
However, there was no mention in the presidential address of the
impasse in parliament during the winter session caused by
opposition protests over the spectrum scandal and other corruption
issues like the Commonwealth Games and Adarsh housing society
Contrary to the noisy scenes all through the winter session, the
address of the president on the inaugural day of the two-month
budget session passed off peacefully.
The government's another priority will be to "combat inflation
and, in particular, to protect the common man from the impact of
rising food prices," Patil said. The president's speech
customarily lists out the government priorities and is cleared by
She said the government will "sustain the momentum of economic
growth, while ensuring that the poor, weak and the disadvantaged
get a fair share in the fruits of growth.
Indicating the government is planning new economic reforms soon,
the president said: "We have to maintain the momentum for reforms
on a wide front."
The government, as a priority, will "pursue a foreign policy which
will ensure that our voice is heard and our interests are
protected in the global fora," she added.
Asserting that the government stands committed to "improving the
quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and
integrity in public life", she said the group of ministers (GoM)
looking into the issue is expected to submit its report soon.
The GoM will consider all measures, including "legislative and
administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency",
The president gave an indication that the discretionary powers of
ministers may be scrapped.
The GoM will review the "abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed
by ministers, introduction of an open and competitive system of
exploiting natural resources and fast tracking cases against
public servants charged with corruption," she said.
Regarding economic and welfare schemes, Patil said the issues that
the government will specifically target include a new legislation
to ensure food security, access to energy, rapid industrial
development with social inclusion, a new minerals policy and safe
and reliable transportation system.
"I had announced earlier my government's commitment to bring a
food security law that will entitle statutorily every family below
poverty line to food grains at highly subsidized prices. The
states are being consulted as success of the programme hinges on
their commitment to reforms in the public distribution system."
On foreign policy, the president made a significant reference to
the popular uprisings in West Asia and said India would welcome
democracy everywhere in the world. "As a democracy ourselves, we
welcome the dawn of democracy elsewhere."
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Rajya Sabha Chirman Hamid Ansari,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
chairperson Sonia Gandhi, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani and other
leaders were present during the presidential address.
Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan said outside the house that he
hoped the budget session will be peaceful. The budget will be
presented Feb 28.
"This budget session of parliament is very crucial. The budget has
to be debated and passed by two houses of parliament. We also hope
to give some important pieces of legislation," he told reporters.
"It is our sincere hope that this session will be peaceful and
productive," he said.
The budget session will continue till April 21, with an 18-day
recess from March 17 to April 3. The first part of the session
will have 17 sittings while the second part will have 12 sittings.