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Policy thrust areas drawn up for Ministries

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, FEB. 9. Eager to ensure that the commitments made in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) and later announcements of the Government through the President's address to Parliament and the Union Budget do not remain empty promises, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has drawn up a list of "policy thrust areas'' for all Central Ministries and departments for "policy implementation'' over the next six months.

An exhaustive list that covers practically every aspect of governance — 46 items with detailed sub-sections — progress on the identified areas will be tracked by the Prime Minister's Office on a regular basis. The Ministries and departments have been asked to prepare a schedule of sequential steps with time frames for each thrust area to ensure time-bound implementation.

While specific targets have been set, a common goal pertains to institutional reform in terms of decentralisation, simplification, transparency, accountability and e-governance. Subsidies are likely to come in for considerable debate over the next few months with the Prime Minister asking the Finance Ministry to formulate a national policy on subsidies identifying target groups, goods & services, subsidy norms, and an exit strategy for existing subsidies inconsistent with the policy. Besides, the Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry has set the target of rationalising fertilizer subsidies.

Policy on FDI

The Finance Ministry has also been asked to bring out a White Paper on Disinvestment, and review existing provisions relating to foreign direct investment and develop a comprehensive policy governing FDI in various sectors keeping in view investment/developmental needs, strategic concerns and other relevant factors. Besides formulating a new civil aviation policy to address issues comprehensively related to the sector, the Ministry has been asked to ensure the timely completion of activities under the proposed efforts to restructure/develop Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad airports.

As for the telecom sector, the Communications Ministry has to take time-bound steps to achieve the objectives of a rural tele-density of three VPTs in all uncovered villages and provision of additional Rural Community Phones in all villages with population of over 2000 by 2007.

On the social sector end of the administrative spectrum, the Prime Minister wants the Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment to ensure the abolition of manual scavenging by August this year, and has asked the Rural Development Ministry to enact the National Employment Guarantee Scheme over the set time-frame.

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