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Montek Singh for focus on rural infrastructure

By Our Staff Reporter



The Governor, Sushil Kumar Shinde, presenting the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on Thursday. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

GUNTUR, MARCH 24. The Planning Commission will focus on rural infrastructure during the mid-term appraisal of Tenth Five-Year Plan and identify some critical policy correctives in health, education and agriculture sectors to take the growth rate from 6-7 per cent to 8 per cent.

Delivering the 26th convocation address of Acharya Nagarjuna University in Guntur on Thursday, the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said: "We are nowhere near the target, but our aim is to have a sustained improvement in the living standards of people with high quality jobs which can happen only through healthy and educated population."

Comparing literacy and infrastructure in South East Asia with that of India, he indicated that secondary school education needed vast expansion as the adult literacy was only 62 per cent compared to 98 per cent in China.

Health mission

The Government would soon launch a national health mission to address health problems in rural areas, he announced while observing that the country had not provided essential public services in primary education and health to a large number of people, he said.

The deceleration in the agriculture growth rate from 3.2 per cent till mid-1990s to 1.5 per cent now was one of the major factors coming in the way of achieving 8 per cent growth in GDP, he observed. "We have neglected water for irrigation and measures to restore dynamism to Indian agriculture will receive high priority in the mid-term appraisal," he said.

Application of scientific research to agriculture was essential for achieving higher growth rate in this sector, he said and advocated contract farming with suitable changes in current laws relating to the marketing of agriculture produce.

Infrastructure gap

To close the infrastructure gap in the country, $ 200 billions (Rs.10,000 crores) was essential and that should come from private-public partnership. Making state electricity boards viable should be the priority through reforms in this sector, he said. A sector-by-sector review was being done in the Planning Commission during the ongoing mid-term appraisal and hoped that the Special Purpose Vehicle for financing infrastructure would bring about the much-needed impetus to GDP growth.

He earlier received the honorary doctorate from the Governor, Sushil Kumar Shinde. The Vice-Chancellor, L. Venugopala Reddy, was also present.

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