Food security act pledge in Prez’s address

New Delhi,May 30: A national food security act to guarantee 25 kg of rice or wheat a month to BPL families, consolidation of rural employment and Bharat Nirman, a focus on terrorism and India’s neighbourhood, initiatives for urban employment and a promise to battle recessionary trends are likely to be part of President’s address to Parliament.

The first meeting of the Union Cabinet after the conclusion of government-formation, scheduled for Saturday morning, may consider President Pratibha Patil’s speech to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament. The speech, to be delivered on June 4, has been extensively worked on by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The President’s address is expected to highlight areas outlined by the PM like infrastructure and security. High on the government’s agenda are plans for a National Counter Terrorism Centre, modernisation of police forces through training and technology and diversified recruitment. It will also speak of pushing programmes like highways that have languished.

Some legislations like the Unorganised workers’ social security bill and Right to Education Bill, National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, expansion of the Rashtriya Swathya Bima Yojana and the National Child Labour Project, integrated development of minority concentration districts and approval of a National Tribal Policy are initiatives the government would like to speeden up.

With economy and job losses very much a concern, the address will look to stress development of social and physical infrastructure along with specific plans like an urban employment safety net.

The government will work on a comprehensive overhaul of public healthcare, restructuring Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), strengthening implementation of 11th and 12th plan power projects and attention on employment-generating small sector enterprises.

The government is planning major efforts to decrease infant and mother mortality rates, bring about accountability in Primary Health Centres, initiate a household survey of the National Rural Healthcare Mission, besides approving rigorous oversight in ensuring dispensation of medicines before expiry dates.

In the education sector, the main focus is likely to be on quality education by restructuring SSA, seen as a success story, and on guaranteeing education for all. The government is expected to restructure SSA into a Mission for Quality Elementary Education to deal effectively with teacher absenteeism and drop out rates.

The government has set up a target of adding 78,577 Mw of power generation capacity in the current 11th five year plan which has been raised to 1 lakh MW during the 12th five year plan.

A major thrust on the micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector — hit badly by the global economic slowdown — to protect workers and artisans can be expected. Government may insist on use of handlooms and handicrafts in decor for government offices as well as for venues for the forthcoming

At the start of UPA’s first term in office, the President’s address had reflected the commitments made in the common minimum programme and this time around, Congress’s manifesto is expected to be “foundation” of the speech.

A nation-wide skill development programme and scholarship schemes for needy students and those from the minority communities are on the government’s check list.

The electoral success in attracting minority votes could see the President refer to Congress’s poll promise of taking its minority reservation models in states like Andhra Pradesh, to the national level.

The government feels that it has been the recipient of a rural feel-good with the agrarian economy benefitting from higher MPS, NREGA and the loan waiver.

With an eye to consolidating its image as pro-farmer, the government is expected to work towards providing interest relief to all farmers who repay bank loans on schedule. The loan waiver has reached 3.68 crore families.

In the power sector, operationalisation of the National Electricity Fund, infrastructure implementation in the north-east, faster implementation of flagship programmes and monitoring through third parties and capacity building are on the table.