The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal push for rural projects

New Delhi, Oct. 4: Two days after he breathed fire at a labour ministry function, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today reverted to his unflappable style.

Inaugurating a conference of project directors of the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA), Vajpayee struck up a familiar theme, reminding the audience that India cannot lag behind in global competition.

“We have to produce better and better quality goods and agricultural produce. This is a WTO regime. And we cannot fall behind,” he said. The Prime Minister had used a similar refrain recently at the Indian Labour Conference, and soon afterwards virtually hollered at his detractors within the party for spiking the government’s policies.

Vajpayee’s exhortations are aimed at breaking down the walls of resistance by those opposed to his government’s policies of disinvestment and labour law reforms — in general, a large chunk of liberalisation policies.

By and large adhering to the written speech, Vajpayee today said the government has enough cash to carry out the rural development programmes but the problem lies in implementation.

“There is enough money to change things. But many backward states do not utilise the money. Many of them send back the money allocated to them for social welfare,” Vajpayee said, adding that the constitutional amendment Bill granting more financial clout to the Panchayati Raj institutions would come in the next parliamentary session.

“Our experience has shown that without adequate financial and administrative powers, Panchayati Raj institutions are unable to discharge their responsibilities. I would like the forthcoming winter session to debate a Constitutional amendment bill which will give more financial powers to these institutions,” he said.

Vajpayee mentioned former Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in taking forward the Panchayati experiment. “The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution, which empowered the Panchayati Raj institutions, were a historic step in democratic decentralisation. This year, 2002, marks its tenth anniversary and we naturally recall the enthusiasm of the late Rajiv Gandhi in taking this measure,” the Prime Minister said.

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