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PM takes House ache to business

New Delhi, Aug. 24: Mild-mannered Manmohan Singh today expressed his frustration with the hurly-burly of politics — especially the gridlock in Parliament — that was holding up work on other fronts.

“We are living in abnormal times,” the Prime Minister said at the inauguration of JRD Tata centenary celebrations here today, which was his first interaction with the shoguns of industry since assuming office in May.

“I would have liked to interact more often with the captains of trade and industry,” he said. “But never in the history of any government have the first 100 days been characterised by the daily turmoil that we are witnessing in Parliament.

“This naturally cut me off from meeting people of various walks of life whose views and opinions I greatly cherish,” Singh said.

His comments came as Parliament was again crippled today over Uma Bharti and Veer Savarkar. Chances are that Parliament will be adjourned sine die on Thursday after the Finance Bill is passed without discussion.

Despite the expression of annoyance with the political developments, the Prime Minister used the meeting today to underscore his commitment to turn India into a superpower of the knowledge economy.

But to do that, he said, the government would first have to build world-class infrastructure, integrate the Indian market with the world economy, persuade Indian companies to compete globally, and ensure that “India becomes the home of multinational corporations”.

The Prime Minister said he would reconstitute the committee on trade and industry — a caucus of top industrialists — to advise the government on how best to end the tyranny of an inspector raj that was constraining industry growth.

To show just how bad things were, he drew a comparison between India and China: six inspectors visit a Chinese industrial establishment every year to monitor adherence to a variety of laws and regulations. An Indian factory, on the other hand, can expect a visit from over 30 inspectors from different government departments.

“The government will closely monitor the progress in all key infrastructure projects, including airports, power, telecom, roads and ports, on a quarterly basis. I am setting up a committee on infrastructure that I will chair myself,” he said.

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