The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seven-saddle Atal bucks up for polls

New Delhi, July 23: The government today cleared a priority agenda for the current financial year to jump-start the stalled process of economic reforms.

The action plan will bring seven thrust areas directly under the Prime Minister’s supervision while another 40 schemes will be overseen by a committee of secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary.

The Union cabinet today cleared the priority agenda — crafted by the Planning Commission — which tries to put a human face to the reforms process by addressing the most pressing concerns of the people at the grassroots.

The reforms have been criticised for failing to improve the quality of life of the people at the lowest strata of society and the government is keen to ensure that the benefits trickle down to them before the general elections are held next year.

The agenda is mainly aimed at reviewing special policy initiatives and schemes in various sectors of the economy to ratchet up growth to the targeted level of 8 per cent in the tenth plan.

The seven priority areas to be directly handled by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee include the formulation of an appropriate policy and creating an enabling environment to increase India’s share in world exports from 0.6 to 1 per cent.

He will also monitor comprehensive computerisation of the income-tax system to benefit taxpayers.

Another priority item is timely completion of the Prime Minister’s dream national highway development project.

The speedy implementation of the economic package for weavers and artisans has been included to convey the message that the government cares for the poor. Similarly, agriculture has also been listed as a thrust area with the objective of increasing productivity and doubling food output in 10 years. Concern for the environment and its trade-off with development also figures on the list.

The comprehensive policy agenda will cover practically all the ministries, including civil aviation, power, petroleum, telecom, labour, exports and information technology.

The cabinet also approved another list of 115 priority thrust items related to policy issues of which 23 will be monitored directly by Vajpayee.

However, the cabinet deferred a decision on the proposed social security scheme aimed at providing pension and medical insurance to the 37 crore unorganised workers.

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