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Sonia for pro-farm Budget
BS Political Bureau in New Delhi | February 22, 2006 12:28 IST
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said time had come to keep a 'close watch' on imports in critical and sensitive areas.
Although she did not specify the areas, party leaders said she meant agriculture and cottage industries.
In her address at the general body meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Sonia stressed the need for continuing special focus on small and marginal farmers through measures like agriculture credit and said time had come for pushing through the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers, particularly relating to irrigation, dryland farming, horticulture and food processing.
A week before the union Budget, the Congress president emphasised the need to strengthen the tax collection system to curtail unproductive, non-essential expenditure and to eliminate wasteful utilisation of resources.
These measures were needed to finance the government's flagship programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Bharat Nirman, the National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme, she said.
"I am sure that our flagship programmes will be adequately funded (in the Budget)," Sonia said, adding that economic growth would be placed on a firmer footing as the government took steps to boost the manufacturing sector, particularly in areas like textiles, handlooms and handicrafts, agro-processing and leather.
Congressmen have been complaining to the party president about some BJP-ruled states claiming credit for the NREGA. Without referring to the BJP, Sonia said there had been a "misleading propaganda" about the employment guarantee programme being an initiative of the state governments whereas the fact was that 90 per cent funds for the scheme would come from the UPA Centre.
"Had we not been in power, the Act would not be in place. I know the prime minister is looking into this but at the same time our party leaders and workers must be active in countering this propaganda," she said.
In this connection, a convention of the 200 Congress committees of the districts where the Act is in place has been convened in mid-March.
Apparently unhappy with party MPs' frequent absence from Parliament, Sonia said, "The Budget session is the most crucial session. Hence, your regular attendance and participation is essential. I also want to make a plea to all the ministers to take their assigned roster duty very seriously."Strongly endorsing the government's stance on the Iran nuclear issue and the Indo-US nuclear agreement, the UPA chairperson said the government would always give paramount consideration to the protection of India's short-term and long-term strategic and national interests.
Complete Coverage: Budget 2006 - 2007