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This must be a Plan for the poor, says PM

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JUNE 29. A full meeting of the Planning Commission, chaired by the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today accepted the Tenth Five Year Plan's growth target of eight per cent but emphasised that the attempt should be to go beyond that growth rate in order to double the country's per capita income in 10 years.

In his concluding remarks at the meeting, the Prime Minister said the challenge before the country was to wipe out poverty and under-development in the shortest possible time ``and this approach paper places this challenge squarely before the nation and also charts a road map for meeting it with clarity and confidence.''

Mr. Vajpayee said removal of regional, social and gender imbalances which had strained the social fabric of the country would receive far greater focus in the Tenth Plan than before. ``This should be a Plan for the poor; this should be a Plan for Dalits, Adivasis and Backward Classes; and this should be a Plan for all those regions that have lagged behind in development,'' the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Vajpayee called upon the Central and State Governments to act boldly to remove all the non-financial constraints on the faster growth of capital and labour productivity. ``Exclusive reliance on allocations, the relative neglect of outputs and outcomes and lack of executive accountability have not served our Plan objectives in the past. These must be corrected,'' he added.

The Prime Minister also said that India would have to improve its competitiveness in all spheres to exploit the opportunities of globalisation and to minimise the harmful effects. ``Working harder and working better must be our mantra,'' he pointed out.

In his remarks, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr K. C. Pant, said the Tenth Plan would strive for a literacy rate of 75 per cent by the end of the Plan period (2002- 2007) and for full coverage of rural areas with drinking water facilities by the year 2004, provided sufficient funds are available.

Also, the Planning Commission and the Union Finance Ministry would continue with the linkage of Central assistance to States on the basis of agreed reforms programmes to be undertaken by the latter. This measure has been opposed by some States but the decision has been to continue with the system in order to ``improve the effectiveness and quality of Government expenditure as well as bring about sustainability in public finances,'' Mr Pant said.

The Tenth Plan would also stress on reforms in the Railways, some of which have been outlined in the interim report of the Rakesh Mohan Committee which went into this aspect. Similarly, the power sector reforms are to be vigourously pursued as otherwise the this sector would prove to be a drag on economic growth, Mr. Pant pointed out even as he urged the Prime Minister to seek full political support for the power sector reforms.

The Tenth Plan proposes to formulate development strategies for agriculture in consultations with the State Governments, since it agriculture is primarily a State subject.

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