President Pratibha Patil’s address to the nation on Monday, on the eve of the 61st Republic Day, reflected the common citizen’s worries on two counts: the unyielding price situation and challenges to internal security. She also touched upon climate change, underlining the use of “energy efficient technologies and renewable sources of energy” to reduce the “carbon footprint.”

The President called for urgent steps towards a second green revolution to ensure food availability, particularly of agricultural produce, which is in short supply, to avoid spiralling food prices. Urging positive action, including some “out-of-the-box thinking” on the farm front, she said: “We have to involve the agricultural economy more pro-actively into the growth process, both as a centre of production and as a generator of demand for various products and services.”

Ms. Patil advocated “more intense frameworks,” encompassing “new technologies, better seeds, improved farming practices and better water management techniques,” for closing the gap among the farmer, the scientific community, lending institutions and the markets. She said higher agricultural incomes would improve the living standards of over 145 million rural households, which in turn “will generate demand and provide the impetus for growth in other sectors.”

As the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, India was on target for achieving a double-digit growth rate, the President pointed out. While policies that promoted growth must continue, it was important to “take growth patterns to the bottom of the pyramid” empowering the poor and the disadvantaged, “enabling them to move up the economic ladder, to join the ranks of the prosperous.”

Simultaneously Ms. Patil laid stress an “environment of security” for the optimal attainment of growth. In an obvious reference to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s recent moves towards a new security architecture, she said the government was committed to maintaining high vigil and taking appropriate measures to address internal security challenges.

Climate change

The President linked the challenge of climate change to India’s civilisational respect for nature, and called for Indians to become “sensitive inhabitants of the planet.”

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