Pranab says govt trying to boost growth, investments

Admitting that the growth rate of the economy had become significantly lower, President Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament Thursday that the government was seeking to address the problem by taking steps to restore investor sentiment.

"The Indian economy is currently experiencing slower growth," Mukherjee said in his maiden speech to the joint sitting of the two houses, marking the beginning of the budget session.

He said GDP had grown by 5.4 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal, which was "significantly lower than the average of around 8 per cent in the last decade". Last year was difficult for the global economy as well as India and "both global and domestic factors have affected our growth...We need to address the impact of both," he said.

Although he did not directly refer to the VVIP helicopter scandal that has been in the headlines, Mukherjee said the government will usher in reforms "for greater transparency, probity and accountability in governance." This, he said, would be done through a slew of legislations.

He listed The Whistle Blowers' Protection Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, Citizens' Right to Grievance Redress Bill, and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in this connection. The President said the government is also considering amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act to punish the guilty and protect honest public servants "more effectively".

Mukherjee said the government has begun implementing a series of measures to improve the safety of women. It had already promulgated an ordinance providing for stringent punishment for sexual crimes against women, he said.

Expressing commitment to deal with Left-wing extremism in a comprehensive manner, the President said the government was pursuing a two-pronged approach of conducting "proactive and sustained" operations against extremists and focusing attention on development and governance issues in extremist affected areas.

The security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East, according to him, had shown a perceptible improvement.

On foreign policy, the President said India continued to seek peace, stability, cooperation and economic development in the subcontinent. In an apparent reference to the beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control last month, he said while India remained committed to taking the process forward, "it is also important that Pakistan abides by its commitments and desists from acts that contribute to a trust deficit".

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