PM meet to set pre-poll agenda

Written by Mukesh Ranjan | New Delhi, Oct 24 | Updated: Oct 25 2007, 07:48am hrs
The UPA government appears to be switching to mid-term poll mode. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a meeting on Friday with top aides to set the governments agenda for the next six months. Priority areas include agriculture, the social sector and welfare, as well as implementation of the Sachar Committee road map for minorities and rural infrastructure.

Economic reforms have been firmly thrust to the backburner, the only significant exception being FDI in retail. Invitees to the high-level meeting include Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan.

The note for the meeting says the government would have to work on schemes for economically deprived sections of society. The move to redirect government focus in this direction becomes significant in the light of the continuing standoff with the Left over the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

An elaborate list of subjects sent out on Monday outlines the priority areas. It includes acceleration of the special Bihar and UP development packagea possible indication that the Congress does not want to annoy its steadfast ally, the RJD, in Bihar and wants to keep BSP chief Mayawati in good humour.

For agriculture, the Prime Minister has sought follow-up action on the Radhakrishna Committee report on farm distress and indebtedness, creation of a credit guarantee fund, crop insurance and changes in the credit cycle to match crop and weather cycles. The meeting will also discuss mechanisms to convert kisan credit cards into smart cards and find ways to link village-level technology touch-points to knowledge centres.

In education, the Prime Minister is keen to commence work on 30 new universities besides new IITs, IIMs, IISERs and IIITs. At the same time, he wants to expand student loan programmes. He has asked aides to look at ways to universalise secondary education and launch 6,000 block-level schools.

Singh is also keen to ensure that welfare programmes for labour including health insurance, life insurance and old age pension, begin at the earliest.