Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Saturday, called for acceleration of the second generation economic reforms and strengthening the implementation of rural development programmes to achieve significant reduction in poverty.
“There is no need for questioning the basic direction of the reforms process as the latest statistics prove it has led to a dramatic reduction in the level of poverty,” Vajpayee said in his inaugural address at a two-day seminar held in New Delhi to mark the golden jubilee of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
``The need of the hour is to further strengthen the national consensus for reforms so that we can employ the full energy of the central government, the state governments, and all sections of our people for building a strong and prosperous India,`` the Prime Minister said.
TUNING THE POLICIES
However, there was a need to fine-tune the policies and programmes based on past experience. ``We certainly should correct the mistakes, wherever mistakes become apparent. We should effectively respond to changes in the global economic environment to defend the nation`s interests.``
Referring to the findings of the NSSO survey that the level of poverty had dropped to 26.1 per cent in 1999-2000, from 36 per cent in 1993-94, Vajpayee said this was primarily due to the economic reforms.
``I am not saying this because our government wants to take credit for this achievement. After all, our government has been in office only for the past three years. The process of economic reforms was initiated by a Congress government. It was later carried forward by two United Front governments. In different ways, state governments ruled by various political parties are also pursuing economic of their own.
``Thus, there is a broad consensus on the need for reforms for achieving faster and more balanced growth,`` he said.
Had any political party or leader earlier claimed that reforms were helping the country and the people, such an assertion would perhaps have been open to question. It could have been termed as partisan propaganda. ``But nobody can question the authenticity of what your survey has revealed.``
THE RECENT SURVEY
The Prime Minister said another recent NSSO survey on the informal sector had revealed that informal non-agricultural enterprises provided employment to about 94 million people. Most of these enterprises were located in rural and semi-urban areas. They had the potential to employ far many more people and thus reduced the pressure on agriculture.
This ``points to the urgent need to strengthen the implementation of all our rural development programmes, so that we can create more opportunities for employment and income generation.
The devolution of power to panchayati raj institutions had created a demand for necessary developmental data at grassroots levels.
The dynamic changes taking place in the economy and society had rendered some of the conventional data collection procedures outdated and ineffective, Vajpayee said. Reliable data was often not available on those segments of India`s economy, which had become relatively more important in recent years. These were some of the new challenges for the statistical system.
FROM THE STATES
In his key-note address, Andhra Pradesh governor and eminent statistician C Rangarajan stressed the need for creating an independent statistical authority free from political interference to enhance the credibility of official statistics.
Dr Rangarajan, who heads the national statistical commission, said such an authority should be non-executive in character and would supervise and monitor data generation and dissemination.
``Such an authority should have the power to set the priorities with respect to core statistics and to ensure quality standards of statistical processes.``
Besides, the authority would bring about effective coordination laterally among departments and vertically between the Centre and states.
As the present statistical operated, there was no effective coordination between departments and the Centre and the states. The ministry for statistics and programme implementation was in a position to ensure that the other ministries or state governments adhered to certain commonly accepted procedures. With the position of the director general of the Central Statistical Organisation lying vacant, the task had become more difficult.
``The lack of an effective and adequately empowered coordination mechanism is a major weakness in the system. Besides, there is no statistics policy making body or authority for evolving a national statistical strategy,`` Dr Rangarajan said.
The National Statistical Commission would submit its final report in mid-July, he said.
Minister of state for planning and programme implementation Arun Shourie praised the performance of the NSSO over the years and said one of its greatest advantages was that it was getting assistance from the governing council consisting of independent experts.
Besides, there was complete transparency in its performance and availability of highly qualified technical personnel at all levels. He had a dig at those who were questioning the poverty figures of the NSSO, saying that they did not want to believe any good news.