Mr. Patodia spelt out the agenda for action. According to him, optimism about the growth of national economy is rife. However, there is abundant data to show that there are several potholes that could derail the ambitious growth plans of India. In order to provide a more egalitarian society to its mounting population, appropriate measures need to be taken. Reforms and development in agriculture would be one of the most important pillars on which the sustained growth of our economy would depend. A new revolution with substantial investment in irrigation and water harnessing projects should be unleashed. Today, we are faced with daunting tasks of increasing investment in the infrastructure and improving the performance of the installed infrastructure facilities. Employment opportunities need to be enhanced through a multipronged strategy. We must train people vocationally so that we create “employables” and not just graduates. In order to meet the Plan’s employment goals, the policy imperative is to encourage the use of labour intensive and capital saving technology, in general and to rejuvenate the growth of the unorganized sector in particular.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Union Minister of External Affairs said a sustainable economic growth of 9-10% has been projected in the 11th Five Year Plan, which will be launched within a few weeks. “Increasing agricultural productivity is the out biggest challenge. An annual growth of 4% has been projected for the agricultural sector over the next 15 years for the country to become self-sufficient in producing food and providing agro-based jobs for all”. At present nearly 250 million people earn less than $1 per day. “Our target is to create 70 million job opportunities over the next five years”. Mr. Mukherjee said the Central Government had put in place a framework that was “investment and industry-friendly”. Given the fundamental strengths of the domestic economy and the foreign exchange reserves of the country, there was no reason why the domestic economy cannot growth at 10-11 per cent as projected in the 11th Plan.
He said India was also set to emerge as a hub of economic activity with linkages to the ASEAN region as well as West Asia. With Afghanistan becoming a member of SAARC, India could use the land route through that country to access markets in Central and West Asia. Similarly, road connectivity through Myanmar would provide India access to markets in the ASEAN countries. “Our Look East Policy is synchronised with our Look West Policy and India in general and eastern India in particular is all set to emerge as a hub of economic activity,” Mr. Mukherjee said. According to him, Indo-China bilateral trade was set to touch $60 billion by 2010. To facilitate this, the Centre was creating the necessary infrastructure and putting all the enablers in place,” he said.
Now that the Nathula border in Sikkim has opened to trade, the entire Eastern and North Eastern hinterland can benefit from increased trade relations with China. Our business and diplomatic ties in each others’ countries will also be enhanced by the presence of consulates in Guangzhou and Kolkata. Kolkata and the eastern region are also uniquely placed to reap higher benefits arising out of the improved trade and investment ties that we are building with the ASEAN region. The State of West Bengal has an important role to play in realizing the objectives of our Look East Policy and benefit from our warm and dynamic relationships with our South- Eastern neighbours. Through West Bengal, India shares international boundaries with three countries in South Asia and this can speed up industrial and trade relations with these countries. This is one of the fastest growing States in India and is strategically located to attract foreign investment. In fact, it can play a crucial role in opening the doors for investment and business opportunities for the whole of eastern and north eastern India.