New Delhi, Feb 21 : With the issue of black money stashed abroad coming into focus, President Pratibha Patil today said the government stood committed to tackling the menace frontally.
"My government stands committed to tackling the menace frontally. It requires diligent, sustained effort by all law enforcement agencies including those of state governments," she said addressing a joint sitting of members of Parliament, marking the start of the budget session.
She expressed concern over ill effects of black money, especially that was allegedly stashed away in foreign banks either through evasion of taxes on income earned legitimately or through illegal activities.
Noting that the government has taken many steps to strengthen the legal framework, the President said a multi-disciplinary study has been commissioned to go into its ramifications for national security and recommend a suitable framework to tackle it.
Declaring that the government would spare no effort in bringing back to India "what belongs to it and to bring the guilty to book, the President said the steps taken so far have led to additional collection of taxes of Rs 34,601 crore and detection of additional income of Rs 48,784 crore."
Detailing the steps taken by the government, she said India was also working closely with the international community especially through the G-20, to expedite the process of identification and recovery of such money.
She said India is now a member of the Financial Action Task Force in recognition of its anti-money laundering and anti-tax evasion measures and has also gained membership of the Eurasian Group and the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.
Turning to the issue of corruption in the wake of rash of scams that have surfaced recently, she said, "Our citizens deserve good governance. It is their entitlement and our obligation".
"My government stands committed to improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life," Patil said.
She said that a Group of Ministers was considering all measures including legislative and administrative to tackle corruption and improve transparency.
"The group will consider issues relating to the formulation of a public procurement policy and enunciation of public procurement standards and review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers", she said.
Besides, it would also seek introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources, fast tracking of cases against public servants charged with corruption and amendments to relevant laws to facilitate quicker action against public servants, she said.
Combating inflation and sustaining growth momentum may be the top priority, but the President said government would strive to push economic reforms to encourage foreign and private sector investments in the economy.
"The Indian economy continues to be on a trajectory of high growth despite an adverse global environment... However, there is no room for complacency," she said.
The top priority of the government, she said, would include combating high prices especially of food items and sustaining momentum of economic growth.
To achieve this twin objective, she said "we have strived to make the domestic environment more conducive to investment, encouraging public as well as private investment, and domestic as well as foreign investment, particularly FDI.
"We have to maintain the momentum for reforms on a wide front," Patil said. Referring to the high inflation during the past one year, the President said "my government is deeply concerned over the adverse impact of inflation on the aam aadmi (common man) and the threat it poses to the growth momentum."
While the food inflation had touched 18.32 per cent in December, 2010 before moderating to over 11 per cent this month, the overall inflation still hovers above eight per cent as against the comfort level of 5-6 per cent.
The economic growth, however, is expected to be 8.6 per cent for the current fiscal, up from eight per cent a year ago.
Patil said the government's proactive measures to counter inflation, like banning export of edible oil and pulses, besides liberalising import regime to ease supply constraints of critical items, have shown results.
"Inflation was declining until November last when unseasonal rains in some states led to a spurt in vegetable prices. These prices have come down again following the arrival of fresh crop," she said.
The President, however, said the long term solution to check inflation lies in increasing productivity and production.
"My government stands committed to ensuring that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce," Patil said adding they should be able to sell to the consumers without any impediments.
The President, however, said measures necessary to ensure that farmers sell directly to consumers fall largely in the domain of states.
"Concrete steps will be taken to augment investment and provide suitable incentives to the states in this direction," the President said in her address.
On the proposed Food Security Law, Patil said, important inputs in this regard have been received from the National Advisory Council.
"The states are being consulted as success of the programme hinges critically on their commitment to reform the Public Distribution System," she added.
The President described the Commonwealth Games held here in October last year as a "great success" and lauded Delhiites for showing "exemplary discipline and courtesy".
She also noted that sportspersons of the country secured "an unprecedented medal tally" in the event.
"The Commonwealth Games in October last were a great success. Our sportspersons secured an unprecedented medal tally. The citizens of Delhi displayed exemplary discipline and courtesy," she said.
"We are proud of these achievements," Patil said. The Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi from October 3 to 14 last year. A total of 6,081 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and dependencies took part in it.India clinched 101 medals, the highest so far by the country in Commonwealth Games. PTI