Infrastructure development to get top priority: Patil

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 21, 2011 09:40 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) India's economic and social development depends on how fast infrastructure is ramped up, President Pratibha Patil said here Monday.

The government has accorded infrastructure development the highest priority and allocated for it Rs.20 lakh crore in the Eleventh Five Year Plan, which ends March 2012. In the subsequent five-year plan, the government plans to double the allocation.

'Infrastructure is critical for development. This huge quantum of investment cannot be funded by government alone. It needs to be supplemented by private participation,' Patil said in her address to the joint session of parliament's two houses, marking the start of the budget session.

The contribution of the private sector stood at 34 percent of the total investment in infrastructure last year.

Speaking on various infrastructure sectors, Patil said the telecom sector had expanded to around 800 million mobile connections and now the government was planning to further the footprint of telecom and internet services to rural areas.

'My government proposes to extend the coverage of private FM radio services to all cities with a population of one lakh and above. A total of 806 new FM radio channels in 283 cities are proposed to be set up,' said Patil.

The president also said that electricity is vital for the country's rapidly growing and increasingly inclusive environment.

'Although the programme to add power generation capacity shows improvement, energy shortages continue. The distribution of quality power at reasonable prices to all, including farmers, will be possible only if there is greater efficiency in the power sector,' she said.

'Steps are under way to augment the growth in coal production from the mines in the public sector as well as captive mines in order to meet the growing demands, mainly of the power sector.'

Among other priority infrastructure areas, the president accorded high importance to the development of highways, and said that 16,000 km of road construction work was in progress.

The president said that economy was set on a high-growth path, but the country could not afford to be complacent.

'There are no rooms for complacency. We have to strive to make the domestic environment more conducive to investment, encouraging public as well as private investment, and domestic as well as foreign investment, particularly foreign direct investment,' the president said.