NEW DELHI, Feb 21 (IANS) Combating inflation and tackling corruption would be among the top priorities of the government, President Pratibha Patil said inaugurating the Budget session of Parliament Monday.
"My government's foremost priority will be to address frontally the concern regarding the lack of probity and integrity in public life," Patil said in her 45-minute address to the joint sitting of both houses in the packed Central Hall of Parliament.
The government's another priority will be to "combat inflation and, in particular, to protect the common man from the impact of rising food prices," she added.
She said the government will "sustain the momentum of economic growth, while ensuring that the poor, weak and the disadvantaged get a fair share in the fruits of growth. The government, as a priority, will "pursue a foreign policy which will ensure that our voice is heard and our interests are protected in the global fora," she added.
Asserting that the government stands committed to "improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life," she said the group of ministers (GOM) looking into the issue is expected to submit its report soon.
The GoM will consider all measures, including "legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency", she said.
The President gave an indication that the discretionary powers of ministers may be scrapped.
The GoM will review the "abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers, introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources and fast tracking cases against public servants charged with corruption," she said.
Formulation of a public procurement policy and enunciation of public procurement standards will also be considered by the GoM, the President said.
"We have gone through a difficult year for our country," Patil said.
"Certain parts of the country have suffered from unacceptably high levels of violence, especially areas affected by Left-wing extremism and the Kashmir Valley," she said.
The President was referring to the summer of unrest and protests in Kashmir which claimed over 100 lives last year, as well as the continuing problem of Maoist violence in various parts of the country.
"There has been a grievance in some quarters that the benefits intended for the poor through anti-poverty programmes have not reached them in full measure," she said.
The President said the "Commonwealth Games in October were a great success".
Patil offered her sympathies to the people of Ladakh where a cloudburst had killed nearly 200 people last August.
"Our heart goes out to the people of Ladakh, who suffered the consequences of a severe cloudburst, leading to an unprecedented loss of life and property," she said.
The Budget session will continue till April 21, with an 18-day recess from March 17 to April 3. The first part of the session will have 17 sittings while the second part will have 12 sittings.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Rajya Sabha Chirman Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani were among those present during the address, which passed off without interruptions.