13,June:Acknowledging that rising inflation was the "biggest challenge" before the country, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the Centre had no other choice but to increase petrol prices and it was trying to shield people from additional burden.
Gandhi said the UPA government was forced to hike fuel prices due to surging global oil rates but it was asking state governments to offer some relief by giving subsidies to cushion the impact."We had to increase the prices of petrol due to surging global oil prices. There was no alternative during the BJP’s time it was 40 dollars a barrel (of oil) but now it is 140 dollars," she said.
"The biggest challenge before the country today is inflation and escalating prices that are fallout of the steep increase in crude oil prices. The government is facing tremendous pressure in its efforts to shield people from the real impact of the global crude oil price rise," Gandhi said addressing a mammoth Kisan Rally in Guwahati on Friday.
Gandhi however sought to defend the oil price hike saying the petrol and diesel prices in the country were still much cheaper than that in our neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.
Gandhi also batted for nuclear energy underlining its importance at this juncture when surging oil prices posed serious problems for the economy."Nuclear energy has gained much importance in view of the steep rise in global oil prices," she said.
Touching upon local issues, Gandhi said the UPA government was committed to implementing all the clauses of the Assam Accord.
The Accord was signed in 1985 by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and All Assam Students Union(AASU) which has accused the Centre of failing to implement all clauses of the pact.
Voice of panchayats should be heard: Sonia Gandhi
In an era of globalisation and rapid economic growth, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday observed that it was essential that the voice of panchayats is heard.
In a message to a party conference on Panchayati Raj Institutions here, she said panchayati raj leaders should have a say in shaping development policies so that grassroot needs and aspirations were taken care of.
Noting that strengthening the institutions of Panchayati Raj was a cause close to late Rajiv Gandhi’s heart as it is to her, Gandhi said empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions was crucial for the healthy functioning of democracy.
She said such empowerment would ensure that the benefits of the country’s economic growth flow equally to rural areas.
The meeting, attended by Union Panchayati Raj Minister Manishanker Aiyar, AICC General Secretaries and state presidents, comes in the backdrop of the future challenges group of the party recommending that grassroot level workers be trained to better reach out to people.
Sonia invokes teachings of social reformer Sankardeva
The teachings of 16th century religious and social reformer of Assam, Srimanta Sankardeva, are very relevant today to fight forces intolerant of peace and justice, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said.
"Those forces inimical to peace and justice need to learn Sankardeva’s teachings which are very relevant today. The youth also should be inspired by his teachings," Gandhi said after presenting the Srimanta Sankaradeva Awards at a function in Guwahati on Friday.
Noted journalist B G Verghese has been given the award for 2005 while author Kesavananda Dev Goswami is the winner for 2006.
Gandhi said Sankardeva taught "the people of India with so many different provinces to be united."Like Sankardeva set up namghars (prayer houses) in every household. So it is important to spread his message today," she said.
"It is the responsibility today of all to spread the teachings of this great ‘mahapurush’ of Assam. He had knowledge, sensitivity and vision. He was called a ‘mahapurush’ as he was not limited within the boundaries of religion, treated all equally and only gave to the people," the UPA chairperson pointed out.
"550 years ago, Srimanta Sankardeva laid emphasis on unity and high values for finding solutions to the problems of society," she said.Courtsey: DD NEWS