Patil praises Lula´s Zero Hunger Programme

By Liz Mathew, IANS

Brasília : India’s President Pratibha Patil Wednesday compared her Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to Mahatma Gandhi for his ambitious Bolsa Familia (family grant) programme that is aimed at eradicating poverty and has made him extremely popular.

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“The Zero Hunger Programme launched by President Lula is a remarkable step and reminds me of Gandhi-ji’s call to wipe every tear from every eye,” Patil said while speaking at the banquet Lula hosted for her.

President Lula’s Bolsa Familia (family grant) programme in Brazil has been a huge success and played a crucial role in his winning a second term. The programme is aimed at providing food security to 46 million inhabitants who receive less than US$1 a day. The scheme ensures $45 a month from the federal government to the poor.

Reminding that both countries have a commitment to improve the lives of their people to eradicate hunger, ignorance and disease, Patil said: “Our cultures are characterized by a tradition of tolerance and ethnic diversity. Our shared values provide a strong foundation to our growing ties.”

“We are thus natural partners who share a great similarity of views on many of the important global issues,” she said.

India and Brazil, which have already signed 37 agreements since Lula’s visit to India in July 2004, signed four more pacts Wednesday. They were an extradition treaty, a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors, a pact in the area of civil defence and humanitarian assistance and another in the field of oil and natural gas.

The pact on agriculture will open opportunities of cooperation between the two countries in production technologies and equipment, financing and micro credit for small farmers, post harvest management, agro and food processing and animal husbandry.

Patil also called for bilateral cooperation in the areas of agriculture, food processing, defence, energy, space, science and technology, agriculture research, education and culture.

The president urged both private and public sector air carriers of both countries to “tap into the growing and lucrative civil aviation market”.

Patil ended her speech by wishing health and happiness for Lula and his wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva.

“A amizade entre India e Brasil” (long live India-Brazil relationship), she said.