New Delhi: The Rafale deal, surgical strikes, counter-terrorism, demonetization, GST, and several initiatives of the NDA government in the last four-and-a-half years were the highlight of President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech on the opening day of the Budget Session on Thursday.
The President also talked about the making of a “New India” and various schemes for social, infrastructure, and economic development by the NDA government during its tenure. President Kovind termed demonetization as a “defining moment” in the Government’s war on corruption and black money and listed out various steps taken by the government to curb black money.
Speaking for the first time on the controversial Rafale deal, President Kovind termed the purchase of the fighter aircraft as an important step to enhance the strike capability of Indian Air Force and boost the morale of the defense forces.
“My Government believes that neglecting the country’s defense needs even for a moment is detrimental to the present as well as the future of the country. The new agreements relating to the defense sector signed last year, purchase of new defense equipment and indigenous production within the country under the Make in India initiative have all helped in boosting the morale of the defense forces and increasing the country’s military self-reliance. After a gap of many decades, the Indian Air Force is preparing to welcome, in the coming months, its new generation ultra-modern fighter aircraft Rafale and strengthen its strike capability,” President Kovind said while addressing the joint session of Parliament the Central Hall.
President also said that while India is a staunch supporter of friendly ties with all countries, there is also a need to constantly strengthen its capabilities to tackle any challenges. “Through the surgical strike on cross border terror posts, India has shown its new policy and strategy,” he said as he congratulated the Indian security forces for their efforts.
He said the concerted efforts fo the security forces have “played a crucial role in reducing terrorism and violence. In the last few years” and a record number of youngsters in the Maoist areas have come forward to join the mainstream.
This is the last Budget to be presented by the NDA government before the country goes for general elections in the coming months. The NDA Government will present a Vote-on-Account with an interim budget on Friday for the smooth functioning of the government till the time a new government is formed. The President’s speech also set the tone for the 2019 general elections and the way the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance plans to highlight its achievements.
“Prior to the 2014 General Election, the country was passing through a phase of uncertainty. After the elections, my Government assumed charge and vowed to build a new India. A new India with no place for imperfect, corrupt and inertia ridden systems. From day one, the mission of my Government based on transparency was to improve the lives of our citizens, to eradicate their difficulties owing to poor governance, and to make sure that the benefit of public services reach the lowest strata of the society,” President Kovind said as he listed the number of projects, schemes, and initiatives taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Government in center.
“Government’s efforts are ushering in change for the betterment of the country and this process will continue. With the blessings and support of 130 crore Indians, my Government has commenced its journey towards building a New India. A New India, where every person has access to basic amenities. A New India, where every person is healthy, secure and educated. A New India, where every person gets an opportunity to nurture his or her talent and has equal opportunities of advancement. A New India, where every child progresses in life without any deprivation, and every daughter feels safe. A New India, where every person gets justice with dignity. A New India, which commands the respect of the entire world,” President said as he mentioned works done by the NDA government in the social sector, infrastructure, economic areas, defense, and internal security.
He added that while preventing the flow of black money abroad, the Government also launched a major campaign against black money within the country and new laws were enacted for sectors thriving on black money, and those were brought under the ambit of taxation. He mentioned initiatives like voluntary disclosure of unaccounted income and wealth as an important step in this regard.
“Demonetisation was a defining moment in the Government’s war on corruption and black money. This decision struck at the very root of the parallel economy thriving on black money, and the money outside the formal system was brought within the ambit of the nation’s economy. This action of the Government broke the back of the forces destabilizing the country, and the systems sustaining the flow of black money. The registration of 3 lakh 38 thousand dubious shell companies responsible for the flow of black money has been annulled by the Government.
The directors of these companies have also been prohibited from holding such offices again. Assets worth more than Rs 50 thousand crores are being confiscated under the Benami Property Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the law against fugitive economic offenders. As a result of the policies of my Government, black money in real estate sector has declined substantially, the prices of houses have come down and the dream of a normal middle-class family for possessing their own house is being realized,” President said.
Among the social welfare schemes, President Kovind mentioned Ujjawala, rural electrification, universal health insurance coverage, cleanliness drive, housing for all, skill development, and initiatives for youth and farmers.
For women, President said, his government has taken several initiatives which include to tightening laws against rape, bringing legislation against triple talaq, increasing opportunities for women in jobs, particularly in security and armed forces.
“The targets of my Government were determined by countless and helpless faces such as — that poor mother who cooked in a smoke-filled kitchen; that helpless sister who was compelled to postpone her own treatment due to financial worries despite serious illness; that daughter who had to wait the whole day until the cover of darkness for going to the toilet; that child who was compelled to wait for daylight to study because there was no electricity; that farmer who was caught in the anxiety of repaying his loan while watching his crops damaged by hail storm; that youth who was unable to earn his livelihood because no bank would lend to him. These very thoughts have shaped the schemes of my Government,” he said.
He mentioned that under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, more than 9 crore toilets have been constructed which has resulted in the increase in coverage of rural sanitation from less than 40 percent in 2014, to 98 percent at present.
Talking about electrification, President said that in 2014 there were more than 18 thousand villages that were without electricity connection but as on date every village in the country has been electrified. “Under Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojana, 2 crore and 47 lakh homes have been provided electricity connection. Now India is rapidly moving on the path where every home is electrified and no poor household will be forced to live in darkness,” he said.
He also took a dig at the previous governments for not taking forwards schemes of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “When the nation was fortunate to have a visionary and compassionate Prime Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who also understood the pain of the poor; several new Departments and Ministries were created and new programmes were launched. A separate Ministry for the North East, a Ministry for Welfare of the Tribals, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and connecting the nation through Golden Quadrilateral were singular contributions of Atalji.
He undertook a grand initiative to eliminate the widespread disparities prevailing in the country. The programmes and Ministries conceived by Atalji played a vital role in eliminating social imbalances during the initial years of the 21st Century. But unfortunately, these initiatives did not get the desired momentum and continuity in subsequent years,” President said.
Batting for the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, the President said the proposed legislation will help in the securing of Indian citizenship by those victims who were persecuted and were compelled to seek refuge in India. “These people cannot be blamed since they were victims of circumstances,” he added.
“In the last four and a half years, My Government has infused new hope and confidence among the people of the country, enhanced the country’s image and has effectively brought in social and economic change. As a result, my Government has been able to win immeasurable affection and trust of the people. The main goal of my Government is to improve the life of every Indian,” President added.