Discuss, don’t disrupt Parliament, Indian President tells MPs


BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, February 23: India’s President Pranab Mukherjee today strongly disapproved of disruption and obstruction of Parliament and called upon all MPs to discharge their responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation.

Parliament reflects the supreme will of the people, Mukherjee said in his customary address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament here.

He outlined government’s agenda in the coming financial year, and declared that the government will constantly strive for smooth and construction conduct of Parliamentary business.

"Our Parliament reflects the supreme will of the people. Democratic temper calls for debate and discussion, and not disruption of obstruction.

"My government will constantly strive for smooth and constructive conduct of Parliamentary business. I urge all Members of Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation. Let us all collectively endeavour to build a flourishing and prosperous India," he said.

The President remarks assume significance in the context of repeated disruption of business on various issues, loss of time of Parliament and the stalling of legislative business in Rajya Sabha, Parliament’s upper house, where the Narendra Modi government lacks majority.

"Let noble thoughts come from all directions, should be the spirit behind the debate in this temple of democracy.

Being a member of this great institution bestows great honour as well as important responsibilities," Mukherjee said.

"My government is committed to forging a mutually respectful relationship with Pakistan and in creating an environment of cooperation in combating cross border terrorism," Mukherjee said while referring to the government’s foreign policy.

He said the government believes in a secure and prosperous future for the neighbourhood while committing itself to the principle of ‘the world is one family’.

Elaborating on the focus of the government ‘development for all’ beyond just the economic advancements that dominate headlines, the President said the country must ensure that the poor and deprived are truly empowered to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives.

"Development for all means that backward sections of society are equally valued and are genuine stakeholders in the country’s progress. Development for all implies that we tackle the pollution, traffic, and garbage problems that plague our cities," he said.

"The overriding goal for my government is poverty eradication," he said. The poorest of the poor are entitled to the first charge on the nation’s resources.

"To this end, my government has placed great emphasis on food security, Housing for All and subsidies that reach those who need them the most, when they need them the most," he said.

The President said under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna he was proud to say that it was the world’s most successful financial inclusion programme. "Under the programme, out of over 210 million accounts opened, 150 million accounts are operational with an aggregate deposit of over INR 320 billion.

"The programme has gone beyond mere opening of bank accounts to becoming a platform for poverty eradication by offering basic financial services and security to the poor," he said.

To universalise social security, the President said, the government has launched three new insurance and pension schemes which afford insurance to hitherto uncovered sections of society.

He said targeted subsidies ensure that benefits reach the deserving. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) has so far been extended to 42 schemes funded by the government.

"DBT has become the largest direct cash transfer programme of its kind in the world, with nearly 150 million beneficiaries. Since June 2014, the food security coverage has more than doubled to cover over 680 million people."

The ‘Give-It-Up’ campaign in tandem with the Give-Back programmes has released subsidised fresh cokking gas connections to five million below-poverty-line families.

"More than 6.2 million LPG consumers have voluntarily surrendered their LPG consumers have surrendered their LPG subsidy under the campaign. The highest number of new cooking gas connections to the rural poor were distributed in 2015," he said.

The President said the government has fostered competitive cooperation among various states to enhance ‘Ease of Doing Business’. State governments are being encouraged and supported to simplify procedures, introduce e-enabled processes and invest in infrastructure to improve investment climate.

"A series of reforms have been initiated to help convert job seekers into job creators. My government has launched the Start-Up India campaign which would deepen, expand and support the innovation eco system in the country," he said.

Mukherjee said a landmark agreement with Japan will make the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor a reality.

By March 2019, under the Prime Minister’s Village Roads Scheme, 1,78,000 habitations will be connected with all-weather roads.

"My government has revived a majority of the 73 stalled road projects, completed construction of 7,200 km of high ways and awarded 12,900 km of highway projects which is the highest-ever number of new highway kilometres awarded," he said amidst thumping of desks by members.

India, the President, said is a haven of stability in an increasingly turbulent global economy. GDP growth has increased, making India the world’s fastest growing economy among large economies. Inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit have all decreased.

India recorded the highest-ever foreign exchange reserves in 2015, he said.

Mukherjee said the government’s concerted efforts to tackle the menace of black money have started yielding results. With the enactment of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, a stringent legislative framework has been put in place to combat the menace.

The Gold Monetisation Scheme and Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme in November, 2015 has been launched to ensure productive utilisation of idle assets.

He said the government has taken a number of measures to put in place a simplified, progressive and non-adversarial tax regime by incorporating international prevalent best practices in tax administration.

A gamut of taxpayer facilities like e-filing of returns and various forms, electronic processing and retrieval of documents and online grievance redressal are now available to the citizen, he said.

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