President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive at Parliament House on the first day of the Budget Session 2022, in New Delhi, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore)
New Delhi: In a mega election year where the BJP’s political fortune is under litmus test in five states, President Ram Nath Kovind highlighted the development work done by the Centre, lauding the social security and social justice initiatives taken up by the NDA government.
The President made it a point to underline the initiatives taken for the welfare of minorities, particularly Muslim women, and the farmers. He mentioned the growing defence capabilities that indicated India’s preparedness on the border front, in his joint speech to Parliament ahead of the Budget Session on Monday.
The speech that began with a protest from the Opposition parties, who were keen to flag the Pegasus snooping and some other issues, saw the TRS members skipping the event.
The President lauded the government and the MPs for their collective effort in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. "We are in the third year of the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus. In these years, the people of India have displayed profound faith in the democratic values, discipline and sense of responsibility," said Kovind even as he patted the health and frontline workers for making India’s vaccination drive biggest example of success in the world.
Citing the philosophy of Constitution framer Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the President said, "My government considers ideals of Babasaheb as its motto. My government believes in the mantra of antyodaya, which encompasses social justice, equality, respect and equal opportunities. Therefore, in the policies of the government, top priority is being given to villages, the poor, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and backward communities. This spirit of India is clearly reflected in the selection for Padma awards in recent years. In a diverse country like India, dedicated people across the country are engaged in the service of the nation. They reflect the strength of India."
"Treating sons and daughters as equals, my government has also introduced a Bill to increase the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years at par with men…The government has made a beginning to liberate the society from the manifestly arbitrary practice of triple talaq by making it a criminal offence. Restrictions on Muslim women from performing the Haj only with Mehram have also been removed. While about three crore students from minority communities were provided scholarships prior to 2014, my government has provided scholarships to 4.5 crore such students since 2014. This has led to a significant reduction in the school dropout rate of Muslim girls and an increase in their enrolment," the President said.
Talking about the farmers, Kovind said the government has been working continuously to empower the farmers and the rural economy. He underlined that despite the pandemic, farmers produced more than 30 crore tonnes of food grains and 33 crore tonnes of horticulture produce in 2020-21 and the government made record procurement to match the record production. He said the small farmers have benefited from the new changes in the crop insurance scheme as more than Rs 1 lakh crore have been given as compensation to about eight crore farmers. He added the government is also making investments "at an unprecedented level" for developing infrastructure required near farmlands.
The President mentioned the ongoing infrastructure development in the border areas to "strength country’s security". In this regard he said the Border Roads Organisation has constructed a transport-worthy road at 19,000 feet, the highest altitude for such a road, at Umling La Pass in Ladakh and now even the most remote villages like Demchok in Ladakh, Joling Kong in Uttarakhand and Huri in Arunachal Pradesh have been connected by modern roads.
Talking about the defence sector, the President said special focus is on "Make in India" especially in defence production to make country increasingly self-reliant. He said 87 per cent of all approvals for modernisation of armed forces in 2020-21 were from ‘Make in India’ category. Similarly, in 2020-21, preference was accorded to ‘Make in India’ category in 98 per cent of equipment related contracts. He said 209 military-equipment will not be purchased from abroad and more than 2,800 type of defence equipment will be manufactured domestically. In this context he mentioned a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the manufacture of 83 LCA Tejas fighter aircraft.
The President underlined the progress made in Ladakh, Jammu-Kashmir and the Northeast. "Just a few months ago, a settlement was reached between the Central Government, the State Government of Assam and the Karbi groups to end the decades-old conflict in Karbi Anglong. This has ushered in a new chapter of peace and prosperity in the region. Due to concerted efforts of my government, the number of Naxal affected districts in the country has also come down from 126 to 70 today," Kovind said.
Talking about the neighborhood, President said despite the challenging conditions in Afghanistan, the government airlifted a number of its citizens and many Afghan Hindu and Sikh minorities from Kabul. "We also brought back two swaroops of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib safely amidst difficult situations. From the humanitarian point of view, India is helping Afghanistan by delivering medical supplies and food-grain," he said.