On January 29, President Ram Nath Kovind gave the traditional presidential address at the beginning of the budget session. He began his speech by highlighting the achievements of the BJP government in the past year and concluded by laying down the milestones that we, as a nation, need to achieve in 2018. His speech urged the citizens of India to make a conscientious effort to accelerate the growth of our country.
Regarding social justice, the president reinstated the vision of one of our founding fathers, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who famously stated that economic prosperity cannot be achieved without ensuring social justice. Otherwise, economic and political power will be concentrated in the hands of a few. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign, with its emphasis on building toilets across the country has not only enhanced the dignity of the poor, especially women, but has also encouraged the citizens to understand the importance of cleanliness. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which has provided more than 3.3 crore cooking gas connections, has improved the health of millions of women previously exposed to toxic gases released from firewood.
The president also asserted the need to pass the triple talaq bill, which has been tabled in Parliament to eliminate discriminatory practices against women.
On the economic front, the president commended the government for the successful implementation of the Jan Dhan Yojana scheme, under which about 31 crore bank accounts have been opened for the poor. He stated that making credit accessible to the middle class and the poor has been the priority of the government from the beginning and this scheme has helped in stimulating the economy by providing financial support for new enterprises.
Highlighting the challenges that the agriculture sector is currently facing, President Kovind urged the government to expedite the process of reforming the agricultural economy. The process has already been initiated; agricultural commodities worth Rs 36,000 crore have been traded on the e-NAM portal.
The president, recalling the philosophy of ‘integral humanism’ of Deendayal Upadhyaya, highlighted the importance of including all stakeholders in the development model. He elaborated on schemes like the Atal Pension Yojana for the elderly to benefit all sections of society. Digital India, through technology, has ensured that the provision of public services to the poor living in remote areas has improved. The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan aims to increase digital literacy in the country.
The president praised the ISRO for contributing to the technological development of India by providing the right information in a timely manner to farmers, fishermen, students and scientists. Moreover, for the first time in the world, it successfully launched 104 satellites in one go.
Under the Bharat Net Project, broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats has been established. There has also been improvement in the infrastructure in remote areas, as more than 82 per cent of villages, mostly in inaccessible areas, has been connected by roads. The National Food Security Act and the National Health Policy have been instituted to fight malnutrition and bad public health in our country.
The president applauded the military for reducing Naxal violence and insurgency in Kashmir. The modernisation of the armed forces and the police will augment such efforts. Staying true to its spirit, India has remained the first responder in times of crises in other countries, such as the earthquake in Nepal and the floods in Sri Lanka.
He concluded by stating that complacency is the enemy of achievement and that nation building is a continuous process. He invited all political parties to contribute to the 2022 goal of achieving an India that is a manifestation of the basic tenets laid down in the Preamble of our guiding force, the Constitution.
Lekhi is a member of Parliament.