With clouds of storm hovering over Parliament’s budget session, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday sought the “cooperation” of all MPs in the smooth conduct of legislative business but gave no indication of plans to bring changes in the controversial land acquisition ordinance.
He, however, declared that government attaches paramount importance to safeguarding the interests of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.
Delivering his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, whose budget session commenced today, he said the government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament.
In the address, which is mandated before the start of the first session of the year in which the President reads out government’s plans for the coming year, Mukherjee said Parliament is the sanctum sanctorum of Democracy and the people of have reposed unflinching faith in this institution for fulfilment of their hopes and expectations.
“My Government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament which reflects the will and aspirations of the people”.
“I urge all Members of the Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibility in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation”.
“By channelising the patriotic energies of every citizen, we all collectively must work towards building a strong and modern India. Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat (One India, Best India). Jai Hind,” he said winding up his speech that was heard with rapt attention with occasional thumping of desks.
The 18-page hour-long speech details the various steps taken by the government during its first nine months in office and lists the steps it will take during the coming days.
Against the backdrop of Oppositions plans to corner the government on various ordinances including the one on land acquisition, the President gave no indication of government bringing any changes in the bill to replace the ordinance.
“While taking utmost care to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of Land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas,” he said.
He said while the government has reinvigorated relations with neighbours, at the same time “we speak clearly about our interests and are fully prepared to defend our borders and secure our people”.
“Recognising that our destiny is linked with our neighbourhood my Gov government has reinvigorated our relations with our neighbours and is promoting greater cooperation and integration in South Asia”.
“The historic visit of US President Barack Obama as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day has elevated our relations with the United States to a new level,” he said.
The President also listed the measures initiated to stir action in a range of fields from sanitation to smart cities, poverty elimination to creation of wealth, tapping demographic dividend to diplomatic initiatives, enhancing ease of business to putting in place a stable policy framework, ending financial untouchability to making the country a manufacturing hub and containing inflation to stimulating economy to ensure inclusive growth.
Talking about the blackmoney issue he said that the government is committed to take all possible measures to stop generation of black money by putting in place legislative and administrative frameworks.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojna to provide universal access to banking facility, the President said the coverage under the scheme has been closed to 100 per cent with a record 13.2 crore new bank accounts being opened, 11.5 crore Rupay debit cards being issued and over Rs 11,000 crore being deposited.
Referring to the “Swachh Bharat’ mission to achieve a clean and open defecation free India by 2019, Mukherjee said ‘Swachhta’ has a cascading effect on national development and the potential to generate wealth from waste.
The President said the Government is fully committed to expand the job market and promoting the welfare of workers but it is also committed at bringing in transparency and accountability in enforcement of labour related regulations.
“To this end, the Shram Suvidha Portal has been launched to ensure ease of doing business by allowing industry to register online and file a single online return instead of 16 separate returns”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his ministerial colleagues, Opposition leaders in both the Houses, former Prime Minister Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda, Sonia Gandhi and L K Advani were among those seated in the front benches at the Central Hall of Parliament during the President address in the Parliament.
Mukherjee said maximum governance minimum government is the guiding principle of the government.
While introducing stricter and sterner measures to deal with corruption, effort is being made to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect bona fide decisions taken in public interest and to inspire confidence in the civil service, he said.
“Measures are being taken to accomplish digital inclusion in rural areas, small towns, north-east and other remote areas, opening up immense job opportunities in these areas. Promoting manufacturing of electronic goods has been an area of thrust,” the President said.