Putting the Economy Back on Track Paramount: Prez
Also see: Full text of the President's speech
Seeking to heal the fractured and contentious politics of the previous years, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the new government at the centre will work for development in a resurgent India in which corruption will have no place.
"They (people of India) have voted for a united, strong and modern India -"Ek Bhjarat-Shreshta Bharat"- My government will work to fulfil these aspirations, with the involvement of all the 125 crore people of this great country," he said.
The president was addressing the first joint sitting of Parliament as mandated by the constitution.
The address is the political, economic and foreign policy road map of the Narendra Modi government voted to power and covers virtually all the crucial areas including the need to address the difficult economic situation in which inflation has to be reined in and the importance of growth.
Mukherjee noted that the just-concluded elections had been an election of hope.
"The surge in aspirations and the belief that these could be realised through democratic processes, has been amply reflected in the record 66.4 per cent participation by voters and a clear verdict in favour of a single political party after a gap of nearly 30 years."
"The electorate transcended the boundaries of caste, creed, region and religion to come together and vote decisively in favour of 'Development through Good Governance'," he said.
Extending warm greetings to the newly-elected MPs, the president told them that they should never forget that they are in Parliament because of the people. "Serving them should be our first priority."
Noting that the general elections were smooth and largely peaceful, he congratulated the Election Commission and the official machinery for successful conduct of the exercise.
"The unprecedented interest shown by the people of India in the elections is a sign of progressive deepening of our vibrant democracy."
The president said the country needed a strong and stable government that could provide effective leadership.
"In my Republic Day speech earlier this year, I had hoped for 2014 to be a year of healing after the fractured and contentious politics of the previous years."
"Standing here today, I applaud the wisdom of my fellow citizens for having voted for stability, honesty and development in a resurgent India in which corruption will have no place."
Mukherjee said his government is committed to nurturing the right environment for actualising this mandate of the people.
"For this, it pledges itself to the principle of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas', which can be fulfilled only through your active participation."
"We will work together to re-establish the credibility of the institutions of democracy. My government will function on the mantra of 'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance'. In all our actions, we will be guided by the core values of our great civilisation."
The address said the government is dedicated to the poor as poverty as no religion, hunger has no creed and despair has no geography.
"The greatest challenge before us is to end the curse of poverty in India. My government will not be satisfied with mere 'poverty alleviation' and commits itself to the goal of 'poverty elimination'."
Newly-elected Lok Sabha members and those belonging to the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Modi, his cabinet colleagues, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders heard the 50-minute speech with rapt attention interspersed by the occasional thumping of desks.
The president said putting the economy back on track was paramount.
The government will put it back into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic and international community.
"My government will create a policy environment which is predictable, transparent and fair. It will embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime to make it non-adversarial and conductive to investment, enterprise and growth."
"My government will make every effort to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) while addressing the concerns of states. Reforms will be undertaken to enhance the ease of doing business. My government will follow a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI, which will be allowed in sectors that help create jobs and assets," Mukherjee said.
The economy, Mukherjee said is "passing through an extremely difficult phase. For the two consecutive years, our GDP growth has been less than 5 per cent. Tax collection has declined. Inflation continues to be an at unacceptable level".
Referring to the high food inflation, he said the new government will give "top most priority" to contain it.
"Containing food inflation will be the topmost priority for my government. There would be an emphasis on improving the supply side of various agro and agro-based products. My government will take effective steps to prevent hoarding and black marketing," Mukherjee said.
Outlining the policies of the BJP-led NDA government, Mukherjee said efforts will be made to reform the Public Distribution System (PDS) by incorporating the best practices from the states.
On the possibility of deficient rains, he said that "my government is alert about the possibility of a subnormal monsoon this year and contingency plans are being prepared".
The retail inflation accelerated to a three-month high of 8.59 per cent in April mainly due to increasing prices of vegetables, fruits and milk.
"Inflation continues to be at an unacceptable level," he said, adding that "we will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle".
The government, he added, will take effective steps to prevent hoarding and black marketing and reform the public distribution system, incorporating best practices from the states.
The government, Mukherjee said, will endeavour to "create a policy environment which is predictable, transparent and fair."
"It will embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime to make it non-adversarial and conducive to investment, enterprise and growth," he added.
The government will set up world class investment and industrial regions, particularly along the Dedicated Freight Corridors and Industrial Corridors spanning the country while encouraging domestic industry to innovate and collaborate internationally, he said.
"It will strive to move towards a single-window system of clearances both at the centre and at the states through a hub-and-spoke model," the president said.
To strengthen India's global trade share, procedures will be simplified and trade infrastructure strengthened to reduce transaction time and costs. Besides, export potential of small-scale and handicraft sectors will be encouraged, he said.
In order to create jobs, he said, the government will promote labour-intensive manufacturing and endeavour to expand employment opportunities in tourism and agro-based industries.
The government will transform employment exchanges into career centres and also strengthen pension and health insurance safety nets for labour force of all categories, in addition to providing them access to modern financial services, Mukherjee said.
Giving further details of the government's agenda, he said efforts will be made to increase public and private investment in the farm infrastructure and convert farming into a profitable venture through scientific practices and agro-technology.
The government "will adopt a national land use policy which will facilitate scientific identification of non- cultivable land and its strategic development", he added.
Sonia Gandhi reacted by thumping the desk as the president outlined the new government's commitment to zero tolerance to violence against women and its promise to provide 33 per cent reservations for them in Parliament and state assemblies.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Advani also welcomed it by thumping the desk.
Singh was seated with Modi and Jaitley in one of the first
The government's plan for cleaning the Ganga river was also hailed in the House.
The mention of the government's commitment to clean the Ganga and to ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley drew maximum applause from members.
The president said that the government will take all steps to ensure a perennially clean Ganga.
On the foreign policy front, the president said that while the government was committed to working towards a peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood, "we will never shy away from raising issues of concern to us at a bilateral level."
"We emphasise that the future of shared prosperity can only be built on the foundation of stability in the region, which requires sensitivity to security concerns and an end to export of terrorism to neighbours."
As regards Federalism, the president said that state-specific development models will be developed taking into account the special needs and unique problems of coastal and desert areas.
"The states and the centre should function as an organic Team India. In order to actively engage with the states on national issues, my government will reinvigorate fora like National Development Council and the Inter-State Council," he said.
The president said that the highest priority will be accorded to bring the eastern region of the country on par with the western region in terms of physical and social infrastructure.
"My government is committed to addressing the issues relating to development of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The government will lay special emphasis on improving the intra-region connectivity and border infrastructure in the Northeast as well as in Jammu and Kashmir."
"The issue of infiltration and illegal immigrants in the Northeast region will be tackled on priority and all pending fencing work along the Northeast border will be completed," he said.
Also see: Full text of the President's speech
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