President assures reforms, new chapters in ‘India Story’

New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday assured that economic reforms will be a work-in-progress even as the ‘India Story’ that proffered much hope for the future also had new chapters waiting to be written.

“Our country’s rise will be measured by the strength of our values. But it will equally be determined by economic growth and equitable distribution of the nation’s resources. Our economy promises much hope for the future,” the president said on the eve of India’s 69th Independence Day.

“The new chapters of the ‘India Story’ are waiting to be written. Economic reforms is a work-in-progress,” he said in the customary president’s address to the nation — the third by him since assuming office in July 2012 — that was broadcast and televised live.

At the same time rued the fact that where India’s inheritance needed care and preservation, its institutions of democracy had come under stress. As an exmple he said: “The parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate.”

The president’s remarks came against the backdrop of the government’s inability to get the Rajya Sabha to pass a bill to introduce a pan-India goods and services tax regime — considered as the most important tax reform of independent India — due to an unrelenting opposition.

Mukherjee, who has served as India’s finance minister in the past, among the several portfolios he has held in his long political career, also drew comfort from the performance of the Indian economy in the last decade, with the growth recovering to 7.3 percent in 2014-15.

“But the benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor much before they land in the bank accounts of the richest of the rich,” he said, adding: “We are an inclusive democracy. And [in] an inclusive economy, there is place for everyone in the hierarchy of wealth.”

The challenge, he said, was to lift people from the brink of deprivation. “Our policies must be geared to meet the ‘Zero Hunger’ challenge in a foreseeable future.”

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