Prez for debate, discussion; not disruption of Parliament

New Delhi (PTI): Parliament reflects the supreme will of the people, President Pranab Mukherjee said today in a strong criticism of disruption and obstruction and called upon all MPs to discharge their responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation.

In his customary address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament outlining government’s agenda in the coming financial year, he also declared that the government will constantly strive for smooth and construction conduct of Parliamentary business.

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“Our Parliament reflects the supreme will of the people. Democratic temper calls for debate and discussion, and not disruption of obstruction.

“My government will constantly strive for smooth and constructive conduct of Parliamentary business. I urge all Members of Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation. Let us all collectively endeavour to build a flourishing and prosperous India,” he said.

The President remarks assume significance in the context of repeated disruption of business on various issues, loss of time of Parliament and the stalling of legislative business in Rajya Sabha where the government lacks majority.

The 20-page speech was heard in rapt attention by members in the central hall of Parliament whenever he spoke of the government achievements and new announcements.

“Let noble thoughts come from all directions, should be the spirit behind the debate in this temple of democracy. Being a member of this great institution bestows great honour as well as important responsibilities,” Mukherjee said.

Asserting that the government is fully committed to firmly dealing with all challenges concerning the security of the country, the President said terrorism is a global threat and strong counter-terrorism measures are necessary worldwide to eradicate it completely.

“Let me congratulate the security forces in successfully foiling the recent attack at the Pathankot air base by terrorists. Firm and effective steps will be taken to deal with any situation arising out of cross-border terrorism,” he said.

“My government is committed to forging a mutually respectful relationship with Pakistan and in creating an environment of cooperation in combating cross border terrorism,” Mukherjee said while referring to the government’s foreign policy.

He said the government believes in a secure and prosperous future for the neighbourhood while committing itself to the principle of ‘the world is one family’.

Elaborating on the focus of the government ‘development for all’ beyond just the economic advancements that dominate headlines, the President said the country must ensure that the poor and deprived were truly empowered to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives.

“Development for all means that backward sections of society are equally valued and are genuine stakeholders in the country’s progress. Development for all implies that we tackle the pollution, traffic, and garbage problems that plague our cities,” he said.

Mukherjee said ‘development for all’ also meant development of the entire world which was why India has to be a responsible member of the global comity of nations helping humanity solve major challenges such as terrorism, climate change and financial instability.

The President said the government is focused on poverty eradication, farmers’ prosperity and massive employment generation.

“The overriding goal for my government is poverty eradication,” he said adding the poorest of the poor were entitled to the first charge on the nation’s resources.

Removing the scourge of poverty and destitution was government’s most sacred moral responsibility, Mukherjee said it was pledge to making this goal possible through financial inclusion and social security, the two wings on which human aspiration takes fight.

“To this end,l my government has placed great emphasis on food security, Housing for All and subsidies that reach those who need them the most, when they need them the most,” he said.

The President said under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna he was proud to say that it was the world’s most successful financial inclusion programme.

“Under the programme, out of over 21 crore accounts opened, 15 crore accounts are operational with an aggregate deposit of over Rs.32,000 crore.

“The programme has gone beyond mere opening of bank accounts to becoming a platform for poverty eradication by offering basic financial services and security to the poor,” he said.

To universalise social security, the President said, the government has launched three new insurance and pension schemes which afford insurance to hitherto uncovered sections of society.

He said targeted subsidies ensure that benefits reach the deserving. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) has so far been extended to 42 schemes funded by the government.

“PAHAL has become the largest direct cash transfer programme of its kind in the world, with nearly 15 crore beneficiaries. Since June 2014, the food security coverage has more than doubled to cover over 68 crore persons.”

The ‘Give-It-Up’ campaign in tandem with the Give-Back programmes has released subsidised fresh connections to 50 lakh below-poverty-line families.

“More than 62 lakh LPG consumers have voluntarily surrendered their LPG consumers have surrendered their LPG subsidy under the campaign. The highest number of new cooking gas connections to9 the rural poor were distributed in 2015,” he said.

The President said the government has fostered competitive cooperation among various states to enhance ‘Ease of Doing Business’. State governments were being encouraged and supported to simplify procedures, introduce e-enabled processes and invest in infrastructure to improve investment climate.

“A series of reforms have been initiated to help convert job seekers into job creators. My government has launched the Start-Up India campaign which would deepen, expand and support the innovation eco system in the country,” he said.

Mukherjee said a landmark agreement with Japan will make the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor a reality.

By March 2019, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, 1.78 lakh habitations will be connected with all-weather roads.

“My government has revived a majority of the 73 stalled road projects, completed construction of 7,200 km of high ways and awarded 12,900 km of highway projects which is the highest-ever number of new highway kilometres awarded,” he said amidst thumping of desks by members.

India, the President, said is a haven of stability in an increasingly turbulent global economy. GDP growth has increased making India the world’s fastest growing economy among large economies. Inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit have all decreased.

India recorded the highest-ever foreign exchange reserves in 2015, he said. Mukherjee said the government’s concerted efforts to tackle the menace of black money have started yielding results.

With the enactment of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, a stringent legislative framework has been put in place to combat the menace.

The Gold Monetisation Scheme and Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme in November, 2015 has been launched to ensure productive utilisation of idle assets.

He said the government has taken a number of measures to put in place a simplified, progressive and non-adversarial tax regime by incorporating international prevalent best practices in tax administration.

A gamut of taxpayer facilities like e-filing of returns and various forms, electronic processing and retrieval of documents and online grievance redressal are now available to the citizen, he said.

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