Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the joint session of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in the Central Hall of Parliament today on the first day of the Budget Session.
He claimed that the country was having a difficult period before the 2014 General Elections, but the present government came out with an initiative to create a “New India”.
The President supported the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which has met with strong opposition from political parties and people in the northeastern states. “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will make it easier to provide Indian Citizenship to those who had to take refuge in India after facing oppression somewhere else,” he said.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents.
The President added by praised the introduction of reservations for the poor among upper castes. The government has taken many measures for women’s welfare, like introducing a bill to make triple talaq illegal and extending the period of maternity leave.
He also admired the government’s 2016 decision to demonetise old currency notes and said that the Centre has taken several steps to bring back the “black money” stashed abroad, including signing treaties with other countries. He also pointed out that India’s ease of business ranking improved from 142 in 2014 to 77 in 2018. “In 2014, India’s share of the world’s Gross Domestic Product was 2.6%. Today, it has increased to 3.3%,” Kovind said.
Listing out several other government initiatives, the President praised schemes such as the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Scheme, the Ayushman Bharat and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “Healthcare is my government’s top most priority,” he said. “I am happy to inform you that the benefits of government’s schemes are reaching poorest of the poor.”
This is the last session of Parliament before the Lok Sabha polls later this year. The Centre wants to pass the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance during this session, whose first tranche ends on February 13.
The Centre will present an interim budget, or vote-on-account, tomorrow. The Union Ministry of Finance had refuted reports that it planned to present a full budget despite it being an election year.
He claimed that the Centre has improved the facilities for disabled people and got rid of all unmanned railway crossings in the country. The government has added 13 crore cooking gas connections in four-and-a-half years, he added. It has also worked to provide internet connections at the rural level, and helped farmers increase food-grain output, he said.
Kovind also claimed that Rs 88,000 crore had been deposited in bank accounts under the Jan Dhan scheme. He cited an international survey and said that 55% of all new bank accounts opened around the world between 2014 and 2017 were in India.
“I am happy that our country is building inclusive societies based on morality, consistent with Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams,” Kovind added.
Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu held all-party meetings. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar called the all-party meeting in an effort to ensure that the session goes on without any disturbances.