Full speech text: Prez Kovind’s address to Parliament as Budget session starts

It is a constant endeavour of my Government to ensure that benefits of entrepreneurship are availed by every section in the country. Under schemes like Hunar Haat and USTTAD, not only the skills of lakhs of crafts persons are being developed but employment opportunities are also being generated. Under these schemes, women crafts persons comprise more than half of the beneficiaries. These crafts persons are being connected to the global market through e-haat.

Women entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in building a self-reliant India. My Government has taken several steps to provide new opportunities for self-employment to women. Under the MUDRA scheme, more than 25 crore loans have been sanctioned so far, of which nearly 70% have been given to women entrepreneurs.

India is holding its Budget session in the Parliament starting today. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the country’s Union budget on February 1.

President Ram Nath Kovind addresses to the nation on the eve of 72nd Republic Day, in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

In an hour-long speech covering the country’s key concerns, President Ram Nath Kovind initiated India’s first Parliament session – Budget session – of the year on Friday.

In his speech, the President covered a range of issues concerning India spanning from Covid-19 disease outbreak, Republic Day violence, ongoing farmers stir and Galwan Valley clash from last year where India lost 20 Army soldiers.

President Kovind, in his address to a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, also paid tribute to those who succumbed due to the virus.

India is holding its Budget session in Parliament starting today. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the country’s Union Budget on February 1.

Here is the full text of President Kovind’s speech:

Honourable Members,

This joint sitting of Parliament which is being held during the time of the Coronavirus pandemic has great significance. It is the beginning of a new year and a new decade. We will also be entering the 75th year of India’s independence this year. All the Members of Parliament present here today embody the conviction held by every Indian that the toughest of challenges will deter neither us nor India.

Whenever India has remained united, it has been able to attain even seemingly unattainable goals. This solidarity and Pujya Bapu’s inspiration had given us freedom from hundreds of years of colonial rule. Echoing the same spirit, Assam Kesari, Ambikagiri Raichaudhuri the nationalist poet, had said –

“Om tatsat Bharat Mahat, Ek chetonaat, Ek Dhyanot,

Ek Sadhonaat, Ek Avegot, Ek Hoi Jaa, Ek Hoi Jaa”

That is, India’s grandeur is the ultimate truth. In one single consciousness, one thought, one devotion, one inspiration, let us unite; let us unite.

This unity and dedication of Indians has enabled the country to overcome multiple adversities. Our country has faced every crisis with fortitude, be it the Coronavirus pandemic, floods, earthquakes or major cyclones in several States, locust attack or the bird flu. The recent past also saw an unprecedented escalation in tension along the border. The nation stood together, battled crises on multiple fronts and surmounted every challenge. During this period, we all have also witnessed the unparalleled courage, endurance, discipline and spirit of service of our countrymen.

In this fight against the pandemic, we have also suffered the untimely loss of life of a number of our countrymen. Our beloved former President and my predecessor Shri Pranab Mukherjee too passed away during the pandemic. The untimely demise of six Members of Parliament was also due to the coronavirus. I pay my heartfelt tribute to all of them.

Honourable Members,

It has been said in our Shastras – “Kritam me dakshine haste jayo me savya aahitah”

That is, if we do our duty, success is assured. During the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected each individual and every country in the world, India has emerged on the global stage with renewed vigor. It gives me satisfaction that due to timely and calibrated decisions taken by my Government, we were able to save lives of lakhs of our countrymen. Today, there is a rapid decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus and at the same time there is a significant increase in the number of recoveries.

Honourable Members,

When we think of the preceding year, we are reminded of the twin challenges that faced us, of saving lives of the citizens and protecting the economy. Besides announcing a record economic package for reviving the economy, my Government took care to ensure that no poor person went hungry.

Under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’, 80 crore people were provided an additional 5 kg free food grains per month for 8 months. The Government was also mindful of the plight of migrant labourers, workers and those who were away from their homes. Besides providing them with the facility of ‘One Nation- One Ration Card’, the Government made free food grains available and organized Shramik Special trains for them.

My Government also launched the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan in 6 states in order to provide employment to the returnee migrant labourers in their villages, during the pandemic. As a result of this Abhiyan, 50 crore mandays of employment were generated. The Government also launched SVANidhi – a special scheme for street vendors and hawkers. Further, an amount of approximately ₹31,000 crore was directly transferred to the Jan Dhan accounts of poor women. During this period, more than 14 crore gas cylinders were given free of cost throughout the country to poor women beneficiaries, under the Ujjwala scheme.

Through all its decisions, my Government has set an unprecedented example of the collective strength of federal structure. The collaboration between the Central and the State Governments has not only strengthened democracy but also enhanced the prestige of the Constitution.

Honourable Members,

Acharya Chanakya had said –

“Trinam laghu trinatoolam tooladapi cha yaachakah

Vayuna kim na neetosow mamayam yachayishyati”

A person who implores or begs is considered to be less valuable than even straw or cotton.

Even the wind that carries away cotton and straw will not take a person who begs, lest he starts demanding something from wind itself. In this way, everyone tries to avoid a beggar.

This implies that in order to enhance our relevance or importance, we must minimise our dependence on others and become self-reliant.

The dream of an empowered and free India, which our freedom fighters had envisioned, was also based on the idea of self-reliance of the country. Under the circumstances that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic, when each country was prioritizing their own requirements, we were reminded of the significance of developing a self-reliant India.During this period, India has demonstrated its scientific capabilities, technical expertise & strength of its start-up ecosystem by developing a network of over 2200 laboratories in a short time span, manufacturing thousands of ventilators, PPE kits and test kits thereby, attaining self-reliance. It is a matter of immense pride that India is conducting the world’s largest vaccination programme. Both the vaccines rolled out under this programme are produced indigenously. By making lakhs of corona vaccine doses available to several countries India has fulfilled its obligation towards humanity in these times of difficulty. The accolades being showered on India globally for this work along with the essence of our age-old cultural tradition of ‘Sarve Santu Niramayaha’ and endeavor to work for human welfare is imparting strength to our efforts.

Honourable Members,

The gains from the work done by my Government in the healthcare sector in the past 6 years were visible during the coronavirus pandemic. During these years, emphasis has been placed not only on modernizing the healthcare systems but also on prevention of diseases. Programmes such as Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan, Fit India Movement and Khelo India Abhiyan have helped in creating awareness about health within the country. We have also witnessed the beneficial impact of the efforts made by my Government to promote Ayurveda and Yoga.

As a result of the efforts of my Government, the poor are now able to avail the benefits of healthcare facilities with ease and their expenditure on treatment of diseases is progressively reducing. Under the Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, 1.5 crore poor people in the country have received free treatment of up to ₹5 lakh. As a result, the poor have been able to save over ₹30,000 crore. Today, benefits of Ayushman Bharat Yojana can be availed at more than 24,000 hospitals across the country. Similarly, under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Yojana, the poor are getting medicines at extremely affordable rates from 7000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across the country. Lakhs of patients are purchasing medicines from these Kendras daily and due to their reasonable prices, are able to save ₹3600 crore annually.

Honourable Members,

In order to develop healthcare facilities across the country commensurate expansion in medical education is equally important. In 2014, there were only 387 medical colleges, but today there are 562 medical colleges in the country. In the last 6 years, there has been an increase of over 50,000 seats at the under-graduate and post graduate levels in medical education. Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, the Government has also sanctioned 22 new AIIMS.

The Central Government has laid the foundation for historic reforms in the field of medical education by establishing the National Medical Commission along with 4 Autonomous Boards. The decades’ old Medical Council of India has been replaced with the National Medical Commission as a part of these reforms.

Honourable Members,

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan is not just confined to manufacturing in India, but is also a campaign aimed at elevating the standard of living of every Indian as well as boosting the self-confidence of the country.

Our goal of an Atmanirbhar Bharat will be further strengthened by self-reliance in agriculture. With this idea, the Government has, over the last 6 years, attempted to bring positive transformation in the ‘Seed to Market’ system so that Indian agriculture is modernized and also sees growth. In pursuance of these efforts, my Government decided to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report and increased the MSP to at least 1.5 times of the cost of production. Today my Government is not only purchasing record quantities at the MSP, but is also increasing the number of procurement centres.

Widespread improvements are being brought in various sources of irrigation. Following the mantra of ‘Per Drop More Crop’, the Government is not only completing the pending irrigation projects, but is also delivering modern irrigation techniques to the farmers. In 2013-14, only 42 lakh hectares of land was under micro-irrigation whereas today, more than 56 lakh hectares of land has been brought under micro-irrigation.

I am happy to say that through their hard work, our farmers are augmenting the efforts of the Government. Today, the food grain availability in the country is at a record high. In 2008-09, the food grain production in the country was 234 million tonnes, whereas in 2019-20, the production has increased to 296 million tonnes. During the same period, the production of fruits and vegetables has also increased from 215 million tonnes to 320 million tonnes. I congratulate the farmers of the country for these achievements.

Honourable Members,

In the agricultural sector, the need of the hour is to focus our attention on the small and marginal farmers who own only 1 or 2 hectares of land. More than 80% of the farmers in the country numbering over 10 crore fall under this category.

My Government accords priority to these small and marginal farmers too. In order to provide expenditure support to these farmers, almost ₹1,13,000 crore have been directly transferred to their bank accounts under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has also benefitted small farmers of this country. Under this scheme in the last 5 years, about ₹90,000 crore has been paid as compensation to the farmers against a premium of ₹17,000 crore.

The mission for setting up 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations by bringing together small farmers of the country is also an impactful step. This has ensured access of small farmers to better technology, additional credit, post-harvesting processing and marketing facilities and insurance coverage during natural calamities, on the same footing as the rich farmers. This has also provided an alternative to farmers for securing remunerative prices for their produce and generating greater savings.

Honourable Members,

After extensive consultation the Parliament approved 3 important farm reform bills 7 months ago, namely, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The benefits of these three important farm reforms, have started reaching more than 10 crore small farmers instantly. Appreciating the advantages that these reforms would bring to the small farmers, several political parties too had, from time to time, expressed their support. The discussions over these farm reforms in every part of the country for over 2 decades and the demand for these reforms at different fora were also reflected during the deliberations in the House.

Presently, the Apex Court has stayed the implementation of these laws. My Government respects the decision of the Apex Court and shall abide by it.

My Government holds in high esteem the values of democracy and sanctity of the Constitution. It is continuously making efforts to dispel the misunderstanding created in the context of these laws. My Government has always respected freedom of expression and holding of peaceful agitations in a democratic set up. However, the recent acts of dishonouring the National Flag and showing disrespect to the auspicious occasion of the Republic Day are unfortunate. While the Constitution gives us the right to freedom of expression it is also expected that we abide by the laws and rules with equal sincerity.

My Government wants to make it clear that the rights and facilities available under the system prevailing before the enactment of the three new laws are not affected in any way. Rather, through these agricultural reforms, the Government has provided new facilities to the farmers and has empowered them.

Honourable Members,

In order to enhance the profitability of agriculture, my Government is also placing emphasis on creating modern agricultural infrastructure. The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund for ₹1,00,000 crore has also been started for this purpose.

The Kisan Rail, started throughout the country, is helping chart a new course by increasing the access of Indian farmers to new markets. This rail is like a mobile cold storage. So far, over 100 Kisan Rails have been started which have enabled the farmers to transport over 38,000 tonnes of food grains and fruits & vegetables from one region to the other.

Honourable Members,

In order to increase the income of farmers, my Government has also focused on development of livestock as a source of income. As a result, the livestock of the country has been increasing at an annual rate of 8.2 % over the last 5 years. The Government has also set up the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund for ₹15,000 crore for creating basic infrastructure and encouraging investment in dairy sector.

My Government has also extended the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to animal husbandry and fishery sectors. Efforts have been undertaken to increase the income of fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana. In this sector, an investment of about ₹20,000 crore has been planned over the next 5 years.

In order to increase the income of the farmers, the Government has also launched a campaign to turn the ‘Annadata’ into ‘Urjadata’. 20 lakh solar pumps are being provided to farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kusum Yojana. Government is also encouraging production of ethanol from sugarcane, maize and paddy. Due to the affirmative policies of the Government, over the past 6 years, the annual ethanol production has increased from 38 crore litres to 190 crore litres. The production is expected to reach 320 crore litres this year. Ethanol is emerging as a major source for augmenting the income of farmers.

Honourable Members,

Pujya Bapu had envisioned the development of self-reliant ‘Adarsh Gram’. Carrying this idea forward, my Government has been working relentlessly for multi-faceted development of villages. Raising the standard of living of the villagers is a priority for my Government. This is best exemplified by the 2 crore houses built since 2014 for the poor families living in villages. The implementation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana has also been expedited to ensure a pucca roof for every poor person by 2022.

Under the SVAMITVA scheme launched by my Government, villagers are now acquiring legal rights over their property. With ownership rights, the villagers can now easily avail bank loans and housing loans against the collateral of their properties and economic activities are expected to gain momentum in the rural areas. Small entrepreneurs, people associated with cottage industries and small farmers would be especially benefitted under the scheme.

Honourable Members,

Baba Saheb Ambedkar was not only the principal architect of the Indian Constitution but also guided the development of the country’s Water Policy. On 8th November 1945, during a conference in Cuttack, he had said – “Water is Wealth. Water being the wealth of the people and its distribution being uncertain, the correct approach is not to complain against nature but to conserve water”.

Drawing inspiration from Baba Saheb, my Government is working on the ambitious scheme of ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’. Besides delivering water to every household (Har Ghar Jal), work on water conservation is also progressing at a rapid pace. I am happy to say that under this scheme, 3 crore families have been connected with piped water supply so far. Under this scheme, water connection is being provided on priority to brothers and sisters belonging to the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes as well as other deprived sections of the society.

Honourable Members,

Keeping in mind the requirements of the 21st century and with a view to improving the connectivity of our villages, my Government has made commendable progress in expanding the network of rural roads. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of 6.42 lakh km of road network has been completed in rural areas of the country. In the third phase of this scheme, 1.25 lakh km roads connecting the settlements, schools, markets and hospitals in rural areas will also be upgraded. Along with roads, internet connectivity is equally important in the rural areas. After ensuring electrification of every village, my Government is implementing a mission to connect over 6 lakh villages of the country through optical fibre.

Honourable Members,

Our small scale industries, cottage industries and MSMEs spread across the villages and small towns are the backbone of our economy. These small scale industries have immense potential of making India self-reliant. This sector accounts for about 50% of India’s total exports. Several steps have been taken to enhance the role of MSMEs in the mission aimed at developing an Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Development of small and cottage industries has received the requisite impetus through measures like modification in the definition of MSMEs, increase in the investment limit or priority in government procurement. Initiatives such as Emergency Credit Guarantee Scheme for ₹3,00,000 crore, special scheme of ₹20,000 crore for MSMEs in distress and Fund of Funds have benefitted lakhs of small scale industries. Besides ushering in greater transparency, the GeM portal has facilitated increased participation of the MSMEs even in far flung and remote areas in Government procurement.

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