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New Delhi, January 31, 2020
President Ram Nath Kovind today said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act had fulfilled the wish of Mahatma Gandhi who had said at the time of Partition that Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, could come to India.
"It is the duty of the Government of India to ensure a normal life for them," he said in his address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget Session.
“India has always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths. However, at the time of Partition, this very belief of India and of its people came under the most severe attack. In the environment prevailing in the aftermath of partition, the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi had said: 'Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India," he said.
“Many national leaders and political parties have from time to time supported this idea of Pujya Bapu and further propagated it. It is our responsibility to honour this wish of the founding fathers of our nation. I am happy that both the Houses of Parliament have fulfilled this wish, by enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act. At a time when the country is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi ji, all of you have given paramount consideration to this sentiment. I congratulate both the Houses of Parliament and all the MPs for this,” Kovind said.
In this context, he said the Government would like to clarify once again that the procedures which have existed for people from all faiths of the world who believe in India and who wish to obtain Indian citizenship, remain unchanged. "A person of any faith can follow these processes and become a citizen of India. The Government has made several provisions to ensure that granting citizenship to those who have been compelled to take shelter in India does not have any adverse cultural impact on any region, especially the North East," he said.
The Opposition voiced its objection to the President's remarks on CAA,, shouting "shame, shame".
As the opposition's sloganeering continued, the President continued his speech describing how the Act would benefit the immigrants of minorities of six religious communities persecuted from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, amid thumping of desks by members of the ruling BJP-led NDA.
Kovind also condemned the atrocities on the minority communities in Pakistan and "urged the world community to take cognizance of this and take necessary steps in this direction".
The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on December 9, 2019 while the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on December 12, 2019. The Act came into force on January 10 this year.
As per the law, migrants of six non-Muslim communities -- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian -- who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 will be given citizenship.
The law has faced countrywide protests in various cities since Parliament passed it, leading to injuries to hundreds of security personnel, the strongest dissent against Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he first came to power in 2014. Over 2,000 people have been arrested and around 5,000 detained while protesting against the CAA.
Kovind also said the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution by two-thirds majority by Parliament had paved the way for equitable development of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
He said rapid development Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, preservation of their culture and traditions, transparent and honest administration and democratic empowerment were among the priorities of the Government.
During the President’s Rule and since becoming a Union Territory, all the developmental projects in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh have gained momentum, he added.
Earlier, towards the end of the year 2018, elections in more than 4,400 panchayats of Jammu -Kashmir were conducted in a peaceful manner. For the first time since independence, elections to more than 300 Block Development Councils have also been held there, he said.
The people there are now getting full benefits under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Ujjwala Yojana, Ayushman Yojana, Ujala Yojana, DBT and food subsidy, in a transparent manner. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, while around 3,500 houses were built in Jammu - Kashmir till March 2018, in less than two years thereafter, construction of more than 24,000 houses has been completed, he said.
Apart from this, works relating to connectivity, irrigation, hospitals, schemes related to tourism and establishment of institutes of higher education such as IIT, IIM, AIIMS are also proceeding at a rapid pace in Jammu -Kashmir and Ladakh. NAFED has been entrusted with the responsibility for the direct procurement of apples in Jammu - Kashmir. This has especially benefited the apple growers of Kashmir Valley.
The President said the Government’s strong commitment ensured the passage of the law against Triple Talaq ensuring justice to Muslim women and safeguarding their rights; the Consumer Protection Act providing new rights to the citizens; the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Act for protecting the savings of the poor; the Chit Funds Amendment Act protecting the poor from fraudulent chit fund schemes.
The law enhancing punishment for sexual offences against children was passed. The Motor Vehicles Amendment Act aimed at reducing road accidents and the law protecting the rights of the transgender persons were among the historic legislations that have been enacted.
“The faith reposed by the people of our country in our democratic institutions strengthens the foundation of our democracy. The maturity displayed by the countrymen after the Supreme Court’s verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi is also laudable.
“My Government is of the firm view that mutual discussions and debates strengthen democracy. At the same time, any kind of violence in the name of protests weakens the society and the nation,” he added.
Kovind said It was the outcome of reforms at the grassroot level ushered in by the Government in the last five years that there has been an unprecedented improvement in India’s global ranking in several areas.
In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, India has leapfrogged to the 63rd position, moving up by 79 places. In the Resolving Insolvency rankings, India has moved from 108th to 52nd position and in the Global Innovation rankings, from 74th to 52nd position.
India has improved its international ranking by 10 points in the Logistics Performance Index. India has moved from 52nd to 34th position in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness rankings.
The President listed the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims to access the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Pakistan, regularisation of more than 1,700 colonies benefitting more than 40 lakh people in Delhi, coverage of 60 lakh farmers, unorganised sector workers and small traders under pension schemes, declaring rural areas defecation free on Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary
“Work is being done at an unprecedented pace in the North East to enhance connectivity, strengthen infrastructure and make people’s lives easier. As a result of these efforts of the Government, by 2022, the capitals of Sikkim, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland will be connected to the rail network.
“The work on Agartala-Akhaura rail link is also progressing at a fast pace. In the year 2022, the construction of the new airport being built at ‘Holongi’ in Arunachal Pradesh will also be completed,” he added.
“The Central and Assam Governments have recently signed a historic agreement with the Bodo Organizations to bring an end to the 5 decade-old Bodo dispute. With this agreement, a complex problem, that has claimed more than 4000 lives, has been resolved.
“After this agreement, the Government will spend Rs1500 crore for the development of Bodo community. Similarly, another landmark agreement between Tripura, Mizoram, the Central Government and the Bru community has not only resolved a decades-old problem but has also ensured a secure life for thousands of people belonging to the Bru community,” he added.
On farmers, he said the Government proposed to spend an amount of Rs 25 lakh crore in the coming years to strengthen the rural economy. Government was working on a strategy to develop an income centric system aimed at doubling the income of farmers.
Under the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi, more than Rs 43,000 crore has been deposited in the bank accounts of more than 8 crore farmer families. On January 2, the Government has created a record by transferring Rs 12,000 crore to the bank accounts of 6 crore farmers simultaneously.
The twin objectives of doubling the fishermen’s income and fish production are sought to be achieved through the newly created Department of Fisheries. A massive drive is being organized with the aim of ensuring the health of more than 50 crore livestock of the country.
Under the National Animal Disease Control Programme, an amount of Rs 13,000 crore is being spent on immunization and other measures to protect the cattle from Foot and Mouth Disease.
The impact of e-NAM, the online national market for farmers has also started becoming visible. 1 crore 65 lakh farmers and about 1 lakh 25 thousand traders of the country have been linked to it. About Rs 90 thousand crore worth of business has been transacted through this platform. In order to further enhance the effectiveness of e-NAM in this decade, work is underway to link more than 400 new mandis with it.