Kovind says violence during farmers' tractor rally on R-Day 'unfortunate'
President Ram Nath Kovind addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, in New Delhi on January 29, 2021.

Kovind says violence during farmers' tractor rally on R-Day 'unfortunate'

New Delhi, January 29, 2021

President Ram Nath Kovind today termed as "unfortunate" the acts of dishonouring the national flag and showing disrespect to the auspicious occasion of Republic Day, during the tractor rally organised by agitating farmers against the three new Central farm laws, passed by Parliament in September last year.

"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," he said in his customary address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament on the first day of the Budget Session.

The address came at a time when farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other States have been protesting for more than two months at different places on Delhi's borders. The agitating farmers held a tractor rally in the capital on Republic Day, three days ago, which turned violent.

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

The President said that the three farm reform Bills -- 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 -- had been approved by Parliament after extensive consultation.

"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 two 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," he said.

The President's address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament is meant to outline the government's plans for the coming year as well as to review the programmes implemented in the previous year.

The address touched on major developments and issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic that began a year ago, the loss of Indian soldiers in the violent face-off with Chinese troops at Galwan in Eastern Ladakh and the farmers' protests, among other things.

"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," he said.

"Whenever India has remained united, it has been able to attain even seemingly unattainable goals," he said.

"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," he said.

Kovind said that, during the coronavirus pandemic, India had emerged on the global stage with renewed vigour.

"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," he said.

Kovind said that, during the pandemic, the government faced twin challenges -- 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," he said, and went on to list the various measures taken by the Government to cope with the crisis.

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

Stressing the importance of developing a self-reliant India, Kovind said India had, during the pandemic, demonstrated its scientific capabilities, technical expertise & strength of its start-up ecosystem by developing a network of over 2,200 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," he said.

Kovind spoke about the work done by the Government in the healthcare sector in the past six years. "The poor are now able to avail the benefits of healthcare facilities with ease and their expenditure on treatment of diseases is progressively reducing," he said.

He said the 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. The goal of a self-reliant India would be strengthened by self-reliance in agriculture, he said.

"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," he said.

Kovind also had a word of praise for the farmers, pointing out that food grain availability in the country was at record levels. He also spoke about the steps being taken for the benefit of small and marginal farmers.

"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," he said.

"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," he said.

The President also spoke about the steps being taken by the Government to improve water supply, roads, telecom and internet connectivity, sanitation and other facilities in the rural areas.

He also mentioned the measures being taken to boost cottage industries and micro, small and medium enterprises.

"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," he said.

"Keeping in mind the health concerns of working women in rural areas of the country, the Government is implementing the ‘Suvidha’ scheme under which sanitary napkins are made available at a nominal cost of Re 1. My Government is relentlessly working towards protecting the health of infants and pregnant women through various initiatives like Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan, free check-ups and financial assistance to pregnant women. As a result of this, the Maternal Mortality Rate has declined from 130 per lakh in 2014 to 113. The Under 5 Child Mortality Rate has also reduced to 36 for the first time, which is less than the world average rate of 39.

"As my Government considers it important to ensure equal participation by women, it is providing new opportunities for our sisters and daughters in various fields. My Government has taken several decisions in this direction, such as appointing women in the Fighter stream of the Indian Air Force and the Military Police for the first time, as well as allowing women to work in underground and open cast mines during the night shift.

"Keeping in mind the safety of the women, work on several initiatives such as setting up One Stop Centres, National Database of criminals, Emergency Response Support System and Fast Track Courts across the country is progressing at a rapid pace," he said.

Kovind also dwelt at length on the measures taken in areas such as education and employment, among others.

"Following the mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ my Government is prioritizing the development of all sectors and all sections of the society," he said.

In this context, the President spoke about the steps being taken for the welfare of those with disabilities, transgenders, nomadic communities, tribals, and so on.

He talked about the schemes being implemented in the 112 Aspirational Districts which have fallen behind in the race for development.

"The advancement of modern technology in India and easy access of every Indian to modern technology are important indicators of progress towards the goal of an Atmanirbhar Bharat," he said.

He went on to list the achievements in missions like Digital India and in areas such as Space and Science & Technology.

"Our very own Navigation Satellite System 'Navik' is also enhancing the prestige of the country. Thousands of fishermen are now benefitting from it. New standards have been set in the form of National Atomic Timescale and Bhartiya Nirdeshak Dravya Pranali which were dedicated to the nation recently. These indigenous solutions will help in developing Indian products as per international standards," he said.

"This technology push is also empowering the democratic institutions of the country. In this direction, through the e-Vidhan App digitization of Legislative Assemblies, Legislative Councils and both houses of Parliament is being undertaken. Implementation of NeVA – National e-Vidhan Application in State Legislative Assemblies will usher in a new era in facilitating legislative and democratic processes," he said.

Kovind also mentioned the new Parliament building coming up in Delhi.

"It is a happy coincidence that the construction of a new Parliament House has commenced as we are approaching the 75th year of our independence. With the construction of the new Parliament building, every member will get better facilities to enable them to effectively discharge their responsibilities," he said.

The President also outlined the economic reforms being carried out by the Government, including in areas such as taxation, industry, labour, banking and manufacturing.

"For the first time in the country, a Production Linked Incentive Scheme worth about Rs 1.5 lakh crore is being implemented in 10 manufacturing sectors. Its impact is already visible in manufacturing of electronic goods as well as other products. As a result of this initiative, many large national and international companies have started their operations in India.

"My Government is encouraging public participation in consumption of domestically manufactured goods. Today, ‘Vocal For Local’ has become a people’s movement in the country. Efforts are being made to inculcate an emotional attachment for goods manufactured in India while at the same time ensuring that they are of high quality.

"Continuous steps are being taken to improve ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in India. In this regard, healthy competition amongst States is being encouraged. It is matter of immense pleasure that States too are appreciating the importance of improving the ranking and are participating in this wholeheartedly," he said.

"The country has also started emerging from the economic setback suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic when the focus was primarily on saving the life of each Indian citizen. This is evident from several indicators. Even in these difficult times, India has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign investors. Between April and August, 2020, a record foreign direct investment of 36 billion dollars has been made in India," he said.

Kovind spoke in particular about major infrastructure projects and other development works.

"For modernizing the country's infrastructure, my Government is also working on the ‘National Infrastructure Pipeline’ worth over Rs 110 lakh crore. Along with this, work on 6 new expressways and 18 new access controlled corridors under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ is in progress," he said.

He said massive investment is being made in urban infrastructure, including metro projects in 27 cities.

The President mentioned the measures being taken for the development of the North-East and other regions such as Jammu & Kashmir.

"My Government is committed to counter the forces challenging the sovereignty and unity of the country, at every level. While on the one hand, development is being promoted in violence-affected areas, on the other hand firm action is being taken against the forces inciting violence. As a result of this, the number of Naxal-violence related incidents have declined and the Naxal-affected area is shrinking.

"The development oriented policy of my Government has also received wholehearted support from the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Only a few weeks back, elections to District Councils in Jammu and Kashmir were held successfully for the first time after Independence. Large-scale participation of voters has shown that Jammu and Kashmir is forging ahead towards a new democratic future at a rapid pace. Grant of new entitlements have empowered the people of the region. After the implementation of ‘Ayushman Bharat Health Scheme’, every family of Jammu and Kashmir is assured of free treatment worth Rs 5 lakh. A bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal has also been established in Jammu. After becoming a Union Territory, elections to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council have been held successfully a few months back. Now the people of Ladakh are themselves taking decisions related to the development of their region expeditiously," he said.

"During the Coronavirus pandemic, when the country was grappling with crisis, attempts were made to challenge the country’s capability at the border. Efforts were made to disrupt the peace at LAC in utter disregard of bilateral relations and agreements. However, our security forces not only responded to these machinations with promptitude, force and courage, but also foiled all attempts to change the status quo at the border. The restraint, valor and courage displayed by our jawans, deserve utmost praise. In June 2020, twenty of our jawans made the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives defending the country at Galwan Valley. Every citizen is deeply indebted to these martyrs.

"My Government is vigilant and fully committed to safeguard the interests of the country. Additional forces have also been deployed at the LAC to protect the sovereignty of India," he said.

"Keeping in mind the larger role that India is set to play in the future, my Government is intent on strengthening our military preparedness. A range of modern armaments are being procured to enhance the capabilities of India’s armed forces. There is also a thrust on achieving self-reliance in the defence sector. Only a few days back, the Government has placed an order with HAL for procurement of 83 indigenous fighter aircraft ‘Tejas’ worth Rs 48,000 crore. Imports of more than 100 items linked to defence have been prohibited in order to promote ‘Make in India’. Similarly, several advanced weapons including supersonic torpedoes, quick reaction missiles, tanks and indigenous rifles are being manufactured in India. India is now also rapidly increasing its share in the exports of defence equipments," he said.

"The formation of Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) will accelerate major reforms in the space sector. We are proud that today ISRO space scientists are working on important missions such as ‘Chandrayan-3’, ‘Gaganyan’, and ‘Small Satellite Launch Vehicle’. In the field of nuclear energy also, the country is moving rapidly towards achieving self-reliance. A few months back, country's first indigenous pressurized heavy water reactor has been successfully tested at Kakrapar," he said.

"Despite the impediments caused by Covid-19, India has strengthened its contacts and relations with other countries. During this period, India has further bolstered international cooperation by holding a large number of apex summits, multilateral events and official meetings. For the eighth time, this year India has joined the Security Council as a non-permanent member by garnering historic international support. India has also assumed the presidency of BRICS for 2021," he said.

"We have to achieve new goals with the same strength of collective unity we displayed last year. In the past few years, India has accomplished many tasks which were once considered extremely difficult to achieve," he said.

"The extent to which we can alleviate the suffering, pain and anxiety of our poor brethren and provide them basic amenities, empower them, increase their self-esteem, will help in imparting meaning to our presence in this Parliament.

"I take pride in the fact that my Government, has been working in this direction continuously for the past 6 years with full commitment and honest intention, taking decisions and implementing them," he added.

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