President Ram Nath Kovind addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in New Delhi, on January 31, 2022. (IANS)

President Ram Nath Kovind addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in New Delhi, on January 31, 2022. (IANS)

More than 90% of adult citizens have received one dose of COVID vaccine, 70% both doses, says Kovind

New Delhi, January 31, 2022

President Ram Nath Kovind today said India's capability in the fight against COVID-19 was evident in the ongoing vaccination programme with more than 90% adult citizens having received the first dose and more than 70% being administered both doses.

Addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget session, the President said, “We have surpassed the record of administering more than 150 crore vaccine doses in less than a year. Today, we are among the leading countries in the world with the highest vaccine doses administered. The success of this campaign has given a shield to the country providing enhanced protection to our citizens, while also boosting their morale.

The Government was also reaching out to the rest of the population through the COVID-19 "Har GharDastak" programme that aims at creating awareness, mobilization and vaccination of all. Adolescents in the age group of 15 to 18 years have also been included in the vaccination programme from this month. Precautionary dose for the front-line workers and senior citizens with co-morbidities has also been started.

“We are in the third year of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. In these years, people of India have displayed profound faith in the democratic values, discipline and sense of responsibility,” he said.

“At a time when India is celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav on the occasion of 75th year of its independence, this willpower of every Indian creates immense confidence for India’s bright future. With this confidence, I extend my greetings to every Indian from this historic Central Hall of the Parliament.

“I salute lakhs of freedom fighters who gave the highest priority to their duties and secured the rights of India. I also salute all the great personalities for their contribution in the development journey of our country in these 75 years of independence,” he said.

Noting that the Centre, States and local governments and administration have worked as a team along with doctors, nurses and health workers in combating the pandemic, he expressed appreciation for all those involved.

So far, eight vaccines have been approved for emergency use in the country. Three vaccines being manufactured in India have also got approval from the World Health Organization for emergency use. These vaccines manufactured in India are playing an important role in making the entire world free from the pandemic and in saving crores of lives, the President said.

“The efforts of the country are not limited to addressing the immediate challenges in the fight against the pandemic. My government is developing far-reaching solutions which would be effective and useful in future also. The launch of the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission with an outlay of Rs 64,000 crore is a commendable example. This will not only help in meeting the current health requirements but will also prepare the country for any future crises,” he added.

“Health facilities are now easily accessible to the common people because of the responsive policies of my government. More than 80,000 health and wellness centres and crores of Ayushman Bharat cards have helped the poor immensely in getting treatment. The government has reduced the cost of treatment by providing affordable medicines through more than 8,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras. ‘Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission’ is an important step in providing easy and accessible health services,” Kovind said.

“The Indian pharma sector has also proved its mettle during the Corona period. Presently, the products of Indian pharma companies are reaching more than 180 countries. However, there is a wide range of opportunities for India in this sector. The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme announced by my government for the pharma industry will further expand the opportunities, and will also provide impetus to research,” he added.

Yoga, Ayurveda and traditional medical practices are also becoming increasingly popular due to the efforts of the government. The country used to export AYUSH products worth Rs 6,600 crore in 2014. This export has now increased to more than Rs 11,000 crore. India is going to establish the world’s first ‘WHO Global Centre of Traditional Medicine’.

Referring to the 75th anniversary of Independence this year being celebrated as Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, he said it was a sacred occasion for all the Indians to give concrete shape to the resolutions for the next 25 years. “My government is moving fast on building a strong foundation for the next 25 years following the mantra of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Aur Sabka Prayas'. The most important resolution related to this foundation is the creation of an India which includes all, benefits all and is strong and self-reliant. The challenging period of Corona has inspired us to achieve our goals at the fastest possible pace.”

The President said the government believed in the mantra of Antyodaya, which encompasses social justice, equality, respect and equal opportunities. Therefore, in the policies of the government, the top priority is being given to villages, the poor, Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes and backward communities.

“This spirit of India is reflected in the selection for Padma awards in recent years. In a diverse country like India, dedicated people across the country are engaged in the service of the nation. They reflect the strength of India,” he added.

While several major countries experienced scarcity of food grains and faced starvation during the coronavirus crisis, the Government ensured that nobody remained hungry during the worst pandemic in 100 years. It was providing free ration to each poor household every month under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. This is the world’s largest food distribution program with an outlay of Rs two lakh sixty thousand crores reaching out to 80 crore beneficiaries for 19 months. Being fully sensitive to the present circumstances, the government has extended this scheme till March 2022, he said.

The Government was also running the PM Svanidhi scheme for enhancing the self-esteem of the poor and protection of their livelihood also during the Corona period. Under this scheme, more than Rs 2900 crore have been provided to 28 lakh street vendors. The government is also connecting these street vendors with online food delivery companies. The e-SHRAM portal to protect the interests of labourers has drawn more than 23 crore workers so far, he said.

“We can see the impact of Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile or JAM trinity which my government has leveraged for the empowerment of citizens. With more than 44 crore poor people joining the banking system, crores of people benefitted from direct cash transfer during the pandemic,” he said.

“Amidst the progress made in respect of Digital India and Digital Economy, I also appreciate the government's vision for the success of the country's UPI platform. Transactions worth more than Rs 8 lakh crore have taken place in the country through UPI in December 2021. This is a clear example of how fast our people are adopting technology and rapid change,” he added.

The Svamitva scheme, launched to provide property documents to people in rural areas, is also an extraordinary initiative. So far, more than 40 lakh property cards have been issued in 27,000 villages under this scheme. These property cards are not only preventing disputes but are also assisting the rural population in accessing banking support.

“My government is working continuously to empower the farmers and the rural economy of the country. Despite the pandemic, our farmers produced more than 30 crore tonnes of food grains and 33 crore tonnes of horticulture produce in 2020-21. The government made record procurement to match the record production. The government procured 433 lakh metric tonnes of wheat during the Rabi season benefiting about 50 lakh farmers. A record quantity of about 900 lakh metric tonnes of paddy was procured during Kharif season, benefiting 1 crore 30 lakh farmers,” he said.

To ensure remunerative prices to farmers for their crops, their products must reach the right market. In this direction, the government has endeavoured to open new avenues of prosperity for the farmers by launching Kisan Rail Seva. During the Corona period, Indian Railways operated over 1,900 Kisan Rails on more than 150 routes to transport perishable food items like vegetables, fruits and milk, thereby transporting about 6 lakh metric tonnes of agricultural produce. This is an example of how new avenues can be created from the existing resources if the thinking is innovative, he said.

“Interests of the small farmers, who constitute 80% of the farmer community, have always been central to our government. Under the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi, Rs 1 lakh 80 thousand crores have been provided to more than 11 crore farmer families. With this investment, the agriculture sector is witnessing major transformations today. The small farmers of the country have also benefited from the new changes in the crop insurance scheme. More than Rs one lakh crore has been given as compensation to about eight crore farmers since these changes were introduced,” he added.

"The government is also making investments at an unprecedented level for developing the infrastructure required near farmlands. Thousands of projects have been approved under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund having a corpus of Rupees one lakh crore. To ensure self-sufficiency in edible oil, my government has also launched the National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm with an outlay of Rs 11,000 crore. The government is also making special efforts like organic farming, natural farming and crop diversification.

"Women are playing an increasingly important role in providing impetus to the rural economy. Banks have extended financial help to the tune of Rs 65,000 crore to more than 28 lakh Self-Help Groups in 2021-22. This is four times the amount extended in 2014-15. The government has also provided training to thousands of members of the women self-help groups and made them partners as ‘Banking Sakhi’. These women are delivering banking services to rural households at the doorsteps.

“Women’s empowerment is one of the top priorities of my government. We are all witnesses to the success of Ujjwala Yojana. Entrepreneurship and skills of the mothers and sisters of our country have been promoted through the "Mudra" scheme. “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” initiative has yielded many positive results, and there has been an encouraging improvement in the number of girls enrolled in schools. Treating sons and daughters as equals, my government has also introduced a Bill to increase the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years at par with men,” Kovind said.

He said a provision has also been made for Gender Inclusion Fund in the National Education Policy to promote learning capability among girls.

"It is a matter of happiness that all the existing 33 Sainik Schools have started admitting girl students. The government has also approved the admission of women cadets to the National Defence Academy. The first batch of women cadets will enter the NDA in June 2022. With the policy decisions and encouragement of my government, the number of women personnel in various police forces has more than doubled as compared to 2014.

"Under the Skill India Mission, more than 2 crores 25 lakh youth across the country have been skilled through ITIs, Jan Shikshan Sansthan and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras. Many changes have also been made in the UGC regulations to link skills with higher education," he said.

The President said that, in the battle against COVID-19, six special training programmes related to health care have been launched under the Skill India Mission. These are helping the health care sector.

Eklavya Residential Model Schools are being expanded to every tribal majority block for the education of tribal youth. These schools will empower about three and a half lakh tribal youth, he said.

“We have all witnessed the potential of India's youth power during the Tokyo Olympics. In its best performance ever in this international competition, India won seven medals. In the Tokyo Paralympics too, Indian para-athletes set a record by winning 19 medals. To improve India's performance in the Olympics and sports, the Central Government along with the state governments in setting up hundreds of Khelo India Centres in the country. The government has also established Centres for Disability Sports in Gwalior with modern facilities to provide training to Divyang youth in para-sports,” he said.

Kovind said the start-up industry in India was also an example of the infinite new possibilities that are rapidly taking shape under the leadership of the country's youth.

Since 2016, 60,000 new start-ups have been established in 56 different sectors in the country. More than six lakh jobs have been created by these start-ups. In 2021, during the coronavirus period, more than 40 unicorn start-ups have emerged in India, each with a minimum market valuation of Rs 7,400 crore.

“Because of the policies of my government, the cost of internet connectivity and price of smartphones in India today are among the cheapest in the world. This has hugely benefitted our young generation. India is also working with great pace on 5G mobile connectivity, which will open doors to new opportunities. India's efforts on semiconductors will significantly benefit our start-up ecosystem," he said.

Kovind said India had again emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

"GST collection has consistently remained above Rs one lakh crore during the last several months. An inflow of 48 billion dollars in the first seven months of the current financial year is a testimony to the belief the global investor community has in India’s growth story. India’s foreign exchange reserves today exceed 630 billion dollars. Our exports are also growing rapidly, breaking several records. From April to December 2021, our goods exports stood at 300 billion dollars or more than Rupees 22 lakh crore, which is one and a half times more than the corresponding period of 2020," he said.

“My government has launched 14 key PLI schemes with an outlay of more than Rs 1 lakh 97 thousand crores to fully realize the potential of the manufacturing sector and to create new opportunities for the youth. These PLI schemes will not only help transform India as a global manufacturing hub but also create over 60 lakh jobs. The domestic mobile manufacturing sector is a shining example of the success of the PLI scheme. Today India has emerged as the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world, generating lakhs of jobs for our youth.

“To develop our country as a global leader in the field of electronics and technology hardware, the government has also recently announced a package of Rs 76,000 crore for silicon and compound semiconductor fabrication, display FAB, chip design and related ventures.

“Along with developing new areas, my government is restoring our traditional strength in domains in which we possess centuries of experience. In this direction, my government has approved seven Mega Integrated Textile Regions and Apparel Parks with an investment of about Rs 4,500 crore. This will facilitate an integrated textile value chain. These mega textile parks will attract both Indian and foreign investors, and create lakhs of new employment opportunities.

"Along with large companies, our small and medium enterprises have a critical role in India’s prosperity. Our MSMEs have been the backbone of our economy, and a driver of Atmanirbhar Bharat. To protect MSMEs from crisis and ensure adequate availability of credit during the Corona period, the government started a scheme for guaranteed Collateral Free Loans of Rupees 3 lakh crore. It is evident from the recent studies that this scheme has given a fresh lease of life to 13 lakh 50 thousand MSME units and also secured 1 crore 50 lakh jobs. In June 2021, the government has enhanced the credit guarantee from Rs 3 lakh crore to Rs 4.5 lakh crore.

“My government has integrated different ministries to work in a synergised manner under the Pradhan Mantri Gatishakti National Master Plan to accelerate infrastructure development. This plan is going to usher in a new era of multi-modal transport in India. In future, the railways, highways and airways in India will no longer be separate and isolated infrastructures, but will be an integrated resource to the country,” Kovind noted.

"In recent times, we have witnessed a new resolve of Atmanirbhar Bharat taking shape in the country. This resolve is getting further strengthened by the energy emanating from the slew of reforms. From new reforms in labour laws to reforms in the banking sector, and to insolvency and bankruptcy code, this series of reforms is rolling on uninterrupted. Last year, more than 26,000 compliance requirements have been reduced by different departments of the Centre and States. The space sector has now been opened up for the private sector, providing a horizon of endless possibilities. The formation of IN-SPACE last year is one such important step to enhance India's space capabilities.

“My government is also aware and proactive about the rapidly evolving drone technology and related opportunities. In this direction, the government has notified the simplified Drone Rules 2021 and has also launched a PLI scheme for the manufacturing of drones and drone parts in the country. This will help India to secure its position in this critical technology of the future.

“My government is working with utmost determination to ensure a safe and secure India. Due to the policies of the government in the defence sector, especially in defence production, the country is becoming increasingly self-reliant.

“Of all the approvals accorded for modernization of armed forces in the year 2020-21, 87% were from ‘Make in India’ category. Similarly, in 2020-21, preference was accorded to the ‘Make in India’ category in 98% of equipment related contracts. Our Armed forces have also issued a list of 209 pieces of military equipment, which will not be purchased from abroad. A list of more than 2,800 pieces of defence equipment has also been issued by defence undertakings which will be manufactured domestically.

“A contract has been signed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the manufacture of 83 LCA Tejas fighter aircraft. The government has also taken important steps for the reorganization of Ordnance Factories into 7 Defence PSUs. Besides, the government is also committed to rapidly promoting the private sector and start-ups in the defence sector. Our objective is that the products required by our Forces should be developed in India and also manufactured in India,” he added.

India has strengthened its standing in the rapidly evolving global environment through improvement in diplomatic relations. India chaired the United Nations Security Council in August 2021 and took several path-breaking decisions. Under the presidency of India, for the first time, the Security Council held a comprehensive debate on the issue of maritime security. The Security Council, for the first time, adopted a Presidential Statement on this subject and did so unanimously.

“We have witnessed instability and volatility in our neighbouring country, Afghanistan. Despite the prevailing situation, true to the spirit of humanity, India launched Operation Devi Shakti. Despite the challenging conditions, we successfully airlifted a number of our citizens and many Afghan Hindu and Sikh minorities from Kabul. We also brought back two Swaroops of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib safely amidst difficult situations. From the humanitarian point of view, India is helping Afghanistan by delivering medical supplies and foodgrains,” he said.

"Climate change is a major challenge confronting the whole world at present. India has emerged as a responsible global voice on the subject. At the CoP-26 summit, my government has announced that by 2030 India will reduce its carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes. India has also committed to a target of becoming a net-zero emission economy by 2070. India has also taken the initiative of 'Green Grid Initiative: One Sun, One World, One Grid' with the global community. It is the first international network of globally interconnected solar power grids. Our ambitions and resolves towards the environment are a testimony of our sensitivity towards nature," the President added.

NNN

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