With clouds of storm hovering over Parliament’s budget session, President Pranab Mukherjee today sought the “cooperation” of all MPs in the smooth conduct of legislative business but gave no indication of plans to bring changes in the controversial land acquisition ordinance.
He, however, declared that government attaches paramount importance to safeguarding the interests of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.
Delivering his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, whose budget session commenced today, he said the government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament.
In the address, which is mandated before the start of the first session of the year in which the President reads out government’s plans for the coming year, Mukherjee said Parliament is the sanctum sanctorum of Democracy and the people of have reposed unflinching faith in this institution for fulfilment of their hopes and expectations.
“My Government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament which reflects the will and aspirations of the people.
“I urge all Members of the Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibility in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation.
“By channelising the patriotic energies of every citizen, we all collectively must work towards building a strong and modern India. Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat (One India, Best India). Jai Hind,” he said winding up his speech that was heard with rapt attention with occasional thumping of desks.
The Budget session of Parliament will conclude on May 8, 2015, subject to the exigencies of the Government Business. The Budget session will be held in two phases – the first phase will be from February 23 till March 20, 2015 and the second phase from April 20 till May 8, 2015. There will be 20 working days during the first phase and 13 in the second phase.
Inflation at record low due to decisive measures: President
President Pranab Mukherjee today said inflation has fallen to a record low due to a number of decisive steps taken by the government and the economy is again on a high growth trajectory.
Delivering his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, whose budget session commenced today, he said, “Inflation and food inflation, in particular, are at a record low due to a number of decisive measures taken by the government.”
Wholesale inflation turned negative for the second time in three months as fall in petroleum and food prices dragged it to a five-and-a-half year low of (-) 0.39 per cent in January. The overall food inflation was at eight per cent.
The President further said that as a result of the government’s sustained efforts and a series of policy initiatives, “our economy is again on the high growth trajectory.”
According to the latest estimates, India’s GDP is growing at 7.4 per cent, which makes the country the fastest growing large economy in the world. Mukherjee said that capital formation, which faced a near stagnation in last few years, has increased.
Also, capital markets are upbeat and India’s external sector is now far more resilient, particularly with a moderate current account deficit and broadly stable rupee, he added.
The President further said that the government has intensified efforts to bring greater efficiency and equity into tax system and prudence in expenditure management is also high on agenda.
A Constitutional (Amendment) Bill has been introduced to bring in Goods and Services Tax that will simplify the indirect tax regime, broaden the tax base and result in better tax compliance, Mukherjee added.
Govt committed to effectively deal with black money: Pranab
The government is committed to take all possible measures to stop generation of black money by putting in place legislative and administrative frameworks, President Pranab Mukherjee said today.
He also said that the principle of ‘Maximum Governance, Minimum Government’ will guide the activities of the government.
“My government is committed to taking all possible measures to stop generation of black money, both domestically and internationally,” he said.
The measures, the President said, will include putting in place a robust legislative and administrative frameworks, systems and process with due focus on capacity building, integration of information through technology and fast tracking prosecution.
“While introducing stricter and sterner measures to deal with corruption,” Mukherjee said efforts would be made to protect civil servants taking bona fide decisions in public interest.
Referring to the principle of ‘Maximum Governance, Minimum Government’ the President said the government will focus on simplification of official procedures and reduce the decision-making levels by leveraging technology.
“The system of Group of Ministers has been dispensed with and emphasis is on swift decision-making,” Mukherjee said.
The ‘My Gov Online Platform’, he said, has ensured public participation in decision-making and better implementation of flagship programmes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Namami Gange, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and NITI Aayog.
On the vexed issues concerning the petroleum and coal sector, Mukherjee said the government is committed to optimum utilisation and transparency in allocation of natural resources.
India is seeking cooperation from a number of foreign jurisdictions, including Switzerland, in cases related to suspected black money.
At home, the Supreme Court-constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) is looking into the black money issue and in its latest report has disclosed tracing of Rs 4,479 crore held by Indians in a Swiss bank and unaccounted wealth worth Rs 14,958 crore within India.
Land Act “suitably refined”: President
Amid growing protests, the government today said it has “suitably refined” the Land Act to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land for critical public projects even as farmers’ interest remained “paramount”.
“My government attaches paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition,” President Pranab Mukherjee said in his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
“The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas,” he said.
The government has made changes in the Act of 2013 through an Ordinance which it intends to convert into a legislative action during this Budget Session.
The government’s defence came even as protests are growing against the move. Social activist Anna Hazare is to stage a two-day dharna here from today against it. Congress and Left parties have also announced protests.
The government yesterday sought cooperation of other parties to this move but opposition remained firm that they would not allow this legislation to go through Parliament.
The President, in his over an hour-long address, also said one of the top most priorities of the government was inclusive growth, including progress of the most vulnerable sections.
On corruption, he said the government is introducing stricter and sterner measures to deal with the menace but efforts are being made to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect bonafide decisions taken in public interest and to inspire confidence in the civil service.
Regarding black money, Mukherjee said the government would take all possible measures to stop its generation, both domestically and internationally.
“These measures include putting in place robust legislative and administrative frameworks, systems and process with due focus on capacity building, integration of information through technology and fast-tracking prosecution.