New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday lauded the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for its commitment to inclusion and work to empower socially disadvantaged sections, including women, the poor and Scheduled Castes.
Mukherjee pointed out that social and economic equality for the deprived and disempowered sections was the first promise of the Constitution and that the government is committed to fulfilling that promise.
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During his address to members of both Houses of Parliament on the opening day of the budget session, Mukherjee said financial inclusion is key to poverty alleviation and the government had opened an unprecedented 260 million-plus Jan Dhan accounts. “At the core of all my government’s policies is the welfare of the poor, Scheduled Castes, downtrodden, exploited, farmers, labourers, women and youth," he said.
Highlighting the work done by the government for empowering women, the President said under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana, over Rs16,000 crore was given to self-help groups in the current fiscal. The scheme aims to reach out to nearly 50 million women soon, he said.
The President said the government had taken initiatives to improve the quality of life of the poor through assured housing, affordable health care, safe drinking water and sanitation, and access to clean energy.
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Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he hoped a comprehensive discussion will take place in the Budget session.
“Today, a new tradition will begin. First, the budget is being advanced by nearly a month. And second, Rail Budget in being incorporated into this. There will be discussion on this also and the benefits that it will have in the coming times," he told reporters.
Elaborating on the government’s achievement, Mukherjee said: “My government is committed to providing shelter to every homeless poor household through the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana with appropriate interest subvention on housing credit."
The government was committed to making clean energy accessible to the poor through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, he said. “The scheme aims to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel—LPG -- liberating them from the ill-effects of smoky kitchens, and long hours of collecting firewood. Free gas connections are being provided to five crore poor households."
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Mukherjee said 37% of the scheme’s beneficiaries belonged to Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
Speaking on jobs for the youth, the President said that the government had announced a package of Rs6,000 crore to boost employment generation and exports in the apparel and so-called made-ups sector that includes bedsheets, blankets and furnishings.
“This package is expected to generate over 1.1 crore jobs, mostly for women," Mukherjee added.
The President also said that with 65% of the population below the age of 35, youth was India’s greatest strength and needed to be effectively channelised. He added that the government had taken several steps for skilling the youth and improving their employability.